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Ex-Michael Hill CEO joins luxe jeweller

Jane Meredith & Mike Parsell opening Secrets Chadstone
Jane Meredith & Mike Parsell opening Secrets Chadstone

Mike Parsell, has joined luxury jewellery brand, Secrets, in a business partnership aimed at accelerating growth for the company which opened its flagship store at Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne last week.

After retiring as CEO of Michael Hill – where he spent 16 years in the role – Parsell told IRW that a conversation with Secrets’ co-founder and managing director Jane Meredith, who was looking for someone with the expertise to grow the brand, sparked the appointment.

Parsell has over 36 years’ experience in the fine jewellery industry and during his tenure at Michael Hill, he expanded the number of stores to over 300 across Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA.

His appointment as co-managing director at Secrets heralds international ambitions for the retailer, with Parsell asserting that he “certainly had an eye on growing the business internationally”.

“Growth is something you have to manage carefully – the biggest limiting factor when growing a business is people –  it’s attracting the right people and bringing talent into the business that shares the same beliefs and passions that you have,” he said. “Secrets is an interesting model – five of the stores are company owned and three are franchise.

“We think the franchise roots has a lot of potential for us and if we can find the right partners for us, it would certainly be an avenue of growth.

“Online is obviously  hugely important in terms of having a seamless omnichannel offer.”

Parsell said the challenge for the jewellery industry for a long time was that it had been too broad in its offer.

“Younger customers are becoming more concerned in terms of having that brand experience which reflects them or their personalities,” he explained. “The more commoditised that you are, the more susceptible [you are] to competition from online – I think it’s finding a niche that sparks people’s interests and hits a chord.”

Parsell said the initial reaction to the Chadstone flagship had been positive and that the store offered a slight departure from previous store designs.

According to IBISWorld data, industry revenue in the fine jewellery sector is expected to grow at an annualised 3.1 per cent over the five years through 2016-17, to $2.7 billion, with industry firms benefitting from the low domestic price of silver, which has improved the affordability of many fine silver products. An increase in the number of marriages over the past five years has also boosted demand, fuelling sales for diamond engagement rings. However, according to IBISWorld, volatile consumer sentiment over the same period has slightly constrained growth, as some consumers have become less willing to make big-ticket purchases.

It’s a predicament that may in fact position Secrets for future growth, given the brand pairs high quality 10 and 14 carat gold with diamond simulants to offer a luxury product at an affordable price, according to Parsell.

“That combination enables you to capture the imagination of customers and bring them into a world of jewellery that they may not thought they could have before and it’s appealing to all age groups,” said Parsell.

The new co-managing director was also stunned by the businesses’ “very strong bridal business” that has seen engagement rings and anniversary items popularity flow onto the business and boost the sales of pendants and necklaces.

“The future of the jewellery industry will be with brands that are more relevant, have a story to tell and are differentiated with a unique product. I think Secrets definitely ticks all those boxes.”

Secrets stores are currently located at Noosa (Sunshine Coast); Chermisde and Indoorpilly (Brisbane); Pacific Fair (Gold Coast); Sydney CBD; Carillon City (Perth); Chadstone and Melbourne CBD. Prospective franchisee enquiries are invited.

The luxury jeweller has also appointed Sue Szylvester as its new chief marketing officer.

This article first appeared in last week’s magazine. Subscribe via the link below.

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