From the source: Tanya Tindall, Kailis

Kailis has been offering luxurious Australian South Sea pearl jewellery to stylish and discerning customers for 42 years. Now, the brand is evolving to cater to the new generation of savvy shoppers. General manager Tanya Tindall discusses the emotional customer journey of fine jewellery and the challenges of the changing luxury sector.

Inside Retail Weekly: Kailis launched a newly redesigned flagship store in Perth recently. What did you consider when coming up with the new concept?

Tanya Tindall: It’s a new direction for us in terms of the colour palette and making sure that when a customer comes into the store, it’s got the right feel. Sometimes you walk into a store and you think, ‘This is not where I want to be’ or it’s too jam-packed. We wanted the store to feel comfortable and inclusive but also luxurious.

It’s got a modern, fresh feel and we’re using all new modern technology with digital screens. That’s a big part of your store presence these days as a retailer. It’s about utilising the window space – it’s a 24/7 billboard showcasing who we are and people can see us. It’s about the Raine Square precinct as well. It’s undergone a really big redevelopment and they’re creating a luxury precinct.

The digital screens repeat images from our campaign content and different things we’ve got going on like new products. We can also tailor them when we’re having special events in-store. Recently we had an event for a women’s group and we could put their branding on the screens. It’s about making sure people can see who were and what we do. Your store is a big part of your marketing and you’re spending money on marketing like ads at bus stops, but your store is a billboard all the time so it’s about making the most of that.

You can change things up a lot on the screens so during different times of the year, you can put different types of imagery on them. It’s an easy thing to do and it’s about that constant marketing and having those touchpoints for your brand.

A customer might come into your store, but there are so many pathways to purchase and touchpoints. Most people look online before they come into your store, or even when they’ve already come in, they might be still looking on their phone. Or they might go away, look at their phone then come back, so you have to be prepared for a customer to make multiple visits, especially for a higher-end piece of jewellery. They’re looking at different options online.

People sometimes ask me what’s the best kind of advertising, but it’s not one thing – it’s having lots of things. It’s about constant brand recognition and people seeing your brand and going, ‘I saw that billboard, or that magazine ad’. There need to be lots of different touchpoints, and having those screens is another touchpoint.

IRW: Tell me about some of the new features of the store.

TT: We’ve incorporated private viewing spaces. Sometimes in clothing stores, you try on a dress and someone sees you and goes, ‘That looks great’ or ‘I’ve already got that’. You don’t want people putting you off, you want to feel like it’s special for you.

It’s the same with jewellery. We have a beautiful space inside the store that you can curtain off but you’re still part of the shop and you can move around. We have another space that’s open but it can be closed off, but the other one is very much a private viewing space.

We also have a private viewing on our site they can book in, but it also has a change room. If it’s a special occasion, you can get changed in it, particularly if there’s a wedding and it might be the bride or bridesmaids. When you try on jewellery in-store, you don’t always know if it’s going to work with the neckline of your dress, so it’s good to try on your outfit, match it with your jewellery and see how it works.

It’s something no one has ever done. We did research groups and found that customers love the private viewing experience and feeling special. They come in, they’ll have champagne and some snacks, but they can try on their dresses and it’s special. It’s something customers said they really valued in the experience in our store.

IRW: Given you’re a luxury brand, do customers generally take their time before finally buying a piece?

TT: It varies. You get the people who walk in the door and it’s an opportunistic or one-off purchase, they’ve just come in and they’ve bought something just like that, but as retail has changed a lot over the years, it’s less likely to be that instantaneous purchase. It’s more of a research-based, considered type of purchase.

You can’t have the same staff member in-store seven days a week and you don’t know when [a customer will] come back, so it’s about making sure the customer experience is replicable each time with every team member – making sure the customer feels welcomed and the information that they’ve been told about their product is absolutely correct each time.

We’re about inclusive luxury. As a customer, you want to feel comfortable, like you don’t have to worry about finding a place to sit and you’re offered a refreshment.

You might have already been in our store two or three times and looking at the same item. Our team need to be patient with customers trying on different things. A customer might come in once, then go to the private viewing space and bring their dress or a friend. That experience needs to be replicable.

IRW: That sounds like quite an emotional customer journey.

TT: All of those purchases are about special occasions and moments in time so people will remember everything about that experience. Customers want to remember that time they bought that beautiful strand of pearls and dealt with lovely people. The experience has to be good at all touchpoints at the end of the day.

IRW: Tell me about your bricks-and-mortar strategy.

TT: We have three full retail stores, the fourth is a pop-up store at Westfield. We have stockists nationally at high-end jewellery stores, and then there is a presence in regional areas and department stores.

IRW: Is it hard being a national retailer when you’re based

in WA?

TT: Yes it can be. There’s no getting away from it. It’s hard for us to understand brand awareness on the east coast from here. I suppose we’d love to work more directly with customers, but it’s hard to understand how that works without testing it in the market.

There’s obviously a time difference that makes it tough, but also in terms of the market, too. Here in Perth, it can be difficult to see what’s happening in Sydney and Melbourne and I can see changes when I travel between the different markets. For a long time, Perth had the mining boom and we were completely insulated from the rest of the world. But it’s totally changed, and there are more positive aspects in the market in Sydney and Melbourne. It’s difficult to know when you’re not on the ground all the time so you can understand those intricacies.

