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Relationships remain key to business at Dipples in its 5th generation

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A family-run business, Dipples is the only fifth-generation jewellers located in Norwich, Dereham as well as online.

Making a success of things since its inception 143-years ago, the business has gone from strength to strength thanks to its well-led management style, family-oriented staffing and its impeccable taste and relationship it has with brands.

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Now, in taking things to the next level not only in-store, but also online, Chris Ellis told WatchPro how he has learned that having a solid, long-term relationship with watch and jewellery brands has allowed it to build a strong business and survive and thrive post-covid.

Attention to detail has been key throughout the 143-year period which first saw George Henry Dipple found the business in Woodford, Essex – though not staying there long.

Between 1888 and 1890 the business was relocated to Ipswich with the jewellery store making a final move to Norwich around 1894, been located in Swan Lane ever since.

The second jewellery store in Dereham, Norfolk, was opened by Rodney Ellis, Great Grandson of the founder, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013.

Dipples now stocks a number of watch brands which include the likes of Longines, Seiko and Citizen among others as well as wide jewellery offering.

It was also a Rolex Authorised Dealer until around ten years ago which most would think was a negative for the business but Mr Ellis explained how it actually allowed Dipples in Norwich to become better at what it did, dedicate more time to the other brands and make a real success of them which it has done.

He explained: “For watches specifically, it was of course a big chunk of our turnover but obviously being Rolex, it operates at a much lower profit margin than other brands and even more so in comparison to jewellery. So taking that into account, it wasn’t the kick to business that I think you initially think it is.”

In a lot of ways, Mr Ellis acknowledged how it allowed the wider business to improve at what it had existed to do for over a century.

He continued: “It made us really look at what we did. Following that move, we invested a lot more money into jewellery, higher end pieces and into carat plus diamonds. Lots of fancy coloured stones and things and now I think we have, without question, the biggest range on the East Coast.

“And again, looking at watches specifically, it allowed us to focus our time and relationships with some really great brands like Longines for example and since then, we’ve just seen those brands in our stores grow and grow.”

Mr Ellis went on to detail how this has been the case for them and managed to turn it into a positive but went on to say just how for some businesses the Rolex powerhouse has been a fantastic asset to their business offering and will, definitely in the short term, continue to be so.

For Dipples, this move just exemplified the relationships it had built over the years and encouraged them to do even more of it.

He explained: “We don’t like to drop brands if we can avoid it because we like to work with them over a number of years. We believe that we can stick with them through their up and down years, they will work with us when we need it too.

“As long as they’re doing okay, and we don’t have a lot of fallow years, then we strive to keep as many brands as we can. We have dropped bands of course we have, but generally, that’s because something’s happened specifically.”

Ellis went on to mention the Festina affair which as is well reported, significantly damaged the brand at the time in alluding to this point.

As a business with a longstanding success in bricks and mortar retail, as business has evolved and been accelerated further post-COVID, online sales and an offering or showcase has become increasingly important as Mr Ellis has tried to build upon.

He first launched the Dipples website in 2005 and had hoped for it to grow into his “little baby,” as he described.

But as is always the case with these aspects of business, having the time to focus on this as an independent, family-run, busy jewellers in the heart of a city centre has been a difficulty.

Mr Ellis said: “We did a website in 2005 and it took off. At the time, it was kind of like, how are we going to cope with it? You don’t have the staff in place to be able to cope with getting 50 transactions through a day or something like that which the way it was looking at the time could have been a realistic prospect for us.

“This meant that we haven’t allocated quite the time for the website as we maybe should have but to give an example, we did a little black Friday event last year and it took us nearly four days to wrap everything up because we don’t just wrap it up.”

“We don’t just get a box and shove it in there and label it. Everything is nicely wrapped up. We make sure we place it in there gently so it’s nice and secure in the centre of the box and that takes time.”

On a regular basis, especially at the time of launch, Mr Ellis explained how the business would not have been able to cope with that demand.

He continued: “It is a shame we couldn’t do because I would have loved to have had a nice transactional website in 2005, it could have been my little baby but we are where we are and it is growing nicely to a point where I hope in the next couple of years, it will actually be a sizeable chunk of the business.”

Since stores have been back open, Mr Ellis reports that things are going really well for the business across both its Norwich and Dereham stores and even has scope for taking on a few more watch brands in the New Year.

On his existing brands and their performance, he detailed: “Longines is flying. I believe we are one of the best performing stores, percentage-wise for the brand over the last couple of years. We dedicate a large space in our window and a fair chunk inside too.

“Seiko are another brand that we’ve seen see real growth and love among our customers at different and growing price points in the market over the past few years too. We’ve dealt with Seiko since the 70s which is another brand that has seen a lot of changes in how they work.”

He added: “In the last 10 years or so, they’ve really tried to reposition themselves as a much more upmarket brand which I would say they are now beginning to achieve, and we see that with the interest from our customers in-store.”

Chris Ellis’ father Rodney Ellis completely stepped back from the business last year with his wife who between them had shared 110 years in the jewellery trade.

Now, Chris who also works alongside his wife, will drive the business forward together with hope it can be passed on to the sixth generation to continue the longstanding and rather successful tradition.

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