Ben Bridge Jeweler has signed a letter of intent to transfer control of its 37 Pandora stores in the United States and Canada to the Pandora Group.
The transfer effectively cuts Ben Bridge’s store count in half. Following this transaction, the Seattle-based retailer will have 36 locations.
Ben Bridge is currently Pandora’s largest North America franchisee. The transaction is targeted for March. Neither party commented on the sale price, though Pandora says it will provide more info when the deal closes.
“It’s exciting for both brands,” says Ben Bridge president and CEO Lisa Bridge. “It’s the right moment. It’s time for us to focus on our Ben Bridge business. We have evolved so much in the last few years, we wanted to be able to have that singular focus on delivering the right experience for our consumers.”
Bridge says that the slimmed-down company is looking at some new opportunities. It’s moving out its downtown Seattle flagship after 90 years into a “spectacular” new store.
“We can take some strategic steps,” she says, “[and] test some things.”
It’s also looking at ways to grow the business.
“We’ll definitely expand, whether that will be store count or other ways,” she says. “Growth is definitely the direction, and now we have the fuel and the the focus to be able to do that.”
She notes that Ben Bridge is just coming off its most successful year ever.
“It was just phenomenal,” she says. “2021 was really extraordinary, really for the whole [jewelry] industry. We really were the right product with the right messaging at the right moment. The pie is bigger than any of us thought. We have to think about how we grow from here—and how we make sure this isn’t just a moment.”
Ben Bridge has operated Pandora franchise stores since spring 2010, when it opened five Pandora locations.
Prior to its recent resurgence, Pandora indicated that it had rethought its past policy of buying back franchise stores.
Pandora spokesperson Johan Melchior tells JCK that now that the company is “back on a growth track, we want to expand [our] network.… We will consider opportunities on a case-by-case basis as they appear—for example, when licenses expire or when there is mutual interest in a transfer of ownership.”
Adds Bridge: “It was a conversation between both of us. From my vantage point, it’s just a continuation of them wanting to have control of their network and better understanding of their consumer.… We pretty much represent the entire West Coast for them.”
She says it will be “bittersweet” to say goodbye to so many employees.
Ben Bridge—which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company owned by Warren Buffett—said it will continue to carry Pandora products in five of its stores and on its website.
In a statement issued Monday, Pandora said that its preliminary results for the fourth quarter of 2021 have exceeded its initial guidance. The company says that organic growth for 2021 rose 23%, topping its guidance of 18%–20%. Total revenue and sellout will likely be Pandora’s highest ever, it said.
Pandora’s U.S. sales for the fourth quarter of 2021 grew 18% over 2020, and 42% over 2019. Total U.S. revenue for 2021 hit 7 billion Danish kroner, or $1.07 billion.
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