IRW: A lot of traditionally wholesale brands are investing more in direct-to-consumer these days. Is that something that Kailis is also focusing on?

TT: Being based in Perth, it can be really difficult for us. It’s hard for us to run full stores ourselves in locations [around Australia], but we’ll definitely be doing tests around those things in the next couple of years.

We’re doing a pop-up store at Garden City in Perth. We only wanted to be there for three months, but we’ve been there for a couple of years now. People think it’s odd that there’s a high-end luxury brand in the middle of the shopping centre and some people are a bit put off by it. On the other hand, it’s another touchpoint for us to bring new customers to the brand. Sometimes shopping at a luxury precinct puts people off. It can be a scary experience walking through the doors and thinking, ‘Is there anything I can afford here or is there anything that I might like?’

But in a shopping centre, it’s not as confronting in that sense. It’s definitely something that we’d like to do on the east coast and try in more regional shopping centres, not in the middle of the Sydney CBD. It’s all dependent on different things at different times and it’s about being able to do it remotely from Perth. It’s not so easy in that sense.

In a really small 5×3-metre space, it’s difficult to put all your products out there, but it’s a good way to get people into our boutiques to do private appointments. They might have seen things they like, but if they want to spend more time looking at it in more detail without their kids, they can do it in their time and space. On the other hand, I really thought that a lot of the product we’d sell would be our corporate pens, but actually, people really enjoy the convenience of it and are not bothered by the whole pop-up concept. They are quite happy to buy something in the middle of the centre if that takes their fancy that day. You just don’t know, it’s so unpredictable. And that’s one of the challenges of retail – you don’t know what’s going to walk through the door that day.

IRW: How would you describe the Kailis customer?

TT: It’s someone who wants to feel the experience of coming into a store and being treated well. They’re savvy about what they’re buying. They’re also educated, so they come in knowing what they are buying and they value the experience and product and design element, but they also know the product has value.

For example, with the move towards slow fashion and sustainability, when you buy a Kailis piece, it’s not for just one occasion, but for multiple events and you’ll get value out of it. We often talk about investing in a tailored jacket, a piece of jewellery has to represent that as well so that when you buy it now, in 10-15 years’ time it’s still something you can wear, daytime in the office or at night to a nice dinner or ball.

IRW: Kailis launched in 1942 when husband-and-wife team Michael and Dr Patricia Kailis pioneered pearl fishing on the coast of WA. Given the particular climate, what are some of the challenges of being a brand that has such a long history?

TT: Evolving and moving things through is always challenging but there are always different things you can improve upon. You always have to strive for the next version of your brand. A brand is like a person, it’s evolving what it needs to be to meet the market. So at our flagship store, it was time to change things up and move things along to make modern changes, like revitalising point-of-sale and packaging – it’s a constant evolution.

Sometimes you look at campaign imagery that’s 10 years old and it looks it, so you’re constantly looking at what’s new and fresh. There’s a minimalist look in campaigns at the moment, but it’s like fashion, everything’s constantly evolving.

Our website is a classic example of that. You need a strong online presence. We’re actually relaunching our site in the next couple of weeks. It will have a more shopper-friendly look and feel. These days, you have to make sure your site is more mobile-friendly than desktop, because that’s where your traffic is coming from.

We don’t all go home looking at our desktops, because we’re

often doing two things at once, like checking our phones and watching TV.

IRW: Can you tell me about the overseas side of the businesses?

TT: We don’t have a huge international presence as such. Pre-GFC, we had a big following in Spain, but we haven’t delved too much more into it, it’s not a focus for our business at this point in time. We’ve got growth in areas that we’d like to develop in Australia so a lot of that international stuff is through our online business.

IRW: I’ve seen a lot of luxury brands like Tiffany evolve to chase the younger customer. Can you relate to that?

TT: We all have to chase the millennial customer. At the end of the day, that’s who the customer will be, unless we all lived forever, everyone has to chase that younger customer. They’re our customers, now and in the future, and the ones who will continue these [luxury] brands.

In terms of luxury jewellery, it’s interesting because 20 years ago, you didn’t see the big high-end luxury brands delving into jewellery all that much. But now, everyone has a jewellery element. There’s a difference between costume and fine jewellery. In terms of what some luxury brands do, I don’t know if you’d classify it as fine because they’re across so many things like shoes, fashion and jewellery, but they’re using elements of gold to justify the pricepoints.

We focus on the jewellery side of things, predominantly we do pearls, but we do have product now that doesn’t have pearls, like the Manhattan range last year. It has strong pearl products in it as well as items which don’t include a pearl but are complementary within that collection. In some respects, [brands] sometimes try too hard to encompass everything, but you get other brands like us who know who we are and what we’re good at, so we focus on that.

IRW: How do you think the luxury sector has changed over

the years?

TT: Luxury has changed too in the sense that it was always that very confronting, high-end experience. It’s much more inclusive now as much as it’s aspirational. Everyone wants a little piece of it and wants to be part of it, so it expands brands to different levels. It’s an interesting space and I suppose that interesting level of what’s luxury and what’s premium.


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