A consortium of investors has just bought Gold Service, a Franco-Swiss company specializing in the purchase and resale of precious metals. Its ambition is to become a key player in recycling, as company CEO Yann Bouillonnec explains.
Sandrine Merle. Can you tell us something about the Gold Service chain of stores and its new investors?
Yann Bouillonnec. Gold Service was founded 12 years ago in La Chaux-de-Fond by Mr Bonnet (a jeweler whose family was in the trade) when he realized that his business was booming thanks to the purchase of gold, mainly in the form of jewelry, and its sale in the form of coins and bars. The company, which posted a turnover of €50 million in 2022, now employs around 60 people and has 26 shops: 11 in Switzerland and 15 in France. Meanwhile, we ten investors – who have owned 100% of the shares since December 2022 – come from the luxury industry, retail/e-commerce and finance. For my part, I worked for 25 years in jewelry and watchmaking houses (Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Tag Heuer).
S.-M. You want to make Gold Service a brand and a major player in gold recycling – something Gold Service has always done without ever really capitalizing on it?
Yann Bouillonnec. Indeed, the message is new in this industry. We believe we play a key role in recycling because we work upstream, buying the gold directly from the customer, mainly in the form of jewelry, through our network of boutiques. And we have the unique ability to recycle gold by sending all these pieces to the smelter. Our objective is to double our distribution network within three years. Currently our main presence is in France’s North-West, East and South regions, but we plan to set up in major cities throughout the country, including Paris. Today, the demand for recycled gold is being met, but the sector is growing very quickly as big brands are showing an ever increasing interest.
S.-M. Does digital have a place in this type of business?
Yann Bouillonnec. Digital is our priority because – it’s already used by 99% of customers who want to buy gold. On the other hand, no one would be rash enough to sell their jewelry by sending it to a 100% online company! Hence the importance of the physical store, which will be redesigned as a showroom to establish a relationship of trust. This industry is still relatively unknown, very discreet and fragmented, and may suffer from a somewhat negative image on account of a modus operandi that’s often sorely lacking in transparency. As far as we are concerned, our very clear quotes are based on the quantity of fine gold contained in each jewel. We then base ourselves on the world public selling price of gold set in London, to which we add our costs (shop, employees, logistics, etc.).
S.-M. It is your long-term goal that a jewelry or watch brand will use gold bearing the Gold Service label?
Yann Bouillonnec. At the moment that’s out of the question because once it arrives in the smelter, our gold is mixed with that from industrial or artisanal mines, making it impossible to distinguish it. But thanks to the development of our network of shops, we aim to collect enough gold to develop our own production line in partnership with a foundry. That would be win-win because our gold is traceable, we’re in direct contact with the last owners of the jewels who are obliged to provide us with an identity document, and then we take photos of each piece with the price at which we bought it. Cash transactions are out of the question. So everything is perfectly transparent!
S.-M. In this recycling process, what will you do with branded jewelry, which gains nothing from being melted down?
Yann Bouillonnec. For the time being, the market is still mostly dominated by unbranded jewelry. And not all of those pieces that are branded are necessarily valuable. Having said that, there’s nothing to prevent us from becoming a player in this market and it is even one of our areas for development. We’re already on the case!