“The THJ Buying Group (THJ) was formed in 1986 the founding members were:
Trevor Hogdson – THJ Jewellers of Swinton
George Cornwell – George Cornwell’s Jewellers of Bury
Dennise Collins – Collins Jewellers of Eccles
Harvey Morgan – Harvey’s the Jewellers of Middleton
The main driving force of the THJ in the early years was Trevor Hogdson. Trevor is a specialist diamond manufacturer but in conjunction with this he had immense knowledge of jewellery trends and great insight into how margins and service effected retail jewellery businesses. The early meetings for the THJ were generally held at Dennise Collin’s house and most of the ideas and early driving forces came through Trevor Hogdson. Trevor initially put together buying structures which would create good economies of scale through the collective Buying Power of the four businesses listed above. You must remember in 1986 the trade was very different as it is today and it was run on very traditional lines with most private retailers purchasing their goods through wholesalers and it was only the multiples who were able to buy directly off the manufacturers. So the THJ were one of the first retail consortiums to organise structures which allowed us to buy direct. The companies we started with in 1986 were on the jewellery side Abbeycrest and Gallery. Joseph Smith, Andra (Andralok) on the watch side Sekonda, Pulsar, Loris, Seiko and Casio.
The watch purchasing was run on similar lines as it is today except 50% of the ordering had to be done in quantities of 50 – 100 and delivered to a central point and paid within seven days. I personally organised the quantity purchase and distributed it to my three other colleagues in the THJ. To give you an example in 1986 the most discount available for seven day payment on these watches was approx’ 5%. The first deal with Sekonda care of Graham Fitzpatrick was 15%. All the other watches had similar discount increases to the Sekonda deal. In essence we created a situation that for every £1,000 of watches sold we were making extra gross profit of approx’ £120 just by being members of the THJ. The three jewellery companies we started with are all sadly no longer in business. I am sure the trade will remember Abbeycrest and Gallery who at the peak were turning over from their Leeds factory 100 million. I personally knew the founder Peter Rosenburg from my repping days in Yorkshire in the early 80’s. Abbeycrest started trading in 1982 and the THJ were the first retail consortium they dealt with. Again, we created fantastic economies of scale with Abbeycrest where the average margin of 2.5% from cost increased to 3.2 owing to the substantial discounts we were receiving. For the first five years of the THJ all gold purchases were delivered to one member and distributed by that member. In effect the nominated member for any particular jewellery supplier acted as the wholesaler and distributor for the THJ.
In the mid nighties the THJ had approx’ 20 members and our Chairman was Dennis Collin’s. Dennise was an Area manager for H Samuels before he opened his own business in Eccles. He was a gentleman, had a great knowledge of the jewellery trade and kindly hosted our four meetings a year at his house. The meetings during the nighties were fairly informal but minutes were taken and decisions were made. Trevor was still the main driving force, but to be fair, the continued success of the THJ was really down to the combined efforts of all the THJ members. Looking back I personally learnt a great deal by listening and interacting with the different members. This early principle of combining and sharing ideas with another jeweller who is not a direct competitor is I believe the main base of the THJ today.
In 1990 Fred Mort of F Mort Jewellers, was our Chairman. Fred did a brilliant job for all of us in the THJ and in 1996 David Soyer of David John Jewellers was elected as Chairman and I was elected as Vice Chairman. David had run six retail jewellery shops during the eighties and brought a great knowledge concerning purchasing and marketing to the THJ. In 2000 I was elected as the new Chairman of the THJ and aside from a one year break when Des Heaviside of Hallmark Jewellers took the reins, I have been the Chairman up to today. Next year we will be celebrating the THJ’s 35 years and at that point I will have been in the chair for 20 years. I have personally enjoyed my time as Chairman and I have seen many changes within the jewellery industry and my own business over this time. I founded Harvey’s the Jewellers in 1986 and my business would not have progressed in the way it has without my involvement with the THJ and the interactions and friendships I have developed over the years with other THJ members.
I believe the founding principles of the THJ are as important today as they were in 1986. Because of the slow growth in most world economies the need for all independent businesses to collectively work together to compete against the multiples and multinationals is probably more important today than it has been at any other time. As independents we can always offer more with our passionate service and unique professionalism but of course if we are not making a profit all this passion can count for nothing. In simple terms there will always be a place in the jewellery industry for Buying Groups like the THJ who can create economies of scale which will give the individual businesses buying power and margin to compete in an ever changing market. My overriding view is quite old fashioned but it is summed up with an old saying that ‘together we are strong and divided we are weak’.
I am confident that the THJ will flourish in the future by attracting new like minded independent jewellers and working together so all the businesses within the THJ can prosper while retaining their own unique individual autonomy. “
Harvey Morgan B.S.Dip(Dist)
Managing Director Harvey’s the Jewellers