Global Retail   //   June 25, 2024

True Religion is ramping up its jewelry business

True Religion is stepping up its jewelry business as it looks beyond jeans.

The denim brand is working with two licensees — K&M Accessories and NES Group — to roll out necklaces, bracelets, charms, chains and earrings in time for the holidays. The items run from $28 to $62 and will be sold at True Religion stores, and select wholesalers. Many pieces include True Religion’s signature horseshoe and Buddha imagery.

True Religion’s new jewelry collections will be marketed to women (through K&M Accessories) and men (through NES Group). They are part of True Religion’s growing accessories business, which accounts for 20% of the company’s sales when factoring in fragrance, hats, bags and more, CEO Michael Buckley told Modern Retail.

True Religion’s push into jewelry is key to the company’s plan to build its women’s section, which once represented the majority of the company’s business in the early aughts and now sits at about 40% of in-store and online revenue. True Religion aims to bring this up to 50% by 2026. To help with this, in 2022, True Religion appointed Tina Blake its first-ever senior vice president of women’s design and brand image. Now, “[women’s] is growing faster than our expectations,” Buckley said.

At a time in which many consumers are pulling back on discretionary purchases, True Religion envisions jewelry as a solid entry point to the brand. It wanted the pieces to be at a “more accessible price point,” Buckley said. “Every touch point that we can get a different customer into the brand, or even get more product to the consumer that loves True Religion, the better it is for us to grow,” he said. True Religion projects its jewelry wholesale sales to sit between $5 million and $10 million this year. The brand will then take a royalty from that. (While the jewelry will be sold at some of True Religion’s current wholesale accounts, Buckley said the licensees will be tapping some of their store relationships as well.)

True Religion’s move into jewelry comes as it reportedly mulls a change in ownership. According to CNBC, True Religion — which is owned by Farmstead Capital Management — began a sale process in January. The company is considering consumer-focused private equity groups and publicly-traded apparel companies as potential buyers. True Religion’s sales totaled around $280 million in 2023, people with knowledge of the matter told CNBC. True Religion’s total revenue for 2021 was $255 million.

True Religion filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and again in 2020. As part of its most recent comeback, it’s been trying to take advantage of Y2K-era styles. Part of this plan involves digital efforts; in 2022, True Religion launched a mobile app after finding that 80% of its e-commerce sales came from mobile. Expansion has also played a role. In September 2023, True Religion opened its first new store in four years. The brand has also opened locations in China, India, South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines. The brand also sells in retailers including Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

“This year, we’ll sell more than 20 million units between apparel and accessories,” Buckley told Modern Retail. “That number was 3 million units about 12 years ago.”

True Religion will use its new jewelry collections to gauge demand in different markets, particularly places where True Religion does not have standalone stores. “We’ll be looking at the sales that [the licensees] are generating, but we’ll also be looking at touch points,” Buckley told Modern Retail. “Were they able to get another consumer into this brand from places where we don’t currently sell?”

Jessica Ramírez, senior research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates, told Modern Retail that accessories like jewelry tend to have a better margin than other aspects of women’s fashion. “That could be helpful for True Religion,” she said.

Likewise, Gabriella Santaniello, founder of A Line Partners, said she thinks jewelry “will drive multiple unit sales” for True Religion. “They can train associates to push the product on customers when they are in the fitting rooms,” she said.

True Religion is making more moves to broaden its assortment. Earlier this year, it got into denim shapewear with the launch of its “True Booty Perfector” collection. In August 2023, it ventured into home through a partnership with Envogue. True Religion is also doing more with Western styles, Ramírez pointed out.

Ramírez, however, is skeptical that True Religion’s overall offerings “actually compete with what we have out there at the minute.”

“There’s a lot more that needs to happen with True Religion to name it a true success,” she said.

True Religion joins other traditionally-denim brands building out non-denim assortments. Levi Strauss & Co., for instance, said that its non-denim sales were up 13% year over year in the first quarter.

At True Religion, going into other categories is proving lucrative, Buckley said. “Each of these categories that we license gives us the ability to get to the consumer through a different channel, through a different retailer,” he explained.