3 Questions With Kendra Scott CEO Tom Nolan

Tom Nolan
Tom Nolan

In February, Tom Nolan—a veteran of Ralph Lauren and Condé Nast—became CEO of Kendra Scott LLC after its namesake and founder stepped aside. (Designer Kendra Scott remains chairwoman and majority owner.) Nolan talked with JCK about how the brand coped with COVID-19 and what’s made it successful.

How did your company navigate the COVID-19 pandemic?

We had some pretty significant international expansion plans leading into 2020 that were derailed. In hindsight, that was a good thing.

The retail landscape shifted pretty materially last year. Consumer habits changed. We are a very nimble organization and were able to move really fast. We’re not afraid to take risks. We accelerated a lot of technology applications like buy online, pick up in store. We were able to meet the customer where she was, and I think it served us really well. At the same time, our business got healthier. We just had to get smarter about operating expenses and how we run the business.

What do you think has made your founder, Kendra Scott, so successful?

There’s a commonality among very successful founders, which is an inability to quit and a doggedness and desire to solve a problem. Kendra has all of those things and then some. A lot of companies have nice product and philanthropy, but I’d argue that not a lot do it the way that we do it, because it’s who we are. 

Kendra Scott threaded elisa pendant
Threaded Elisa 14k gold–plated brass pendant necklace in coral illusion; $58

[Kendra] embedded herself in her local community, which was ­Austin [Texas]. She was a single mom, literally selling jewelry out of a box door-to-door. [She would give away jewelry] because her heart is so big. 

By the time we opened our first store in 2011, there was a line around the building, because that community wanted to support the person that supported them for so long. 

Could the brand ever move upscale?

What’s amazing about Kendra Scott—and this is where we have unlimited blue-sky opportunity ahead of us—is our product really speaks to every ­woman. We sell fine jewelry, we sell demi-fine jewelry, so our price points go up to a couple thousand dollars.

Sometimes where brands get a little out of sorts is they forget who their customer is and think their customer is somebody else. We don’t try to be something we’re not. The same things that made us successful in the beginning are making us successful now.

Top: Savannah statement earrings in 14k gold–plated brass; $118; kendrascott.com

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