In Bangkok, 8,000 workers manufacture bracelets, pendants and rings of the Danish brand. With a net profit up 41% over nine months, the company is benefiting from the success of its collections and a highly skilled workforce at low prices.
To enter the Gemopolis compound – a gigantic free zone, big as a city – where are concentrated close to 130 jewelry companies just a short distance from Bangkok airport – it is necessary to show white paw. Where thousands of workers work gold, silver, stones and precious metals, everything is secure in the extreme, which is reminiscent of the Fort Knox vault.
Moreover, the 7,982 workers of the Danish brand Pandora jewelry – installed since 1989 in Thailand – work systematically under the eye of cameras. Each time they leave their workshop, two security guards – from two different companies – pass them from head to toe to the metal detector. To prevent a few grams of precious metal from falling into a pocket by mistake? No, “to prove their absolute innocence,” explains the leadership in a politically correct aphorism.
The group does not change strategy
To continue its expansion, the group does not change its strategy iota. The idea of the founder was to propose to the women to create their own bracelet, to find their own style by choosing amongst more than 700 different charms – beads in silver, gold, Murano glass, or an Eiffel Tower, A small heart (the most sold in the world), a floppy of small animals, letters of the alphabet … Everything is done so that customers collect pendants as the children of a playground accumulate Panini cards.
That’s why Pandora now releases seven new collections a year, including the best-selling ones at Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day; And also targets a very young clientele since the group signs its first jewelry in partnership with Disney.
Pendants and bracelets account for more than three-quarters of sales. The rest is ensured by the rings – in full expansion – and the necklaces. These jewels that do not really compete – except for more modest brands, such as Thomas Sabo in Germany or Links of London in Britain – sell like hotcakes in 80 countries and 9,841 outlets. The small silver bracelet costs about 50 euros and the price of the pendants varies – from 29 euros to more than 250 euros for those in gold.
All of the production is handcrafted in five of the eight buildings that make up the enormous factory near Bangkok. As demand grows, over the last twelve months, Thomas Nyborg, Pandora Thailand’s general manager and vice president of the plant, has recruited 3,000 new workers. Average age, 26 years old. At the moment a hundred offers of jobs is to be filled.
In this factory that operates 24 hours a day, 79 million pieces of jewelery were produced in 2013.
All employees are in uniform. The vast majority – the one devoted to the production of jewelry – wears a burgundy red cotton shirt. Pregnant women are light blue. Safety personnel in green, employees who work in human resources in white. At the reception, the young women are dressed in black. There are twenty-one different uniforms, “a little like the army,” concedes Mr. Nyborg. The managers of production teams are recognizable by their gray sleeves, their chiefs by black sleeves and the chiefs of the chiefs by white sleeves ….
In this 24-hour plant, which in 2003 transited 370 tonnes of recycled silver and 3.5 tonnes of gold to produce some 79 million pieces of jewelery, workers continue to work according to the traditional method Of the lost wax. The imprint of each bead or each ring is first taken in a small rubber mold in which is injected wax heated to 70 degrees. Once cooled and extracted, the molded wax piece is attached with a soldering iron to a rod.
Rows of young girls spend their day fixing, to the nearest millimeter, these little mussels of blue wax. Under the violent glow of neon lights, this stage takes place in workshops where all the songs recorded by the employees or the radio are broadcast all day long.