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What a gem

Bond Street in London’s West End is awash with bunting. Hung from one side of the street to the other, Union Jacks are blowing in a gentle breeze. This is London’s year – and Bond Street, famed the world over for its high-end stores, is in a celebratory mood. So too is family business Boodles.
Sandwiched between Cartier and Mikimoto, family business Boodles is proudly flying the flag.

Bond Street in London’s West End is awash with bunting. Hung from one side of the street to the other, Union Jacks are blowing in a gentle breeze. This is London’s year – and Bond Street, famed the world over for its high-end stores, is in a celebratory mood.

Sandwiched between Cartier and Mikimoto, Boodles is proudly flying the flag. The British-owned jeweller has fully embraced the festive spirit. There is artwork for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on the wall; bunting is draped around displays. The owners – the Wainwright family – happily chat about the Olympics, the other big event happening this summer in the capital.

This patriotism is hardly surprising. The Wainwrights, who bought Boodle and Dunthorne in 1910, are proud of both the family’s and the business’s British heritage. Almost all Boodles pieces are made in London; its designers are predominantly based in the capital or Liverpool – the city where it was founded as Boodle and Dunthorne in the 18th century. “Being British is very, very important. We’re a British family,” says sixth-generation member and head of digital James Amos. A recent company tagline says “British excellence since 1798”.

Boodles, which designs and sells jewellery costing between £500 (€623) and £1.5 million, is capitalising on the country’s reputation for heritage and quality – revenues for the year to February 2012 were £56.5 million, up from £48.5 million the year before. It has also been helped by a change of tack in the 1980s, when Boodles moved away from selling other companies’ jewellery to creating its own pieces. Its reputation for design was quickly cemented and by 2010, a ring (pictured, left) from its Raindance range was added to the permanent collection at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

The family business is headed by two fifth-gens – Michael, the commercial director, and Nicolas, the creative director. Together with James and his cousin Jody, they run five stores in London, as well as showrooms in Liverpool, Manchester, Chester and Dublin – and, since last year, a concession in Hong Kong. There is talk of more shops, but the family is in no rush. “We expand at our own pace and don’t take on debt,” says Michael.

The family also has no plans to sell – “there is a sense when you are running a family business that it is not yours to sell, even though you own it,” says Michael. Plus, he adds, “we’ve got another generation in the business now”. As well as Jody and James, Michael’s two teenage children might join in the future. Then there are James’s unborn twins, due in October, who he hopes might one day also come into the business.

If they do, they could find themselves dealing with descendants of past customers. “We often find that we’re dealing with brides whose mother and grandmother bought their engagement ring from us; it’s rather lovely,” says James. 

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