When designer and entrepreneur Matt Conable founded William Henry in 1997, the focus of the business was on pocket knives, many featuring hard stones and other luxury materials. In a sign of the times, the company, based in McMinnville, Ore., expanded into men’s jewelry in 2014, a decision they’ve never looked back on.
“Right now, we are tracking between 19% and 21% year-on-year growth in men’s jewelry sales,” Lawrence McCormick, the brand’s vice president of marketing (pictured), tells JCK. “It’s by far the most solid, reliable growth category in our business.”
Below, McCormick discusses some of the nuances of the men’s jewelry market (for one thing, it’s an increasingly gender-neutral business, with more women buying jewels, both as gifts and for themselves), how the market has evolved over the past seven years, and what’s new in the way of products this season.
“Most jewelry brands started out designing for women,” he says. “For them it’s somewhat a brand repositioning. We don’t really have that problem.”
The men’s jewelry market has exploded since you introduced your first men’s collection in 2014.
It’s true. In 2014, a few pioneers were exploring men’s jewelry fully, but most brands that were offering jewelry for men mostly presented it in the same framework as their current jewelry collections. Nothing felt specifically targeted for men. Oh my God, things have changed dramatically.
What’s changed in William Henry’s men’s business since then?
One thing that’s interesting: When we first launched jewelry, we recorded interest and we sold well from the beginning, but the average order values were not high. In 2015–2016, men would buy jewelry, but they were not really willing to drop serious dollars yet. That has changed for us. We’re not only seeing absolute growth in sales but we’re seeing growth in average order value as well.
We see many customers come in and drop $1,500–$1,600 on a bracelet. In the women’s world, that’s nothing but in the guys’ world, it’s an important spend. Our average order value has crept up—we’re 11% up year-on-year. It accrues to a general trend. As we plan and chart the future of the brand, definitely jewelry is one of the areas we’re more confident in, and it’s proven by time, by sales, and it feels like now it’s broadly accepted as a category everybody needs to have.
Are your male clients mostly millennials and Gen Z?
I don’t have precise information on demographics. Our average customer [age] for the brand is around 45, which is perfectly aligned with the John Varvatos customer. That said, we are seeing a growth in sales to the younger population. Not super young: early 30s, the HENRYs [“High Earners, Not Rich Yet”].
Because of our price positioning, we tend to be more of an aspirational brand. That’s one reason why we’re nurturing both lower price points but also starting to develop into the higher end as we see men are willing to drop more dollars on jewelry. We’re just giving them what they want.
More than the age, it’s the attitude. Men approach jewelry with a different mindset. They’re a little bit interested in intrinsic value, but more interested in the story, how it’s relevant to them. Guys tend to be more loyal. They approach jewelry more like a watch, a personality statement. Once they have two or three nice pieces of jewelry, that’s what they wear. Even though they stack, they tend to be more loyal to their choices.
So in terms of advertising and marketing communication, our focus is mostly on the story and the materials we use: mammoth, dinosaur bone, inlay. In one of our knives, we just used some of the wood from the H.M.S. Victory, which fought in the Battle of Trafalgar—Admiral Nelson walked on that wood. It’s a dull piece of wood, but when you tell the story, it’s not so dull anymore.
What’s new about some of the collections you’re introducing this season?
We’re doing a lot of matching between sterling silver, which works well with a male audience, and exotic materials. We’ve seen a lot of success with Fordite, “Detroit agate”—it’s not precious in any way and yet the story related to it, if you’re a car guy, a lot of people enjoy that.
The mood boards we’re playing around with for next year include surfboards and space suits. We’re even talking about a tire from Formula 1, a piece of vulcanized rubber and we inlay these in precious materials. Our jewelry designer, Tony Rodriguez, who designs all in-house, is now working on a pearl collection. Usually pearls and guys don’t go together so well, but it’s a rapidly changing world!
Top: First Mate pendant in sterling silver with sapphires, $3,600Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine