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Jewellery & Watch interviews Bransom's MD Chris Garland  



What’s your role within the business, and your background?

I’m the Managing Director, and my key roles are planning and overseeing our company strategy, and working with our developers to maintain our forward-thinking philosophy, which means as a company we can help our customers manage their business and maximise their profits.

I started my career as a professional rugby player, a long way off my day job today. However, my career with technology started in quantity surveying and it was my interest in computers that led me to take a computer course and after gaining extensive experience in software companies I joined Bransom in 1983.  In 1989 I bought the company and run it today with my 3 co-directors Tracy Burnett, Rob Saville and Daren Daniels, who between them have cumulatively over 60 years’ service with Bransom.

How does Bransom sit within the jewellery market at the moment?

We are by far the market leaders for stock management and EPoS systems for jewellers of all sizes (50% of this year’s Inspiring Independents are Bransom clients), and have seen significant growth over the last few years. We like to see ourselves more as a technology partner than just a software provider, providing installation, training and a 7-day support team to ensure our clients are getting the best from their system. As specialists in the jewellery sector for over 30 years, we have the experience and knowledge to provide a great service to our clients.

Most recently we’ve been working even more closely with wholesalers and brands. Major brands such as Pandora and Swarovski are important partners to our business, using our system to communicate with their stockists, provide automatic price and collection updates and also to deliver key information back to the brand. 

Working with both brands and retailers means it is possible to really integrate their retail systems.  Over recent years the amount of data and information being processed has increased significantly and this connected approach means we can completely remove errors in product information that would often result from human data inputting.

What has been your experience of Online Retail?

Obviously e-commerce has exploded over the last several years and many jewellers have naturally supplemented their physical store sales with an online shop. We analysed the methodology early on and chose not to adopt a simple restrictive set of off-the-shelf templates, as individual requirements can vary hugely. Instead, we elected to provide a robust data integration link and guidelines to give our clients the choice of using their own preferred professional website developer. We have become a very strong player in web integration and have seen many of our clients develop successful online sites, particularly through our good relationships with companies such as Visualsoft and CMJ Media.

The vital key to online success is planning from the back-end, as the order processing, stock management and delivery systems must be properly planned and in place before the visual elements of the online shop are deployed.

What are you finding that your indie retailers are asking you for at the moment? What’s their priority?

Most retailers are now looking to automate and want the brands to provide the data so that they can manage their stock more efficiently and spend less time manually entering stock information. Such automation can help reduce costs, so important when recent times have seen sales hit by the recession and the subsequent squeeze in profit margins.

New product introductions are more frequent now, so retailers have to do more to keep up with the changes. For example, many of today’s fashion brands can change 60% of their stock every year where in the past they would produce and stock the same items for years, even decades. With this dramatically increased number of products to administrate comes a need to automate data entry and understand KPIs in much more detail than just 5 years ago.

In many ways, brands like Pandora have helped the retailers look at their data in a different way by training them to read the data which Bransom helps them deliver.  These brands have a specified reporting system that stockists have to follow, which in turn has helped those retailers understand the business dynamics and make sound decisions accordingly. Stock turns are increased, and obsolete stock is reduced.

Staffing has also been a huge factor in the increasing use of data in smaller retailers. Staff turnover can be high and with a challenging economic climate it is more important than ever to ensure that skilled staff are meeting targets, both financially and qualitatively.  In order to do this they need fast and easy access to information and data, something our Live Sales Analyser can do from any location thanks to tablets and smartphones.

How do you feel the sector will adapt and change over the course of the next ten years?

The Cloud and Big Data are the buzzwords, so we’ll see more systems changing and migrating to cloud technology and faster and better data analysis. We have already released several cloud-based modules such as web-based stocktaking and the live sales analyser, and we’ve been working for some time on a new system that will focus on analysing data across sectors. This includes not just a retailer’s own best sellers, but also those from a whole region or even the country overall which will enable retailers to draw valuable conclusions from them.  Pandora are very much pioneers in this, helping retailers to see the value of sharing data and using it to ensure reliable profits and reduce slow-moving inventory.

What evolutions/new products/additions to the service should we be looking out for at Bransom?

Yes there’s a brand new product in development and it will truly revolutionise the sector. Of course, it’s cloud based, takes retail to a whole new level of service and business management, and we’re planning several new product rollouts for 2016.

Bransom is famous for customer service, when you’re helping a new jeweller what tends to be the biggest challenge for them when correctly implementing a retail system?

Data migration is their biggest worry, but our years of experience means we have the tools and knowledge to achieve this really quickly and alleviate their concerns from the start. We really can have their system switched over in a day with virtually no down-time.

Following that is training, which again has always been one of our biggest strengths and we promote it heavily alongside industry peers such as The NAJ, Pandora, The Houlden Group, Holts and the CMJ and always include in-house training as part of an installation. We are increasing our number of specialist training workshops, and are currently deploying new tools such as webinars and video tutorials to help customers ensure their staff are suitably knowledgeable, which in turn has a direct effect on customer service, work flow, management and profits.

You’ve been focussed specifically on the jewellery business for 30 years, has the business ever considered a lateral move into similar retail?

There are still so many opportunities in this fantastic and dynamic industry that we continue to concentrate our business only in this sector, and we’re privileged to be a part of it.   We do of course keep a close eye on what’s happening in other retail sectors to see where we might enhance our own systems to serve our clients even better. As I said, we consider it a partnership, for life.

Photo: Kallory Photo