Glittering opportunity: Chopard boss balances growth with quality
Think of giant diamonds and you might well think of Chopard, the Swiss luxury jeweller and watchmaker that lends its wares to stars from Julia Roberts to Lupita Nyong’o. That cachet comes at a price: a pair of earrings from Chopard’s ‘L’Heure Du Diamant’ collection will set you back close to £100,000.
You can browse – but not buy – such ‘high’ jewellery items on the company’s website, where Chopard provides plenty of content on its pieces and their origins. It’s all part of an effort to drive people towards its brick-and-mortar stores.
“A lot of people go online to collect all the information and compare products from one brand versus another brand. And then they go to the shop,” explains Caroline Scheufele, co-president of the company, a title she shares with her brother Karl-Friedrich.
Less expensive items can be bought online, such as pieces from Chopard’s ‘Happy’ collection, modelled by members of South Korean girl band Aespa, who became brand ambassadors in September. It’s a telling sign of the quandary facing Chopard and many other luxury brands: how to maintain sales among an older clientele while attracting younger generations in the face of stiff competition.
Plenty of smaller jewellers such as Catbird have started leaning on TikTok and Instagram to reach younger audiences, while Gucci Vault, the luxury giant’s “experimental” online shop, focuses on selling more unusual pieces from other designers such as Bleue Burnham, which recently created a collection made from recycled gold and silver.
In this vein, Scheufele says Chopard’s ‘My Happy Hearts’ collection, featuring smaller diamonds and simple gold bangles and pendants starting at around £1,600 for a ring, is popular with younger women. In September, Chopard launched a Snapchat filter for the collection, allowing customers in Europe, the Middle East and the US to virtually try items on before buying them.
“We have clients that always come back year after year, and they grow with us as they get older. But we also have to address the younger generation and see what they like, and [Snapchat] is what they look at,” Scheufele says. “They don’t look at, unfortunately, magazines anymore. Maybe they look at TV series, so if you do product placement within a series, that’s also very effective,” she adds.
When Scheufele was approached by stylists working with Jennifer Aniston on Apple TV+’s The Morning Show, she “naturally” said yes to their request for Aniston’s character to wear watches from Chopard’s ‘LUC’ collection, she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019. Chopard also put Ana de Armas in diamond earrings, necklace and bracelet for 2021’s No Time to Die and hired the actress to promote its ‘Golden Hearts’ collection to coincide with the movie’s release.
It’s all part of a canny marketing strategy which has helped carry the brand into the 21st century.
Changing with the times
Chopard was founded by Swiss watchmaker Louis-Ulysse Chopard in 1860. Scheufele’s parents Karl and Karin bought the company in 1963, with both still active in the firm. Scheufele herself has worked in the business for 35 years, designing and launching its first pieces of jewellery at a time when Chopard only made watches.
At 20, her father sent her to Japan for a store opening. “He gave me a title: ‘You’re the vice-president’,” she said during a panel discussion on equality at the Global Citizen Forum, a conference held in the United Arab Emirates in November 2022.
The theme of the conference was ‘human metamorphosis’, and Scheufele has long been an advocate of change at Chopard. She redesigned the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme D’Or award in 1998, and Chopard became an official partner to the event, putting it on a global stage for more than two decades.
Appointed co-president in 2001, Scheufele is artistic director too, overseeing design as well as international expansion. The brand is now sold in brick-and-mortar stores and concessions in more than 100 countries.
She says she’s relieved the business is “very well spread” around the world. “Sometimes one country has an economic crisis – or Russia, for example, we cannot work in Russia [because of its invasion of Ukraine], which is a big market. But America is doing really well this year, and also Europe has picked up a lot, and the Middle East is booming,” she adds.
China is also a large market for Chopard, with around 60 outlets. It’s a place where online sales are accelerating, especially since the Covid-19 shutdowns of the past two years. “A country like China is so big, and the cities are like countries there. Plus the younger generation there shop more online than the older generation,” Scheufele says.
Globally, online retailing accounts for about 4-5% of Chopard’s sales, but in China, the US and UK, ecommerce sales have roughly doubled this year, Scheufele adds.
Chopard started selling online via an ‘E-boutique’ in the US in 2012, while the UK followed in 2015. It launched a range on luxury website Net-A-Porter in 2017 and entered the Chinese ecommerce market in the same year, with a small shop on China’s giant JD.com site.
In 2021, Scheufele joined JD’s board. This gave her “another perspective” on ecommerce, she says, noting the speed of trends in China as well as delivery innovations such as drones.
Planning for the future
While growth is desirable, keeping control over customers’ experience is important, Scheufele says. “Growing is one thing but maintaining it is another. In growing the business you must not lose control over the quality,” she explains.
These days, an important part of quality is corporate responsibility. Chopard has a strict sourcing policy and is a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, moves Scheufele pushed for. “We managed to change the whole production, so it’s now all Fairmined gold or recycled gold. And either way, we have complete traceability,” Scheufele says.
What does she see coming next for luxury brands? Along with more of a focus on sustainability and transparency, collaborations will continue to be important, she suggests. “You have the two visions of two different industries on one product, and that always gives you some sort of fresh wind,” she says.
For instance, in November 2022 Chopard opened a New York City flagship store on Fifth Avenue selling a range of jewellery named ‘Happy Butterfly’, which Scheufele designed with Mariah Carey. A small rose gold heart-shaped pendant with three diamonds at the centre retails for around $3,000 (about £2,500), and the collection will only be available in the US at first due to production limitations, Scheufele says.
The singer approached Scheufele directly because she wanted to celebrate her song All I want for Christmas is you reaching diamond status. But the partnership wasn’t designed as a corporate venture. “It wasn’t planned, there were no marketing consultants in there.” What a gem.