Jewellery Outlook

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  Harrogate tests pulse of the north of England jewellery market

  By James Clatford/August 20, 2008

The jewellers of the majestic town of Harrogate give a pretty good indication of the state of the north of England jewellery market.

Harrogate is an affluent place, steeped in wonderful stone architecture and large green spaces, and has long been a magnet for day-trippers and weekenders from across the north of England , who come to visit the celebrated Betty’s tea shop and stroll around the shops.

While the credit crunch pinches the wallets of the bankers of the City of London and punishes the jewellers of the capital, Harrogate sits far away and is seemingly immune.

Harrogate ’s jewellery market consists of the professionals who inhabit the wealthy villages stretching to the dynamic northern “capital” of Leeds , and the second-generation staple of customers who loyally stick with the town’s most longstanding resident jewellers.

And yet, despite their prolonged histories, jewellers Fattorini and Ogden do not sit on their laurels, and offer innovative solutions to maximise choice. Ogden , famous for its magnificent Edwardian shop front on James Street , prides itself on its technical expertise on-site and has its own workshop with four goldsmiths and a designer.

Fattorini, founded in 1831, which sells a traditional, classic range of bridal jewellery, as well as watches, clocks and silverware, has many second-generation customers from well-established Yorkshire families and serves a largely professional clientele.

Customers of Fattorini, well located half way down the historic Parliament Street in the centre of town, come from across the north of England and the Midlands . Some clients come all the way from London , particularly if their parents have been regular customers.

Opposite Betty’s, Bradleys of Harrogate provides a vast choice of brands from Thomas Sabo to Theo Fennell, as well as a range of lifestyle products including fine china and crystal.

“Ladies who lunch” come in and browse on all three floors, sometimes after they have spent a pleasant hour in Betty’s.

A second shop nearby, Bradley’s Jewellers, offers a variety of antique jewels including Cartier pieces and occasional items with provenance to royals.

On the edge of the town centre, Boutique Venus provides a harmoniously presented, colourful range of jewellery made from silver, and semi-precious gemstones, amethyst, amber, rose and lemon quartz, jade, turquoise, and moonstones, as well as coral and pearls.

The oldest residents of Harrogate , Ogden and Fattorini, have weathered the ups and downs of world events during their long histories, but so far the present economic downturn and squeeze on middle incomes, have not dramatically affected sales, local jewellers say.

They say they feel relatively insulated in the area. Perhaps it is more an indication of the resilience of the professional classes of the north of England , than the vagaries of financial markets that colour the prospects of their colleagues in the jewellery shops of the City of London and the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf .

Ogden sees itself as an established brand and is now examining the possibility of expansion in the UK .

At the lower end of the local market, Boutique Venus is witnessing some change in the habits of customers due to the economic downturn and rising inflation.

Some people are shifting to costume jewellery from gemstones, because it’s cheaper, and people are also using more diluted silver in costume jewellery.

Superb customer service is a common strand linking all of the Harrogate jewellers, which devote themselves to giving people a rich in-shop experience.

The style and tone varies, with Ogden preferring a sit-down approach with customers, and Bradleys offering a more open plan shopping experience. But the result is the same – a friendly “meet and greet”, rewarded by many repeat visits.