Family business proves it’s a real gem
While many Matamata businesses started in the 1970s and 1980s have closed, family business Williams Jewellers have withstood challenges and face them head on.
Williams Jewellers was started in December 1979, when Brian Williams, a former mechanic and farmer, and his wife Val brought the business from Ken Coxhead.
Their son Bret joined the business from school in the early 1980s and studied by correspondence to become a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, and foundation member of the New Zealand Jewellery Valuers Society.
Younger brother Gary started a few years later.
‘‘We learned from dad, and what was passed down from Ken.’’
Brian has since retired from the business, but Val has stayed on, working part-time alongside her sons who now run the business.
When Bret left for Oamaru six months ago, Gary’s wife Joy joined the business.
Bret is still a business partner and values items customers bring in.
‘‘We can’t do valuations onsite, but we send them to him,’’ said Gary.
‘‘We were very lucky to have Bret, people may not realise how spoilt they were to have a valuer here. He was one of a few storebased valuers, most work from labs and work had to be sent away. It was quite unique,’’ said Gary.
Of course most businesses have competition, and like many other retailers, on-line shopping is a huge challenge.
‘‘On-line shopping is the biggest change to retail. People come in for a ring size and then leave, you know they are going to find it on-line.
‘‘In jewellery, the biggest change in the last 10 years is buying branded items. It’s become massive having Pandora, and products like that.’’
Gary says most of the jewellery they buy in is from Australia. While they would chose to support New Zealand made, he says most manufacturers here have not been able to compete with overseas markets.
Junk jewellery is also a challenge, but Gary says it’s just another type of competition and their rule in business is just to stick to what they know.
‘‘Keeping a business is hard work. We are working harder and harder every year but the returns are getting better. You stick to your knitting, what you do well.
‘‘You get to know your town and what they want. With dad being born here, he knows the town well. We are lucky, the locals are incredibly loyal.’’
Keeping the business in the family. Williams Jewellery owner Val Williams, her son Gary and daughter-in-law Joy Williams.