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What large and small jewellery players should know in 2021

Earlier this year our friends at CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation produced and published an industry webinar entitled The Jewellery Consumer Post Pandemic. Their discussion shared the latest demand perspectives to assist businesses involved in the production, manufacturing, trading and retail of jewellery, gems and precious metals. Here are some key highlights:

Product sourcing

Think beyond isolated pieces
A lot more thought is going into collection development now.  A ‘less is more’ mentality is being identified because brands are thinking about how they can make collections work harder – being responsive to what consumers want while ensuring stock is available when and where consumers need it. [Anita Balchandani, Partner, McKinsey & Company]

Capitalise on the current mood
Expect a resurgence of self-expressions of glamour. The jewellery industry will play a vital role in this excitement, especially serving pent-up demand for weddings and special occasions that couldn’t previously take place. ‘Revenge spending’ will be prevalent as people come out of lockdown around the world with pent-up budget. Jewellery companies are going to have to be clever about obtaining that. [Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor for 1843 Magazine, the lifestyle sister publication to The Economist]

Diversify your offering
Don’t think “I’ve got these types of clients so I should only have these types of designers”. You need a mix between ‘heritage heavyweights’ (people your clients know of) and more ‘avant-garde’ pioneers. You want to surprise people. Have something to go with that classic engagement ring that your customers don’t already know about. [Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor for 1843 Magazine, the lifestyle sister publication to The Economist]

Tell a story
Collectors and buyers are looking at jewellers who are a bit unusual, using innovative materials. Those with an interesting message that you can talk about, suppliers who are sustainable (if you can manage that) and designers who provoke conversations in store. You have to create a buzz around who you are as a brand, it’s not enough just to put a bit of bunting up and say ‘come in’. You’re competing with a lot of people who are very inventive these days. The role is changing from something that was previously just looking at heritage. Heritage is still important, but younger customers (the holy grail of consumerism) are very much interested in who you are, what you stand for and the ‘soul’ of the brand. It has to be more than just marketing chat. If you’re into sustainability then really go for it, have the conversation. It’s all about meaning and the rise of customization for your client base. [Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor for 1843 Magazine, the lifestyle sister publication to The Economist]

Be part of the bridal revival
Trend forecasters would love to see some innovation across the bridal category as this has traditionally been a bit dull. Some innovation in this area could attract vast amounts of people to certain stores to try something different. Essentially, we need our story telling to be better, to inject meaning and desirability into what we’re selling. It’s not enough to have a diamond ring, you have to tell someone why it’s important why it matters, why it will change your life; and it does! The right piece of jewellery utterly changes your life, and we have to explain that in a really clever way so people understand. Suppliers should translate the passion they feel to the customer. [Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor for 1843 Magazine, the lifestyle sister publication to The Economist]

Sales environment:

Togetherness and commitment is marked with a stone
With couples being unable to do other things, jewellery has been an outlet for marking key moments during lockdown. [Anita Balchandani, Partner, McKinsey & Company]

This could be as a reward to each other for a new level of contribution in the home; or shopping for engagement rings as a unit because so much time has been spent together. We think that communication between people is going to continue for a little while longer. This information gathering by customers speaking with each other and knowing what they want is going to stay prevalent. [Andrew Siegel, Chief Operating Officer, Hamilton Jewelers group]

Buyers are refining their decisions online
Previously (during the purchase stage) we were seeing a preference for digital pre-sale interaction with a physical end to the transaction. In stores, about 80% of clients did pre-shopping online before coming in for a consultation. Now, that consultation portion has become digital as well (through video conferencing, live chat tools) so the time for face-to-face interaction in the store is compressed. Curbside pickup or pickup in store after you’ve bought online really has become prevalent. We at expect that to continue as long as our customers feel that they can have a meaningful interaction digitally but still control the delivery process. [Andrew Siegel, Chief Operating Officer, Hamilton Jewelers group]

If end-consumers know what they want, then you must too
Now more than ever customers are showing a photo from Instagram of what they’re looking for. Store ‘browsers’ are less prevalent. If you’re walking into a store, you tend to know what you want. [Andrew Siegel, Chief Operating Officer, Hamilton Jewelers group]

Be online and be prepared to commit the time
Instagram is a gift for jewellery businesses because it is so visual and so positive. Jewellery brands have to get on it, it’s more important at this point than having a store. It is quite typical that if I post a piece of jewellery I’ll say it’s by ‘this’ brand. People will respond wanting information but none of the brands themselves respond. Suppliers need community managers of some kind to be on the platform interacting with customers all the time. You don’t just post and go home. You have to field those questions throughout the day until your next post. That’s something a lot of brands big and small drop the ball on. [Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor for 1843 Magazine, the lifestyle sister publication to The Economist]

Bricks and mortar is still relevant
A lot of collectors and buyers and people interested in jewellery want to go somewhere for a whole day and mark that day with a piece of jewellery. Shopping as a leisure pursuit was over for a time because of the pandemic. But when I go out with my family for the day I want to do some serious shopping in very nice places. I want to have that glass of something sparkly, I want to sit there for a couple of hours and have a nice chat especially when you’re buying something important to you like jewellery. And I can’t see that ever going away. It’s the end result of the 80% of people looking at things online. To hold that interest we’re going to have to be a lot more experimental in the things we do, for example shows, talks, book signings and curated exhibitions. [Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor for 1843 Magazine, the lifestyle sister publication to The Economist]

Be local, flexible and responsive
People want to go to their favourite jeweller and say “You know me. Give me something interesting that I would like”.  That’s something people are prepared to pay extra for, rather than spending time sourcing online on their own. [Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor for 1843 Magazine, the lifestyle sister publication to The Economist]

During the pandemic we witnessed a flip, with larger global or national brands reporting lower sales, and many strong independents’ business and profitability staying pretty strong. For smaller suppliers, knowing your customer and being able to pivot quickly to meet their needs is an asset. It might be a lockdown but it’s still someone’s birthday. An independent that knows their customer and their community understands this high level of personalised service. During periods of restriction those businesses were generally in a stronger position to make something happen even though commerce as we knew it had stopped. [Andrew Siegel, Chief Operating Officer, Hamilton Jewelers group]