Pandora’s newest box

Pandora Americas CMO Charisse Hughes on the jewelry chain’s new concept store

The nation’s third-largest jewelry chain is trying to reinvent itself at retail with a new store concept and marketing campaign laser-focused on improved shopper experience, customization and, well, fun.

While only one of the new concept stores is currently open in the United States, at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., Pandora plans to develop and roll out more concept stores in 2020, including one on Broadway in New York City and another at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, Ca. The new stores feature Charm Bars that offer an array of charm options, then guide customers to in-store Engraving Stations where they can have their jewelry personalized in just a few minutes.

Charisse Ford, Pandora
Charisse Hughes, Chief Marketing Officer, Pandora Americas

Pandora’s global footprint is huge, with its jewelry sold in more than 100 countries on six continents through almost 7,800 points of sale, including more than 2,400 concept stores. Charisse Hughes, chief marketing officer, Pandora Americas, recently discussed the new store concept with NRF.

Pandora has launched a new store format and a new marketing strategy: How are things?

It’s been a tough two years. I wouldn’t say that things are dismal, but when you are a brand like ours that grew so quickly, it’s difficult not being able to drive demand. Couple that with the shift in the retail landscape in terms of mall consolidation, which has been our predominant channel. So, yes, we’ve seen significant softness.

What can a big brand like Pandora do to fix the problem?

We need to do a few things to right our ship. We need to put consumers at the heart of everything we do. Coming into our store should be an experience and the embodiment of what the brand stands for. We are creating a more curated experience that gives consumers a reason to come in and shop instead of buying online.

How is the new store concept different from the old one?

When you walk into one of our existing stores, you don’t necessarily know where to start. But the new concept encourages the customer to navigate the store and discover for themselves. It has a Charm Bar, which is the central focus of the concept. It’s to reassert our leadership in the charm category. There’s a Discovery Table, which includes our top collection across all categories. And the last piece of the puzzle is my favorite, an Engraving Station, where customers can go to personalize happiness in less than three minutes.

How does the new store look and feel different from the old store?

The new stores bring us out from behind the counter and closer to the consumer. They feature many stations where customers can walk around in a more relaxed, open, dynamic environment. It’s no longer just about walking up to a counter and getting service. In the new stores, we want the dwell time to be longer and for customers to have the time — and the desire — to discover our collection.

Can you explain in a bit more detail how the new stations work?

The environment in the stores is a lot livelier. The Charm Bar is there so customers can get inspiration on how to shop for charms. The Engraving Station is one of the most important focal points of the new store. This is for people who enjoy gathering and experiencing retail. It only takes three to four minutes to have a piece of jewelry engraved with a name or word or symbol. It’s engraving while you wait. This can be to personalize a piece of jewelry for yourself of for someone else.

When will consumers see and experience this new format?

We have one of these new stores in the U.S. now in Paramus, N.J., and five around the globe — including the UK and China. In the first part of 2020, we expect to add 15 to 20 more. It’s important to know that while this is a new store concept, there will be adaptations.

The concept isn’t ready to roll out coast-to-coast yet?

To be best in class, you have to make sure all of the elements are working. This is particularly true at peak periods like holiday. We need to validate before we roll it out. Yes, the key concepts of this redesign will remain, but we’ll certainly make some changes.

What’s the response been so far to the new design?

Many customers tell us they love the touch and feel, and it gives them more energy.

As marketing chief, how will you make this change clear to consumers?

Back in August, we relaunched the brand with the objective to create a clearer brand position. It’s about having our customers understand who we are.

Why put so much emphasis on Pandora’s in-store sales when online is the real growth engine?

We know that mall traffic is down. We’ve seen growth in our online business, but the in-store customer is a highly engaged consumer. So we want to maximize our in-store business, but we need to give the customer a reason to go into the store. The mall customer will often spend more and leave with a better shopping experience than the online customer. Even then, 80 percent of all of our transactions start online.

How can Pandora tell if something is a trend or a fad — and how important is it to know the difference?

We are a jewelry company and we want to be a part of consumer lifestyles on an ongoing basis. There is always room for trends and fads. About 15 percent of our product is new on an annual basis. That gives us a lot to play with.

How important is Pandora’s relationship with licensees like Disney?

We have a long-standing relationship with Disney. Our customer loves the Disney brand. Last year was Mickey’s 90th anniversary. And this year we had “Frozen II.” We do a very healthy business with Disney, particularly with collectors. We’ve seen great success with feature films tied into jewelry. This year we also launched a micro collection with Harry Potter that has done well.

What is your best-selling Disney item?

Olaf (from “Frozen”) is one of the better-selling Disney items.

Is this new concept really about Pandora recognizing that consumers want to have fun when they shop?

It’s about authenticity. It’s about knowing the things that Pandora stands for and finding ways to amplify them.

Such as?

Well, take charms. Charms are a core that the brand was founded on, so we have to figure out new ways to story-tell around that. How can our customers experience charms in a new, dynamic way that’s true to who we are — and not artificial?

Circling back to the very first question: Can Pandora fix its problem?

Yes. The fix is also about all the insights and data that we collect and then figuring out how to use that to be better retailers. We curate online and help consumers learn more about the brand, and now we’re trying to translate that into our stores.

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