Interview With the New John Hardy CEO

Robert Hanson, the former head of American Eagle who became CEO of John Hardy following its purchase by private equity fund Catterton Partners, talked with JCK yesterday about his plans for the brand, which include adding materials like diamonds, maybe raising price points, and a new focus on e-commerce.

JCK: What are the main growth opportunities for your brand?

Hanson: We have an incredible product platform, but there is clearly an opportunity to build from the current platform. We have four collections that are the core of our business. So we have the ability to leverage them to make them more compelling and more productive and to extend the product architecture into categories where we are under-penetrated outside of bracelets and necklaces. There are opportunities to add other materials, like precious stones and diamonds.

Number two is the John Hardy story. It is so beautiful, but we need to tell it with more precision and more confidence. How we market the brand will be a really strong focus. We have our campaign kicking off with [supermodel] Cara Delevingne. 

The third is our channels of distribution. We have a strong core of independent jewelers. We are also in premium department stores: Saks, Neiman, Harrods. We have the opportunity to get productivity out of existing partnerships along with optimizing our e-commerce, which is relatively undeveloped. We can’t ignore the opportunities in technology, so e-commerce is part of the mix.

JCK: Will you be selling more direct to the consumer via online?

Hanson: We already do have direct selling, but it is not a material component of our revenue at the moment. The company has to recognize the profound impact of technology on how we do business. We want to be where and when our consumers want us, and we know that our consumers shop for luxury jewelry online. We want to be the best e-commerce space in the market. The flagship experience begins with the consumer looking at John Hardy online. We recognize that a lot of research and pre-shopping is done online. We have to have an exceptional e-commerce experience. 

JCK: You talked about adding materials like diamonds. Do you see the product going to a higher price point?

Hanson: One of the things we have to look at is how to enhance productivity. We see a square-foot opportunity that would be a mixture of the content as well as how many SKUs we put into the brand. We would obviously look to elevate the brand. It is really about the balance of the assortment. Adding additional materials does provide an opportunity to look at elevating price.

JCK: Do you see more Hardy-branded retail stores?

Hanson: Where there is a distribution void, we do see an opportunity for retail over time. 

JCK: Could you see the brand extending beyond jewelry? 

Hanson: For the foreseeable future, we will further fortify John Hardy as a distinctive handcrafted jewelry brand. That is what our consumers love about the brand. Over time as we look further out, we will look at how to build out the brand. But the focus is on jewelry for sure. 

JCK: Your predecessor Damien Dernoncourt is now nonexecutive chairman, which your press statement says will be a full-time position. Isn’t that usually a part-time post? 

Hanson: Damien will remain an equity stakeholder, and he and I will work through a transition period and will agree on how his role will best be deployed, and how much of his time that requires. We have a great relationship. But the point is, I will be the executive running the company.

JCK: Your stint at American Eagle no doubt afforded you a lot of opportunities. Why did you choose this one?

Hanson: I took a good amount of time to assess the opportunities. This is an exceptional brand with so much potential. John Hardy at its core is about handcrafted luxury. Our consumers are looking for unique and meaningful beauty. There is so much room to accelerate that positioning.

It is a mission-driven company. You have a story of artisanship and sustainability and community-based economic development that is incredibly meaningful to our customer base. 

Catterton is an incredible investment partner. They are a real strategic and consumer-focused player. They have a lot of experience with other luxury brands. All of their holdings are in the consumer sector. We feel great about our partnership with Catterton and feel really aligned about opportunities to grow.

If you look at the sector, luxury jewelry has tailwinds. We believe we are in a position to take advantage of those tailwinds, and combined with the growth levers I talked about, there is a lot of opportunity ahead of us.

JCK: With this new backing, do you see John Hardy becoming among the top jewelry brands in the U.S. and the world?

Hanson: That is certainly our intent.…


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JCK News Director