Package with Purpose—Gunther Mele wants to help tell your jewellery brand’s story


Darrell King, CEO of Gunther Mele,  wants to help you tell your brand’s story through brand packaging and custom jewellery display showcases.
As the popular saying goes, “it’s all in the delivery.”

That couldn’t be truer when it comes to brand packaging and presentation.

Whether a consumer likes to admit it or not, everyone is attracted to great packaging. From an innovative box to a stand out signature colour to luxurious ribbons and paper to showcases gleaming with the sparkle of gems—everything is better when presented in style.

Why is packaging so important? Your product’s packaging is meant to communicate a message: what your brand stands for and what it means for your customer. It’s powerful because it tells consumers why your product and brand are different.

Darrell King, CEO of Gunther Mele, one of the largest suppliers of packaging and packaging-related products in North America, couldn’t agree more.

“We’ve taken our knowledge over the past 160 years as a company and we’ve evolved it into this idea of ‘Package with Purpose,’” King says. “This is our new vision and our new purpose. We want to help brands tell their unique story while providing a customer experience like no other. Also, we want to be a part of the retailer’s brand narrative by communicating that through packaging. We understand the importance of narrative.”

King, who took over Gunther Mele as CEO in 2006, says that although the company has evolved in the way they do business, their dedication to the independent jeweller remains the same.

Gunther-Mele packaging

“Packaging has been in our DNA from the very beginning and why I think the company has continued to be successful is because there’s still such a robust, independent jewellery-retailer base. I think people often prefer to buy from the local retailer because they have a story to tell. And we help them tell that story,” King says. “One of the key points is that less than five per cent of packaging that we ship to our customers doesn’t have a logo on it. So, it’s all about telling that unique brand story through great packaging and presentation.”

King says that his dedicated and talented team, which includes a total of 125 employees, with offices in Brantford, ON, Canada and Buffalo, New York, U.S. and mainland China (where they have manufacturing facilities)—are strongly focused on helping to create a great customer experience, including the creation of custom logos and tailored packaging to strengthen their stake in the market.

Creating a great logo and tying it all together across consumer touchpoints from store design to packaging is a key service Gunther Mele offers. “We try to really understand their business and create something really unique for them. Our team has 13 sales members across Canada. We also have a graphic design department who helps with logo design that ties everything together. So, we can be a one-stop shop for the retailer. You start with the boxes and then it spirals out from there to, ‘I need tissue paper, I need gift wrap, printed ribbon, nice bags and all of those things.’ Whether they’re hinged boxes, paperboard boxes jewellery pouches, or accessories like jewellery cleaning products and repair envelopes, we provide everything the jewellery retailer needs except the jewellery,” King says.

While Gunther Mele is one of the largest providers of packaging, their big refocus as a company is with their customized displays. “We’ve really expanded now into showcase display. It’s a new refocus for us,” says King. “We think there is a really big opportunity in this market, specifically with the independent jewellery retailer.” The process, which takes about eight to twelve weeks to complete delivery, is laser-focused on what the customer needs and puts them in the designer seat.

Essentially, the Gunther Mele team works with customers in-store and begins the process by breaking things down by showcase. King says his team usually starts off with the engagement ring showcase because it’s where retailers will usually see the fastest return on their showcase investment.

“We then start talking with the customer about colour, and this sort of links back to the whole brand identity vision. That’s when we begin to integrate the brand identity into the showcase by choosing a colour scheme that sits well with the design of the store and then we look at profile or shape. ‘Do they want something that’s modern and linear?’ or ‘Softer and rounded?’ We then start talking about density and what goes into each showcase and how much product to they want to show per case.”

Gunther Mele jewellery showcase

The main focus of the company when working on creating displays is the customer’s needs. That’s paramount to Gunther Mele’s success. Which is why King says they carefully consider their needs and help to design displays to not only look great but also firmly focused on the merchandising their customers want to sell.

“Sometimes customers will say to us, ‘We really want our displays to pop!’ and our reaction is, ‘We really want your jewellery to pop.’ So, if I walk into your jewellery store and I see your displays that shouldn’t be the prime focus.”

One of the ways Gunther Mele continues to innovate is with technology, specifically with a new app they’ve created, and have been testing, that helps design the showcase display and helps the customer to better visualize, on the spot, how everything will look.

“Our sales team has begun to use our new app in-store with their iPads and they can actually sketch out each showcase and show the customer what positions well and what fits in each showcase. It’s really a game-changer for us and the industry. Up until now, the onus has been on the independent retailer to plan it all out,” King says. “Now, between our new app and our trained sales team of advisors, we can go into the stores and really start to look at showcases and advise on merchandising techniques to help maximize and drive sales. It’s much more efficient and helps the customer visualize what they will be getting. We’ve been doing a great job without it, but this will unlock a whole lot more opportunity for our team. Most importantly, it keeps the customer engaged in the design process.”

When it comes to picking displays, King notes that it’s also important to consider the type of jewellery you’re showcasing. For example, King and his team know that diamonds look amazing on dark materials. “In terms of popular colour choices, we’re doing a lot of work with carbon or charcoal greys in the diamond showcases. Not necessarily the entire showcase display, but certainly the surface of the ring pads. Dark blue is also popular. They make diamonds really pop.”

It’s also important to consider how much light is in the showcase. If it’s too dark it tends to draw all of the light so it’s advised to draw from lighter colours on the frames of the displays or some of the platforms can be lighter in colour.

Gunther-Mele packaging

Of course, King says, coloured gemstones look best on light colours in white and ivory tones. But even then, King says his team might darken up the base of the show beds.

“Mixing some colours is important to create points of interest within the showcase,” King advises. “I mean if you were going to be showing 100 rings, and they’re all displayed in the same way you’d have no hope in selling your premiere pieces. We always say show your top 20 per cent of your showcase in single displays. We want to show your most valuable rings and pieces we show in singles. The next 40 per cent of your mid-range should show in sets of three and five and then the other 40 per cent of your mass market products should show in nine, eleven and twelve slots.”

Although King says their products are constructed with high-quality materials that are made to withstand the daily rigours of handling, it’s still important for retailers to consider changing their look and displays for a few reasons. “First of all, you always need to create newness in your store, especially for your regular customers. You should definitely change up your window displays. Freshen them up quarterly. That may mean buying a few additional display pieces from time to time. But in terms of day-to-day showcases, they should be refreshed every three to five years. The reason is that they’re being handled all of the time going in and out of the vault and they do start to get a little worn. You don’t want the customer walking into the store to see them dirty or worn. So that’s important.”

To help with these changes, Gunther Mele is launching a new financing program in the new year (2019) that is structured like a lease and has some tax benefits for retailers. It will allow customers to finance their display purchase over 36 months. “This is new for us and to our knowledge, nobody else has offered this. It really helps to make that cost more manageable and spread it out over a period of time. Which we believe our customers will really value.”

With years of experience and superior customer service already firmly in place, King says that when looking ahead to the future, he hopes they continue to build on the strength of the business industry. “There’s a great foundation now, and 140 years of history behind me,” he says. “It gave us the opportunity to be inventive. We have a very strong leadership team and we are often very agile. I often joke that we’re the ‘160-year-old start-up’ because we’re not afraid to take some risks or fail.