London Jewelers, a family-run jewellery retail enterprise that started nearly a century ago, catering mainly to America’s elite crowd, used the pandemic period to focus inward and develop its online presence.
Based in Long Island, New York, London Jewelers is a 95-year-old family-run business, carrying fine jewellery and timepieces. It has six stores and seven branded boutiques.
It all began when Charles London, a self-taught clockmaker, moved from Europe to Glen Cove, New York in 1923. He went from house to house in Long Island, offering clock repair services, in the hope of sending for his wife and children to join him.
He focused on the estates of the Gold Coast on the North shore of Long Island, visiting a dozen or so wealthy families, including the Vanderbilts and the Pratts. Families that had made their fortunes from industries like banking, shipping, railroads and oil.
Charles visited on a weekly basis to wind all of their 8-day clocks. “These mansions might have had 50 rooms and more than 50 clocks to wind, so he was winding 750 clocks per week. There was always a clock or two that needed repairing, so he would bring them back to his workshop to fix them,” said Mark Udell, the grandson of Charles and current CEO of London Jewelers.
The company officially began trading in Glen Cove in 1926 and started carrying high-end jewellery brands in the 1960s. Today it carries a wide variety of luxury brands, including Buccellati, Chopard, David Webb, Gucci, Messika, Mikimoto, Piaget, Pomellato, Roberto Coin and Vhernier. Mark and wife Candy have been key in adding these. Subsequent generations have been just as persistent.
“When Mark and I married in 1973 we had one store in Glen Cove run by us and Mark’s parents plus one helper. It was a tiny store of around 900 square feet, but we moved into a larger store the year we got married and that is when we started taking on brands. Mark and I knew how important it was to have brands within our business so the very first thing we did was approach Rolex. Mark was calling Rolex every day incessantly trying to get them to come and visit the store. After two years they finally came,” Candy Udell told WatchPro magazine.
London Jewelers is constantly upping the ante. It recently revamped its flagship store in Long Island at the luxury centre Americana Manhasset. The location now features dedicated in-store boutiques for Chanel and Bulgari. The Bulgari boutique offers a wide selection of the brand’s jewellery, watches and accessories.
Its philosophy is to treat its Long Island clients with such care and passion for the best watch and jewellery brands in the world that they do not feel the need to buy these luxuries in Manhattan.
The company is currently run by Mark and Candy Udell and their offspring. Its six stores across the New York metropolitan area, include a Manhattan store downtown in the Oculus [Westfield World Trade Center]; one each in East Hampton and Southampton, Wheatley Plaza, and their original store in Glen Cove.
When Scott Saunders, Senior VP-Business Development of London Jewelers, joined the company, he put a big focus on improving the firm’s digital market and social media strategy.
What is the current state of the US retail industry for jewellery?
The fine jewelry and watch business is very strong.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
It caused us to focus on our company, our staff, and look at areas of the business we may have been slower to develop such as our website and the importance of the digital client experience.
What is the price range of the pieces you sell?
$500.00 – $1 million plus
How competitive is the US market for jewellery?
Very competitive, that has and will never change.
Can you talk about Indian jewellery? Do you sell it?
We do business with many suppliers based in India in our private label finished jewellery and polished diamonds. We have some fabulous friendships and business relationships there.
What should the Indian jewellery manufacturing industry do to strengthen its image abroad?
It should continue to develop unique products and improve the quality of the manufacturing.
Are international brands hesitant to mention India as the ‘country of origin’ on the label?
I do not know the answer to that! Currently there are not many “brands” that are made in India that we carry.
Are there serious drawbacks, real or perceived, in India’s manufacturing quality?
The ‘perception’ is that the quality of manufacturing is not on par with other countries, but we have found that with our input, quality is not an issue.