A Golden Oldie

The family jewelers that's been adapting to the times since 1898

By Fédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

By Bernard HoffmanLIFE Photo Collection

The 19th century saw the distinction between daytime and evening jewellery sets. At the turn of the 20th century, the mechanisation of processes enabled the production of casual accessories that threatened this luxury craft. Small jewellery companies had to adapt: in Feurs, in the centre of the Loire region, the Delorme jewellery shop has been an example of success and longevity while perpetuating the family model.

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Fourth generation

It is an old company whose creation dates back to 1898. In Rozier, in Donzy, Claude-Marie Delorme created a store grouping together several activities: jewellery, watchmaking, cycles and even acetylene lamps.

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He then transferred the business to Feurs and specialised in jewellery and watches. In 1954, his son Paul took over the company and developed the goldsmith and crystals part: the Delorme jewellery became a trader of luxurious brands such as Baccarat. It was at this time that Jean-Claude and his brother joined the company. 

The store has always kept its name, which had already gained a respected reputation for a small city. It is located rue de la République, on the odd side, opposite its former premises. It is the most lively street of the city, which still benefits from a very large commercial activity.

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The human aspect

Jean-Claude is in charge of the commercial part, and his daughter has taken over purchasing. Companies that are four generations old are rare. To last, the family had to maintain quality and price standards while constantly adapting to consumer habits. 

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 Although many of the early brands have disappeared, Delorme still works with Michel Herbelin, one of the remaining major French watch brands. 

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Contemporary evolution

The main challenge is to constantly reinvent the offer. "Many brands have evolved into luxury products that can only be found in cities like Paris or Cannes”, Jean-Claude explains. Mainly because the price of gold has risen enormously: today, a kilo of gold is worth 50,000 euros.

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The store has stopped selling some products over time, as life habits kept changing. But its longevity can be explained by its efforts to constantly adapt to customer expectations: "in fact, we don't decide anything, the consumer does". 

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Over time, Delorme Jewellery has turned to less expensive products that customers like to renew regularly. "You have to sell the brand of the moment at the right time, and let it go very quickly when the trend starts to change”. It involves being on the lookout for the brands of the moment, attending trade shows, reading the same press as the consumer... and listening to influencers.

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Quality above all 

However, neglecting quality is out of the question. 40% of turnover comes from gold jewellery, 25% from watches. Jean-Claude refuses to sell silver or ordinary plated metal.

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For him, being able to repair and to provide after-sales service is essential, and another guarantee label.

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The power of attraction

Jean-Claude also relies on the other shops on the street. "A shopkeeper, however good he is, won’t seduce anyone if he’s alone. He needs colleagues to form a commercial whole and be attractive.”

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40 km away from Saint-Étienne, Feurs is not exactly on the outskirts of a metropolis. To ensure the unity of the shopkeepers, even as competitors, Jean-Claude is involved in local associations. 

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For now, the commune maintains a very diversified commercial offer. In a small town, the closure of one store may lead to the closure of other ones: so, even if the shops are independent, they form much stronger offer as a whole.

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