‘Over to you’ guest column: London jewellery designer, Martin James

By Charlotte Turner |

In this ‘Over to You’ guest column we hear from Martin James, founder of the eponymous jewellery brand, Martin James London, about how his 20 years’ experience in travel retail across airports, cruise ships and ferries has been critical in navigating the unfamiliar territory, post-Covid.


He also argues that remaining quiet at this time was never an option he considered during the crisis.


I have always been passionate about great design, having studied Art and Design in London and, over many years, redesigned and repaired antique jewellery in famous London locations such as Camden and Portobello Road.


I began designing bespoke items of jewellery for a wide range of customers on a regular basis and the brand Martin James of London was born. For me, it was essential to appeal to a broad demographic; individuals looking for sophisticated, glamorous and fun items of fashion jewellery, always on trend and always with a sparkle.


I was determined that I would only produce the highest quality costume jewellery, through long and reliable sourcing at very affordable prices.


We have worked in travel retail for more than 20 years and enjoyed the dynamic, fast-paced and evolving business. With a strong presence at airports, on cruise ships and ferries our agility to meet new demands has always been one of our strongest attributes.


Martin James has been in travel retail for over 20 years.

Martin James has worked in travel retail for over 20 years.


So how do we progress in the ‘New World’? For Martin James there was never an option to fade into the background and we have worked tirelessly to support our customers through difficult times; keeping in touch regularly and supporting any initiatives they may have had once the stores began to open.


We are very conscious that buyers and planners will have even less time and resource to manage their categories for the foreseeable future and for this reason we aim to assist as much as possible. We have refined the buying process through concise ranging and a clear replenishment formula, supporting best-selling lines.


We are very aware that selling self-select jewellery, where customers are free to handle the product, will now present a challenge, so we spent a significant time reviewing each and every product category to make them safe and protected whilst still offering the customer a personal experience and maintaining the brand’s integrity.


Pre-Covid we had developed a fantastic new self-select floor unit for high traffic areas, emulating the glitz and glamour of the jewellery, which was in the final stages of development, but had yet to be shipped.


We took the opportunity at this time to review the way we sold the products and to re-assess the unit given the challenges ahead.



There were clear adjustments that could easily be made, such as all earrings would be protected by clear high-grade poly packaging over the card hang packs, and all bracelets could be placed on card rather than being displayed on bracelet bars. Our box sets were already in secure packaging.


The challenge however, was how to package the rings, given that the vast selection (one price point – 5 SKUs) was a magnetic draw to the passenger.


We knew that by reducing the range we would risk losing impact, therefore, we sourced a unique ring hang card that means the ring still faces forward and although there has been a small reduction in options, we are still able to create the attractive glitz that customers expect from the brand.


To overcome the issue of ring sizing we now provide disposable ring cards which help the customer determine the right ring size for them. We also provide disposable gloves for members of staff to wear whilst merchandising the unit or assisting customers. We ensure all staff are fully trained in procedures to give customers that added confidence.


The Martin James of London Collection has a proven track record in onboard retailing, offering retail theatre to a discerning customer. Pre-Covid we rolled out our new bespoke table-top units to more than 20 ships from various operators and performance was exceptional.



No other fashion jewellery company had taken the table-top space and created bespoke units, telling a branded story whilst running regular staff incentives and promotions and merchandising support. Passengers were delighted with the high-quality execution and the touch of glamour elevating their premium cruising experience.


We will be ready when cruising returns to have the solutions for selling in a different way. We will adapt the current units, keeping the bracelet bars, but as supply display stock only, whilst passengers can enjoy fresh stock in tamper-free packaging serviced by the staff in branded gloves.


As the ‘leading Cocktail Ring Brand on the Seas’ it was important to keep the volume on display, so we have added perspex covers to the existing stands and will provide disposable ring sizing tape for the passengers to check the sizes.


The views and opinions expressed here are those of the columnist’s and do not necessarily reflect those of TRBusiness.

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