Coming off three years of flat to negative revenue growth, Pandora jewelry turned the corner in 2021. Total revenues reached $3.5 billion in 2021, up 23% over previous year. In that, it delivered its best year ever.
The U.S. market powered much of the Danish company’s growth, with year-over-year organic sales up 58%. In another first, the U.S. reached $1.1 billion in sales in 2021 and now accounts for 30% of total sales, up from 24% in 2020.
To keep the momentum going, Pandora has just initiated a new strategic plan entitled Phoenix with the goal to become the “largest and most desirable brand in the affordable jewelry market.” The company already claims that badge, so the goal is to widen its lead.
The Phoenix plan centers on four growth pillars:
- Build on brand equity and customer loyalty. Pandora, already claiming the title as the world’s largest jewelry brand known by more consumers than any other and crafting more jewelry items than any other brand in the industry, will continue to maintain its dominance using advanced data analytics, social listening and increased media investments.
- Strengthen its core design platform. It’s charms and chain bracelets, called Moments and Collabs (brand collaborations), are its core, accounting for 71% of sales. But it is rapidly expanding into new jewelry categories and platforms, called Style and Upstream, now with 29% of sales. These expanded jewelry ranges include Pandora Timeless (17%), Pandora Signature (9%), and GenZ-targeted Pandora ME (3%). The company also has high hopes for its lab-grown diamond assortment called Pandora Brilliance, which initially launched in the U.K. last year and is slated for global expansion this.
- Personalize the customer experience. This is its omnichannel strategy, anchored by its nearly 7,000 physical retail touchpoints, including 1,423 Pandora-owned concept stores and 5,348 other points of sale. Overall, Pandora direct-to-consumer retail accounts for 68% of sales – 42% in Pandora physical stores and 26% via its online stores. Wholesale distribution through franchisees and others accounts for 32% of sales. On the horizon is a new concept store design which is currently being tested in the U.K., Italy and China.
- Expand in core markets. Eyeing the U.S. and China as its highest potential markets, Pandora plans to triple revenue in China against its 2019 baseline when it did just shy of $300 million. China was particularly problematic over the last two years when its share dropped from 9% of revenues in 2019 to 5% in 2021.
U.S. in 2022 and beyond
And then there is the U.S., both its biggest and greatest potential market. Here it plans to double business over its 2019 baseline when it did $700 million in sales. It only has some $300 million to go, and it handily added nearly $400 million over the last year.
Hedging its bets, Pandora is being cautious in its guidance for 2022. Overall it expects to generate organic growth between 3% and 6%, but for the U.S., it is guiding on negative mid-to-high single digit growth on the low end and flat-to-slightly positive on the high end.
It is assuming the U.S. jewelry market will decline between 10% and 20% because of its unexpectedly strong post-pandemic recovery. In addition, other macroeconomic and geopolitical factors – none specifically mentioned, but just look to Ukraine – weigh on the side of caution.
No matter the uncertainties, of which there are plenty, there is one certainty: Pandora has a steady hand at the helm of its U.S. business in its recently appointed North America general manager Luciano Rodembusch.
Brazilian-born, he joins the company after serving 10+ years at Tiffany in various international leadership roles, most recently as senior vice president Americas, including the U.S., Canada, Central and South America. Besides jewelry, his experience spans CPG sales, marketing and management with Diageo, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Proctor & Gamble.
During his first seven months on the job, Rodembusch took a crash course in the company’s culture and got hands on into operations. This enabled him to translate the Phoenix plan he inherited into strategies his U.S. team can execute. He sat down with me to share his vision for the U.S. market.
Priority number one is to preserve the gains made in 2021 and use that momentum to power more growth. “With over 50% growth under our belt now, we need to protect that and continue so that 2022, 20223 and 2024 will be our best years as well,” he shares.
Expansive range of affordable designs
Driving that growth was the 3.2 million new customers brought to the brand last year. Keeping them engaged shouldn’t be hard, since by its very nature – the collectability of its charms – Pandora has built in customer loyalty. The customer can’t stop at buying just one.
“Pandora is the LEGO version of jewelry,” he asserts. “Just like you can’t walk into a LEGO store and not play with something, we want to give the same experience of playfulness inside of our stores. You never see a sad face on a woman when there is jewelry in front of her. That’s the feeling we want to create in our stores.”
