In June of last year, Endless Jewelry founder Jesper Nielsen gave me a long interview, detailing how he planned to build the charm company into a “super brand.”
And now, less than 18 months later, he was back on the phone with me, talking about how this once-promising company filed for bankruptcy in Germany. (Nielsen left the company in February. Company executives have not returned phone calls and messages from JCK.)
The former head of Pandora’s central and western Europe division, Nielsen launched Endless in 2013. With promotional support from Jennifer Lopez, the brand was able to quickly win retailers—and annoy competitors—by offering generous return policies.
Nielsen defends the policy as a way to get your foot in the door.
“That got us a dialogue with the retailer,” he says. “We wanted to make it a fair-and-square partnership.
“Anyone who shipped the merchandise back would get a visit from me. Where did we fail? Is our product not good enough? Is our marketing not good enough? And when you take that seriously, they don’t send it back.”
Still, these policies were generous enough that they became a flash point between Nielsen and his investors.
Thanks to the success of Pandora, Endless lined up an impressive group of backers, including major names from Denmark and Germany. That was an early boon for the company, but Nielsen now sees it as part of the problem.
“We lost control of the company,” he says. “I blame myself. I allowed myself to go below 50 percent ownership. I shouldn’t have opened that door. I have learned that I’m a deeply entrepreneurial person. I couldn’t handle dealing with so many shareholders. In the future, when taking on shareholders, I will really have to consider who and how many.”
In the end, he lost an “ego battle” with a shareholder and departed. Still, with the company so successful, the business believed things were set, he says.
“They thought they were somewhere else,” Nielsen says. “They thought we were much stronger in the market than we were. But it was very fragile.
“Pandora had a tremendous relationship with consumers,” he continues. “That is how it survived the crisis of ’11 and ’12. They let the consumers carry them out of their problems. The customers didn’t care they were having these internal issues. But to really build a relationship with retailers, with customers, it takes years.”
He believes Endless “lost its energy,” he says. “They needed to go out in the field more. It wasn’t a matter of money, Endless has plenty of money. They weren’t making sales.”
In the last weeks, Nielsen tried to buy the company back but couldn’t put a deal together.
“I am just very sad,” he says. “So many people invested so much time and money in this company and we let them down.”
Regardless, he thinks the initial growth of Endless shows that tremendous potential remains in the charm market.
“Pandora opened up a lot of people’s eyes,” he says. “Investors saw the money it’s made and said, ‘Wow.’ More companies will come. I see more collections that can go very far and have huge potential.”
Still, in the end, he believes jewelry know-how still matters.
“You can’t just come from another industry and do a jewelry business,” he says. “You have to know how the string is made, from production to pricing to sales. You really have to understand how it works in jewelry. It can take many years to figure it out.”
Meanwhile, Nielsen is busy with his new project, Amazing Jewelry, an attempt to build the “H&M of jewelry.” And due to recent events, now those stores will feature charms.
“I’m out of my noncompete clause,” he says. “There were many things I could not do. I was not allowed to sell charms or bracelets. That’s all gone now.”
In the last year, Amazing opened up 21 stores throughout the world, with 71 more on tap. By the end of 2017, Nielsen plans to erect a flagship in New York City.
“The first two years in America with Endless were fantastic,” he says. “It was really a pleasure doing business in America. I can’t wait to be back.”