Can Thomas Sabo Become Another Pandora?

Thomas Sabo chief brand officer John Schlüter admits that if his company was public, it “would have entered the U.S. five years ago.” 

While the privately held 31-year-old German company has a presence in 75 markets, it has been conspicuous by its absence here—aside from opening a store in Las Vegas in 2010. 

Now that’s changing. Last year, it hired Erwin Wieser, former vice president of operations for Swarovski, as U.S. managing director, based in New York City. Kendra Bridelle—formerly of LusciousS—has come aboard as wholesale director. It is exhibiting at the upcoming JCK Las Vegas and will open a flagship retail store next year at the Westfield World Trade Center mall in New York City. (That store was originally supposed to open this year, but the mall’s opening has been delayed.) It is also eyeing future retail locations in Miami and Los Angeles.

“The time is right for us to really conquer the U.S. market,” says Schlüter. “We believe there is a huge potential for us in the U.S.”

An often-edgy brand still chaired by its shaggy-haired 54-year-old namesake, Sabo—not surprisingly—considers Pandora its biggest competitor. But Schlüter says that while his company started out with charms, “we don’t have a clear leader that drives our business.”

“Pandora does a great job,” Schlüter says. “But it has one concept—charms. We have so many different concepts, you have a huge choice. That is the biggest differentiator.”

Current offerings include a woman’s line (Glam & Soul), men’s line (Rebel at Heart), a watch collection, and perfumes. Last year, it also launched a fine jewelry line, currently sold only in its flagship stores.  

Courtesy Thomas Sabo

From Sabo’s Glam & Soul collection

The brand is known as a “marketing-driven company,” says Schlüter, with Georgia May Jagger (the model daughter of Mick and Jerry Hall) and Formula 1 driver Nico Rosberg acting as celebrity spokespeople. It even has its own ice hockey team. “How many brands have their own ice hockey team?” Schlüter asks. 

Thomas Sabo is clearly an intriguing company, and by all indications, a quite successful one. (A 2011 article pegs its sales at close to 300 million euros.) Still, the U.S. market for low-end jewelry is quite crowded—if still quite vibrant. Thomas Sabo is not the first European “affordable luxury” brand to target the United States. Can sterling silver lightning strike twice?

Courtesy Thomas Sabo

From Sabo’s Beauty of the Maharani collection

Courtesy Thomas Sabo

Light of Luna

JCK News Director