Its charm’s affordability is an important part of the charm of the brand. With prices starting in the $25-$35 range, it puts Pandora within the reach of most consumers’ wallets and its expansive range of charm designs assures there is something in the collection for everyone.
“The machine that drives Pandora is innovation,” he shares. “Every time you come into the stores, there is something new. No other company can do that at the speed and with the quality that we do.”
The most recent example of newness was the launch in mid-February of a Marvel Super Hero collection, featuring 11 pieces including bracelet, ring and charms. “It was the best collaboration we did ever,” Rodembusch boasts. And its going up against formidable competition, including Disney, Harry Potter, Star Wars and others.
“Some of the Marvel styles sold out in two hours in e-commerce. We got an unbelievable response,” he says and adds, “For the first time ever, we offered a special edition for someone who wanted the entire collection. We sold 100 of those in just a few hours online.” In particular, the Marvel collection has unisex appeal and is especially popular with Millennials.
While Pandora is known for its flagship charms and charm bracelets, Rodembusch sees an opportunity to turn the tables. “Pandora became synonymous with charms more than jewelry. We see the opportunity to transform that to being a jewelry company that also sells charms.”
So the company is presenting new ways to wear charms. “Charms don’t have to be worn only on the wrist. You can wear them on a keychain, on a backpack, purse, necklace, shoelaces and many other places,” he continues.
Extending the range of jewelry offerings is another critical component of the plan. “We offer very high quality and affordable rings, necklaces and earrings, but the feedback we hear from clients in sometimes they miss it in the stores. It can get buried, so we need to make people aware of all that we offer,” he says.
More ways to connect with customers
With so many new customers discovering Pandora last year, Rodembusch sees opportunities to reach even more. Currently the company has some 1,500 points of sale in the U.S., about 500 concept stores, half company-owned and the other half operated by franchisees, and 1,000 independent dealers.
“When we look at the geographic penetration of sales, we are very strong along the East Coast, versus the Mid-West, West Coast and Canada. That’s where we see big white spaces to develop,” he says.
To help Pandora reach a wider U.S. audience, Macy’s is coming alongside it through a just announced partnership. After a soft launch in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Garden City, NY this past holiday season, Pandora shop-in-shops will go into some 28 other Macy’s stores.
It’s a win-win for both companies. “There is still a large number of clients to reach and bring into the brand, so Macy’s is giving us that. We believe it will make our partnership strong,” Rodembusch says.
And Macy’s shares the same feelings. “Pandora broadens our already strong assortment in fine jewelry,” a Macy’s spokesperson shared with me. “Pandora attracts younger customers and allows us to offer shoppers more exciting fine jewelry to enhance their shopping experience and enable their personal style.”
While Pandora expands its physical presence in the U.S., it will backup customers’ connection with a more personalized approach online. “E-commerce is still very strong for us and continues despite the fact that all our stores have been operating for 12 months,” he notes.
“We are investing a lot in personalization in the digital world so that when a client comes to the website, they see a website just for them, not what everybody else sees. It’s a long journey to get there, but we have ambitious plans to be the best in that,” he adds.
Even more storytelling
Even as Pandora is a brand known for storytelling, Rodembusch sees ways to extend the storytelling further. “Pandora does amazing things, but in a way that is very humble,” he believes.
“From the perspective of craftsmanship – everything is handmade – and how individual designs are selected – the thinking behind why this image of a flower or dog was chosen – we can put extra meaning behind each of our pieces with more storytelling at the store level. There is a lot of extra energy we can bring to the stores through storytelling,” he continues.
Always reason to celebrate
And in a final question about the many uncertainties ahead this coming year, Rodembusch believes the experience coming out of the pandemic will carry the brand forward.
“Through the pandemic, we all saw how precious life is,” he shares. “And no matter what, people always have something to celebrate. There are weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and other milestone events,” he shares.
“We want to put Pandora into their minds to capture those moments for the future, even in the tough times. So for less than $100 or $50 or even $35, you can take home a memory that will become an heirloom, something that reinforces the message that during difficult times, we came through,” he concludes.
That human need to connect and celebrate even when times are tough was a primary driver behind Pandora’s stunning growth in 2021 and given the dark clouds on the horizon now, it should continue to carry it through 2022 as well.