Jewelry traders are traditionally an optimistic bunch. Whenever asked how they view prospects for the future, while recognizing economic and global challenges, jewelers rarely speak dire predictions.
Even with Signet sales, a benchmark for jewelry retail, down over 11%, manufacturers and brands in The Plumb Club Pavilion at JCK Las Vegas expect sales to be on par with or a few points up over last year. The Plumb Club is a barometer for what’s happening in the domestic fine jewelry market.
For an industry slow to change, this year’s JCK reflected the urgency to adapt to the rapidly evolving market in which we communicate and socialize, research and buy products and services. Vendors describe jewelers as solution driven for the right products, programs and platforms to move their businesses forward.
Michael Lerche, president/COO of Goldstar Jewellery, New York City, says he is “hopefully optimistic” about fourth quarter, holiday and year-end sales. “The first half of the year, sales were soft, but since Mother’s Day we’re seeing steady sales. The economy is strong, market is up, and people have money.”
Neil Shah of Shah Luxury, New York City describes retail as good for retailers creating experiences. He was thrilled to see many flagship stores getting into programs, spending money, and asking for tools that drive sales. He cites investment in turnkey branded programs and custom design services, as well as exploring new technologies like augmented realities liberating for retailers.
Knowing your customers, understanding what they want and need, and where and how to reach them is essential, advocates Adam Gerber, executive vice president sales for Goldstar. “Be focused!”
Be Solution Driven
Finding great value is a priority. Gerber describes Goldstar’s ability to invest in technology to provide bang-for-the-buck in precise products that elevate the look, beauty and perceived value of the diamond jewelry. Among its bestsellers, he cites Starra, beveled-edged bezel-set technique and Love Cuts composite settings that more than double the diamond look.
Shah concurs that its top sellers are two bridal collections with composite and multi-halo designs and beautiful diamond encrusted mountings. He says classic with a twist and innovation by simple design are important jewelry directions.
Also providing value, Allison Peck of Color Merchants, New York City, hails its latest Spryngs collection a winner for the holidays, in stretchy eternity diamond and precious stone 14K gold bands from .50- to 4- total carat weight.
Hoops, too are trending with elevated looks and studs that layer up the ear, especially in combination with ear cuffs, reports Kathy Schroeder, director of sales for the Dallas-based Prime Art & Jewel. For the holidays, she sees bolo jewelry a must have, as well as stretch gem bead bracelets.
Overall, personalization rules, cites Renee Miller of Alison and Ivy, Fantasy Diamond brand, with name and family jewelry leading the trend. “Women are strong, proud and confident. Wearing a name necklace or monogram is a way of announcing your personal brand.” She also cites the popularity of the brand’s family loop pendants engraved with kids’ names and date jewelry.
Andrea Maine co-founder and director for the London-based Chrysalis, a part of the Richline Group, New York City, cites favorite themes from Friends & Family to Greek goddesses and symbols of luck in its expandable charm bangles.
Support Real is Rare
A lot of hope is riding on the latest Real is Rare campaign by the Diamond Producers Association. “We have a lot of catching up to do in communicating a cultural imperative for diamonds and jewelry, with a lost decade since De Beers stopped its national ad campaigns,” says Lerche.
With a $57 million budget, DPA will fund consumer advertising primarily in the U.S. market, rolling out new video assets for linear and digital TV, and print ads in a dozen lifestyle magazines and across digital. The ads are available for retailers on DPA’s website, as well as social media, point-of-sale and training.
Showcasing diamonds as symbols of authentic connections and commitments, DPA’s latest campaign features real couples revealing moments of tenderness where diamond jewelry is the gift of love. The aim is to broaden the emotional territory for diamond moments for purchase, tells Deborah Marquardt, DPA chief marketing officer. “We are linking diamonds to the emotion versus the ritual. The couples are in love and committed, but their status is left ambiguous.”
Lerche says he loves the idea, and encourages the industry to support the campaign. But he’s not convinced it has the marketing clout needed to boost diamond jewelry sales…he estimates more like $200 million would do the trick.
But Shah believes a lot can be done online and perhaps more cost effectively. With today’s consumers averaging 20 hours a week on social media, we have to have conversations where customers are, concurs Schroeder. Next to more social media, she advocates connecting with local influencers and bloggers, showing video and model imagery, and creating unique messaging in packaging.
Create Jewelry Buying Habits
To fortify the jewelry imperative, jewelers need to capitalize on the “habit loop” — cue – routine – reward — to influence sales. Charles Duhigg, Prize winner, senior editor of the New York Times, and best selling author of “The Power of Habit” and “Smarter, Better, Faster”, says retailers can build jewelry buying habits through rewarding customer experiences.
Duhigg, who spoke at a JCK Las Vegas symposium by The Plumb Club and JCK, defines a habit as. Cue: An iPhone dings. Routine: Check the iPhone. Reward: A “Words with Friends” opponent made a move; your turn. We crave the ding and rush of endorphins it promises. What we know from experiments is that the cues and rewards shape how the patterns emerge.
Understand the habit to help customers see what they want, says Duhigg, who reminds jewelers that they’re in the storytelling business. Take the stories you know and present them in new ways. Think Hamilton in Hip Hop. “Get people emotionally involved and intellectually curious. The cliché makes the story comfortable, the surprise delights!”