Following the news of the appointment of Michael J. Belleveau, the former president and chief executive officer of Baccarat, to CEO of Trollbeads U.S., both Belleveau and Trollbeads U.S. chairman Peter Aagaard very generously took some time to speak with me today about future plans for their company, and their view of the overall charm market. Highlights from our conversation follow:
What do you see as your plans for Trollbeads U.S.?
Belleveau: There is already a solid base of distribution. But there are more layers that can be added to the business. We can open some chain accounts, and introduce our product to some fine department store and jewelry chains, and develop some co-branding arrangements with fashion brands and luxury brands.
In the wake of Pandora’s talk of a worldwide sales drop, how you see the market?
Aagaard: The problem with Pandora is they went to the stock exchange with some unrealistic expectations. They have always been a mass-market product and the management aimed for a higher segment. Now they are saying they need to get back to the mass market.
In 2000, when we went international, we used to be the only company out there. Now there is a ton of product on the market. I am not sure there is room for that many. But we still have a lot of passionate collectors and that is our customer base.
Some have said that jewelers embraced charms during the recession, but they might not be wiling to give the space to them when, or if, the economy improves.
Aagaard: If you look internationally, we have been through many cycles in 35 years. We have saved a lot of gift and jewelry shops during recessions, but they also do well when the economy picks up.
In the United States, Pandora and Chamilia seem to have a higher profile than Trollbeads.
Aagaard: They have marketed a lot. Our previous distributor didn’t do that. We are rectifying that now. We just need to get the message out about who we are and what we stand for. We already have much more branding and marketing than the previous distributor.
Michael, how will your experience at Baccarat translate to your new job at Trollbeads?
Belleveau: The business at Bacarat was multi-dimensional. We had our core product with tableware and giftware. But we also had very strong relationships with high-profile stores like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue. I spent 15 years in the Swiss watch business. There is a very strong correlation between those companies and the jewelry business, in terms of how the marketing works, the trade show, distribution networks. This feels like the culmination of my career in terms of bringing it all together.