Diamonds are forever for award-winning jeweller
WHEN jeweller Jason Allum stepped up onto the podium at last year's inaugural BV Media Business Awards to receive his appropriately diamond-shaped trophy for Allum and Sidaway as Business of the Year, it was the sparkling highlight of a very special year.
Jason, the fourth generation of his family, can look back on a remarkable 12 months -2012 was the 70th anniversary of the origins of the family business, and the diamond jubilee of the first retail shop.
But the night of the BV Media Business Awards was truly remarkable - shortly before Jason received the BV Media award, he heard that Allum & Sidaway had just been named Best Independent Retailer at the South Wiltshire Business Awards. And later in the year there were more accolades as the business won Best Family Business and an award for Retail Excellence in the Dorset Business Awards.
"It was amazing," says Jason. "It means so much. I don't think people necessarily realise what it means for a company. It really gives the staff pride in the business."
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Jason, who is chairman and managing director of the company, takes business awards very seriously. He and his aunt, Denise (nee Allum) Crossland, who is company secretary, spend hours discussing their entry. "It makes us take stock of ourselves," he says.
"We are passionate about what we do and we are passionate about how we present ourselves."
The founder of Allum & Sidaway was Jason's great-grandfather, Dennis Allum, who set up a business repairing clocks and watches in a shed in his garden. Ten years later, in 1952, his son Peter - Jason's grandfather - opened the first shop in Shaftesbury.
This was followed over the years by shops in Salisbury, Dorchester, Ringwood, and, most recently, in 2006, Gillingham. Last year the Ringwood business moved into larger premises in the historic 18th century Old Market House. Jason visits all five shops twice a week, keeping in touch with the staff who are, he says, "almost my extended family."
He attributes the success of the business - including last year's awards, and National Jewellery Awards in 2001 and 2003 - to the whole team: "Our staff are our most important asset," he says.
Training is very important - all staff go on courses run by the National Association of Goldsmiths, as well as in-house training.
There are regular team-building events for the 37 employees, and as a special reward for last year's successes, Jason took them for a spa day at the prestigious Chewton Glen Hotel near Christchurch.
Jason came into the business when he was 23, after studying business and taking time out to travel. "I came back and fell into it - and I haven't looked back. I love it," he says.
He worked for many years with his grandfather who was a prominent figure in the jewellery trade nationally and in the Shaftesbury community. Peter Allum was a co-founder of the national Company of Master Jewellers and of Shaftesbury Rotary Club.
Jason has seen many changes in more than two decades in the business, particularly in the last 10 years with the growth of "affordable luxury" brands such as Pandora and Trollbeads.
But the traditional market is still very strong.
"We are jewellers first and foremost," he says.
"We like selling diamonds."