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Jeweler Kendra Scott Focuses on Core Values to Weather Pandemic

In the early days of COVID-19, Kendra Scott — the costume jewelry brand built on craftsmanship at an affordable price — was able to see the writing on the wall and chose to close its brick-and-mortar retail locations before local government mandates took hold across the U.S. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, the brand is sticking to its roots and “not trying to come up with something new, but leaning into who we are,” said Mindy Perry, chief marketing officer of jewelry and accessories at Kendra Scott.

The brand, Perry explained in a conversation with WWD senior reporter Misty White Sidell, began with three pillars — family, fashion and philanthropy — and it’s with these ideas that Kendra Scott is moving forward, she said, by “leaning into what’s important to us.”

Having both their sales associate and customer “family” top of mind, the executive said it was key to be transparent about the brand’s next steps.

“We don’t have all the answers,“ she explained of the brand’s internal communications at the beginning of the crisis, “but we are going to bring you into this conversation.”

She continued, “When there is that open dialogue, you are able to make big meaty decisions. Even the pushback helped us to make sure we are doing it the right way.”

Before the pandemic, the brand had planned to begin shipping from its stores in 2021, but “with closing stores we had to reimagine it. We had to find new ways to keep sales associates engaged and get customers their product in record time,” Perry said, explaining the program was fast-tracked, coming into fruition in nine days. ”It took everyone cross-functionally focused on what we were doing,” she said of the quick turnaround, crediting the open communication in their organization as a key part of getting it done.

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As sales shifted to solely online, Perry said the virtual experience was also retooled. “We see that when somebody comes in using the tool, we find that they convert at a four-and-a-half times higher rate with 30 percent more spend,” she said.

“In general I think all customers are going to be impacted on their shopping behavior in one way or another,” she continued, saying that designing a site that is mobile-first is a key part to the brand’s online shopping strategy.

Virtual styling, too, has come into focus for a customer who may only have access to online shopping, a nod to the fashion pillar of the brand. “How do we allow customers to be able to experience our product?” she asked. The answer: The brand accelerated its virtual online try-on program.

“We help style people for galas, but also for people who are wearing T-shirts and sweats most days,“ saying the program adds a next-level personal connection with the brand and consumer.

The last, and according to Perry a key part, of the bedrock of the brand is the philanthropy arm. Due to COVID-19, Kendra Scott took a product that was planned for a different incentive but changed direction, asking, “what is the greatest need today.” The brand — which has always supported women and children — decided to partner with Feeding America to fund more than four million meals for kids who rely on school meals through the sale of one of their bracelet styles. “We saw such a great impact that we extended it beyond what we thought we would do,” she reported.

“Some give-back incentives are tied to sales and some are just the right thing to do,” she said.

Known for “Kendra gives back” in-store events, now with a borderless e-commerce site, the brand has shifted to online give-back experiences, where customers shop virtually, send friends a code to also shop, and for 48 hours, 20 percent of sales used with that code will go to the cause that is most meaningful to the customer.

“It’s an entrepreneurial mind-set,” something the executive explained was part of the brand’s early days, when Kendra Scott started the company with ”$500 and a dream.”

“My advice to brands during this time,” Perry said, is “use what has always made you special and lead with that.”

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