W. Bruford, this year is celebrating 130 years in the retail jewellery business, offering some new additions to their luxury jewellery collection and inspiring the people of Eastbourne…
The best jewellery you can buy is often the jewellery with the most sparkle, the richest story and the deepest sentiment. A store that offers the same, in everything they do, is where you want to make that all-important purchase.
W. Bruford, now managed and owned by Ashley Pugh, has been a recognisable and often almost revered name in Eastbourne since 1886. Its long heritage – longer than most businesses in the town itself – is reflected in its exceptional, personal and attentive service as well as their expansive range of jewellery and watches.
Ashley has been in the trade since 1983, when he started as a temporary Christmas employee at a Goldsmiths store in the West Midlands. He moved to Eastbourne in 1985 to take on the role of Manager and worked there and in Brighton for over 17 years. Ashley’s eye was often caught by the W. Bruford name – one of the foremost names in town – thinking how nice it would be to one day run it himself.
The Bruford business has been in Eastbourne since 1886 and was owned by the family until it was sold in 1998. A Norwich-based family who ran their own jewellery business, called Winsor Bishop had connections with the Bruford family and when the opportunity to buy the business came along they snapped it up.
Unfortunately the father and Chairman of Winsor Bishop, John Kerridge sadly passed away in 2000. It was at this point that Ashley was, by a stroke of luck and trade connections, approached by the family, who asked him to join the team at W. Bruford as Manager. It was very important to them that he helped them maintain and develop the business, applying his knowledge as both a jeweller and a businessman. Ashley explained:
“To be successful in today’s market you need to be both a good jeweller and good business person. Traditionally, this wasn’t always the case. I was lucky enough to have had 17 years with Goldsmiths, where in those days a Manager purchased his own stock and catered to the local market, whilst being aware of stock turn and margins.”
Ashley managed the store in Cornfield Road until, a year on, he and the Kerridge family realised that it was in everyone’s best interest for him to take full ownership. The rest, as they say, is history: for 13 years, Ashley has led the company into the 21st Century, changing with the times, whilst still maintaining its intriguing back-story and family-owned philosophy.
“W. Bruford has always been a very traditional brand, to its credit, but in around 2006, I noticed a shift in the market that simply had to be pursued – there were suddenly many fashion brands coming to market, such as Links of London, Hot Diamonds and Swarovski. We had our Bruford’s own brands, but people were coming into the store and asking for these emerging fashion brands. As such, we took on some of the big fashion brands in the Cornfield Road store, as an experiment with what the market could offer, and it brought many more customers to the store – baring in mind, we were traditionally a fairly ‘closed door’ store, this was a big step for us!”
Ashley explained how he approached a brand that, at the time, not many people had heard of: Pandora. Nobody could have known at the time what a huge phenomenon this brand would become, but as we know very well now, Pandora changed the jewellery retail trade massively:
“Suddenly, we were enticing a wider demographic to our store, and that led me to the decision of opening elsewhere. We had the right stock, but perhaps weren’t in the most prominent location for it to really become the success I knew it could be,” said Ashley.
A new store was opened, with a new look and image in the Arndale Centre, taking along with it the fashion brands from Cornfield Road. The name was based upon the many visitors that had come through Cornfield Road, looking for ‘inspiration’ from the stock. Thus, ‘Inspired’ by Brufords was born, becoming one of the first multi-brand stores in the UK, selling, fashion-led jewellery and watches at affordable prices. This attracted a younger market than perhaps had traditionally been associated with Brufords before: a welcome shift for Ashley as it opened the world of jewellery retail up to all walks of life.
With the success of the new inspired concept, Pandora grew to such a degree that it needed its own stand-alone store, which was opened in November 2014. This has proved to be a fantastic move, with Pandora now a major brand name on the UK high street. There was now a gap left to be filled in Inspired, and how to fill it became more and more obvious when looking at the market.
Before September 2015, there was no gold or diamond product stock at Inspired, and the opportunity came about to launch a bridal range, offering beautiful diamond and gold wedding and engagement rings. The wedding ring market is something that Ashley views as a hugely important aspect of jewellery retail, and he believes this new venture is a large stepping stone on the way to establishing the Inspired name in the younger consumer market.
“We have always looked forward at emerging markets, and acted accordingly – so we are continuing to do just that. The high street has changed, and we have with it. We now have websites for each section of the business, we promote ourselves in a market relevant and modern way, and certainly as a result, still lead the way in terms of luxury, high-end products in Eastbourne whilst appealing to a wider market through our store locations.”