Belgian jewellery brand DPT Antwerp is nurturing big international expansion plans, starting in France and the Netherlands. The brand wants to expand its reach with a combination of own shops, franchising, wholesale, travel retail and online.
Growing in Europe
The Antwerp-based jewellery brand is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a new name, a new flagship store, a first shop in France and big international expansion plans. Most of the brand’s current sixteen shops are in Asia: Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai… In Belgium, there is the Antwerp flagship store and a corner at Inno. In order to not become too dependent on one region, the company plans to expand further in Europe too, founders Edward Verté and Stephanie Wilms tell RetailDetail.
“At the end of 2019, we started with wholesale; three years later, we work with a hundred jewellers in Belgium and the Netherlands. The latter will be an important market for us: those jewellers have a local clientele, in smaller towns where we would not easily open a shop ourselves.”
Cruises and online
Another growth area is travel retail. For example, the brand is present in the shops of DFS (Duty Free Shops), a wholly owned subsidiary of LVMH that operates airport shops as well as luxury department stores, such as La Samaritaine in Paris. “We also sell on planes and cruise ships. That is going extremely well. We are already on forty cruises, with our own ‘branded wall’, alongside Swarovski or other big brands. In terms of exposure, that is fantastic. We have increased our turnover in the travel channel fivefold last year compared to the year before, and we think we will grow at least 250 % this year. We see huge potential in that market.”
Online is still limited as a sales channel for DPT Antwerp today: last year it was 7 % of sales. “It is important, but we have not cracked the code yet. We do expect, however, to get a lot of secondary sales from it: people buy our products at the airport or on a cruise, discover our brand, and go check us out online afterwards. But selling jewellery well online is not so obvious. People find our jewellery much more beautiful in real life than online. We are therefore investing in good imaging.”
Now France should follow as the next European country. DPT Antwerp set up a joint venture last year with the former top executive of Fashion Cube, the fashion holding company of the Mulliez family (which has since been dissolved). The first shop recently opened in Lille. “We think we are right to expand through franchising. It gives you leverage to grow much faster. Franchisees make the investment, they know the market, they sometimes already have a local clientele, and we support with training, an app, product selection and so on.”
A new retail concept was needed for a credible franchise story. The French partner introduced DPT Antwerp to Malherbe Paris, a prestigious design agency that developed a sustainable retail concept for the jewellery brand. “The curtains are made of recycled fishing nets, the furniture is made of recycled wood, all visual merchandising tools are made of recycled PET, the floor is made of sustainable polyurethane. The concept is also modular, so we can roll it out in both large and small spaces. Moreover, it is affordable, not unimportant for the many franchise applicants we speak to.”
For every day
The name change (the brand was founded as Diamanti Per Tutti) also fits perfectly with the brand’s international ambitions. “With Malherbe Paris, we did a whole marketing exercise. We found that very few people could remember our name, even if they had just bought something from us. In Asia, everyone was already saying DPT. We have long struggled with our name, because of the fact that it is Italian, and we are a Belgian brand. That is a contradiction. Antwerp is our hometown, we are proud of that.”
DPT Antwerp wants to be a jewellery brand for everyone, but what exactly does that mean? “Our tagline is ‘a diamond day, every day.’ We make diamond jewellery that you can wear every day, in all circumstances. Pricing ranges from 50 to 600 euros, with an average price of 150 euros. The bulk of our sales are between 100 and 200 euros. That is accessible, for a gem in silver or gold, hand-set with admittedly small but genuine diamonds of good quality.”
DPT Antwerp is not a fashion gem or fantasy gem, but neither is it fine jewellery. “We are in between. That is an interesting positioning, putting us on par with Pandora or Swarowski – which are at about the same price point. We reach a wide audience. In our communication, we do target the fashionable woman aged 25 to 40, but we see in practice that we have both much younger and much older customers.”