The Demise of Another British Brand.
Updated: Feb 3
Links of London. A brand that has been familiar with many in the UK and abroad for almost 30 years. One of the great British Brands of this century and I don't think that's an understatement.
I started dealing with Links of London in 1995 when I changed job to work for Bruford's of Exeter (then William Bruford and Son.) who had been a stockist or agent since almost the beginning of the company.
It all started in 1989 with Annoushka Ducas, a jewellery designer, being asked to make some fish cuff links for her mothers fish wholesale business. Due to the economies of scale in casting and assembling, Annoushka had many spares. She approached Harvey Nichols in a lunch break and offered her Leaping Salmon cuff links and they were interested as long as she had more to the collection. Annoushka went back to the drawing board and in 1990, with the help of her husband, the brand of Links of London was born with little realisation of how big it would become.
When I started dealing with Links of London it was always a fun experience "What have they got now?" I was, and still am, a prolific wearer of cuff links and I was always keen to see what was next. A range of gift-ware was launched in the mid to late 90's and I loved it. The Toy Solider Salt and Pepper, the Ducks on a Pond trinket box were amongst my favourites. Cold enamel (paint) started to appear in some of the collections, charms, jewellery and so on. Some designs you knew were going to be a hit (Sweetie), others much less so (Silkworm), but it was always interesting.
These are the salt and pepper shakers listed on ebay here.
Links opened shops of their own, grew larger, insisted on branded props in displays, then branded cabinets, different levels of stockist were introduced (bronze, silver gold etc.), minimum order/stock levels, more pressure, the constant threat of closing agencies, threat of closure for selling online, then closure if you sold on ebay/Amazon or sold at a discount. It got more and more difficult to sustain an agency unless you were in one of the most affluent areas (or you broke the rules as another South West retailer had) and 2006 was a major turning point in all this.
In 2006, Annoushka Ducas and her husband John Ayton, sold the business, which they wholly owned, for $84m to Folli Follie, a Greek fashion jewellery company. A nice way to retire if you were going to, but Annoushka continued with jewellery by setting up another company using her own name.
This decision was a signal of the end being nigh to me. Not because of some sort of stubborn national pride, but simply because I didn't think the 2 companies were a good fit. There was also a question of financial stability as often was the case with Greek companies owing to their home economy. Over time my hunch was proven right with short cuts being made on products, more pressure, less support, Links of London being sold on a major shopping channel and so on. It was obvious to the trade that things weren't right.
It wasn't until 2018 that the cracks were really starting to show publicly when a turnaround plan was announced for the company. Sadly, this failed and the Brand went into administration.
Why did it go downhill? It's my personal opinion, but I feel they became too ordinary and tried to supply an already saturated market, maybe the influence of Folli Follie? They became much less exciting and lost their audience. Add to this Folli Follie were found guilty of "overstating financial results" to the tune of 1 billion euros, ouch! Doom was on the cards. I don't think this will be the end of these bigger brands failing, it's no secret that Pandora are having some trouble.
Where does this leave customers that have bought Links of London products for so many years with items in need of maintenance and repair? Many jewellers that haven't sold Links of London took the stance of "Well if you didn't buy it from me, on your bike.", but there is no real reason why this should be the case. Go back to where pieces were bought if from a high street retailer and talk to them. If you bought a piece from a Links of London shop or concession, this is a bit more tricky, but just try your local independent retailer and see if they can help.
I don't advertise this, maybe I should, but I have been repairing and maintaining Links of London pieces for years. I've even replaced the insides of some of the watches as they are mainly generic quartz modules. If you have a Links of London piece you need repairing, you can always ask me.
Some pieces you can repair yourself, such as Sweetie bracelets and I've even posted a YouTube video on it here, but please remember I'm a jeweller, not a YouTube star, presenter or competent camera man it seems. All the bits that are out of shot aren't important.
I hope all the staff are able to find other jobs and wish them all the best in this turbulent time. I've been through redundancy and can empathise.