Chance Favors the Prepared

Prepare for uncertainty but watch for opportunities.

The groundswell of jewelers streaming into the 30th edition of JCK Las Vegas early June had a lot on their minds as the fine jewelry industry prepares for the second half of 2022 and the all-important winter holiday selling season.

While the energy and optimism were high, there are many unknowns as to how rising interest rates and inflation, and other geopolitical factors will impact sales.

Prepare for uncertainty but watch for opportunities is the message imparted by Fruchtman Marketing in its latest State of Jewelry Retail report for 2022, shared at the show. After two years of extraordinary sales growth, jewelers should plan for rough waters ahead, advocates the jewelry-marketing firm, underscoring that there was always an expectation of some level of ‘return to normal’ as we moved out of the COVID situation.

When people are feeling pinched, they draw lines, says the report. Consumers are not likely to stop celebrating special events, but they may not spend as much, which could result in average retail tickets dropping. Jewelers may see carat size go down, or less emphasis on cut and color to get a bigger diamond, or more inquiries for lab-grown diamonds. Jewelers need to be ready for it all.

The report suggests that while foot traffic might decline due to current high gas prices, a jeweler’s closing ratios should be higher for customers who actually make the effort to come into the store. Also, online shopping and browsing continue to grow, so it’s critical that jewelers get their websites in tip-top shape.

Moreover, jewelers should remain aggressive in their marketing efforts to make up the lost volume, cites Fruchtman. Review all sales and budgets and make any necessary tweaks. Examine inventory and what will be needed for Q4 selling and beyond. Look at marketing and messaging and be sure to include affordable price points, and more emotional and “kindness” campaigns in the mix.

Plan for Success
Planning is key for a successful fourth quarter this year. That was the main message conveyed by many manufacturers and brands exhibiting early June at the 30th edition of JCK Las Vegas in The Plumb Club.

“Most places have had labor shortages that affect production and shipping. We’re working hard to keep our bestsellers in stock and ready to ship, especially items in this year’s flyer,” says Theresa Namie, merchandise manager for the manufacturer, Ostbye. “Many retailers worry about the price of gold and diamonds, but the market is not determining the buying strategy much anymore, as customers are still willing to buy fine jewelry. We need to be ready for them.”

Global issues and inflation remain relevant and a concern that will impact metal markets and investment behavior, says Cora Lee Colaizzi, marketing director and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold. “The industry is dealing with the unanticipated challenges and shortages created during the pandemic. Lead times remain long due to the continuous logistical challenges. Those who plan and order early have more opportunities to overcome obstacles and succeed.”

“Positioned to be optimistic,” as Chetan Patel, jewelry production manager for the NYC-based company Indigo Jewelry shares, is a phrase many companies in The Plumb Club echoed this year at the 30th edition of JCK Las Vegas early June at The Venetian. While the first half of 2022 was a bit peculiar with diamond prices all over the place, Patel expects the second half of the year to finish strong. “At the very least, we will be over prepared. Our outlook is extremely positive.”

Jordan Peck with Brevani describes the jewelers they visited with at JCK in The Plumb Club to be stocking up and optimistic for the fourth quarter, as they are still having a good year, and want to be ready for a good holiday season. Among the differentiating factors, Peck underscores the significance of customer outreach. “We were busy because we worked hard to schedule appointments.”

The biggest growth sector for jewelers is online, says Richard Bachu, vice president of sales and director of ecommerce for the New York-based KGS Jewels. “Before the pandemic no one had the confidence to buy fine jewelry online. Today, everyone is doing it. Jewelers need to get there now.”

Top Bridal Style Trends
For most fine jewelers, having a bountiful bridal department is key, and the wedding market is bracing for a record number of couples, over 2.6 million, to say, “I do,” in 2022.

Many of the hottest trends in bridal are reflected in the latest styles and collections introduced by Frederick Goldman at JCK this year. The Secaucus, New Jersey based bridal manufacturer has a robust portfolio of engagement and wedding ring brands, which include ArtCarved, Scott Kay, Love Earth lab-grown diamonds, and the Goldman private label line.

Liliana Estrella, trade-marketing manager for the company, cites fancy shape diamonds hot right now, mentioning baguettes a favorite in engagement and wedding rings. Also, color is trending, and blue is the ‘it’ color in bridal, like Frederick Goldman’s latest Something Blue sapphire collection, featuring round and oval, 1 carat or 1.50 carat engagement ring centers in classic styles inspired by the rings of royalty, and contemporary designs with floral details. In addition to matching bands, the collection includes stackable contour and tiara style bands.

Patel reports that everything is on trend in the category, from three-stone and multi stone center engagement rings to bridal sets. “Yellow gold remains a staple for many accessories, so it’s no surprise we’ve seen an increase in yellow gold engagement rings this year. Sales across the category have been strong.”

Lab-grown diamonds continue to rock the bridal category. Many retailers attending JCK got on board with the category. “We opened over 50 retail accounts at the show, reports George Prout, president of the independent division for Craft Lab Grown Diamonds in New York, new lab-grown diamond division H.K. Designs, part of the Hari Krishna Group.

Tom Pautz, Quality Gold’s director of sales lab-grown stones, believes lab-grown diamond sales will represent a third of the diamond business in five years. He cites lab-grown diamond engagement rings a bestseller but has seen a spike in sales for lab-grown diamond essential jewelry like stud earrings, solitaire pendants, and line bracelets and necklaces. “We’ve never sold that many tennis bracelets before lab grown.”

Top Fashion Style Trends
Fine fashion jewelry trends revealed at JCK in The Plumb Club run the gamut from delicate, demi-fine to bold and chunky styles set with diamonds, pearls, and colorful gems and vibrant enamels. Yellow gold continues to shine, as well as yellow gold-plated sterling silver designs.

Among the coveted styles are diamond essentials like stud earrings, line bracelets, and by the yard and Rivera necklaces; spiritual and celestial symbols; and vintage inspirations, notably from Art Deco, 1980s, and late 1990s (Y2K). Layering jewelry remains a key style trend. And, curating the adornment on one’s ear a major trend, with earrings the bestselling product category next to bridal.

The “curated ear” trend incorporates multiple piercings and different types of jewelry, creating a customized look unique to the wearer, says Alisa Bunger, vice president of the Dallas-based Chic Pistachio Group (CPG), with the 14K-gold jewelry brand Aurelie GI and sterling silver- and gold-plated line Ania Haie geared to Gens Y and Z. “The trend is to mix and match earrings — dainty diamond studs, hoops, and cuffs. Mainstream America wants to be in on this trend. Piercing parties have become events/experiences for friends to get together.”

Laurel Ross, an independent account executive for Quality Gold’s Leslie’s Gold brand, says the big trend in gold is link jewelry. Big chunky links are still popular, particularly in fancy styles, with demand for the paper clip not waning. On the delicate, demi-fine side of the chain, link trend Brevani is finding great success with its signature Dashing Diamond styles of pierced diamonds.

Symbolic charms like heart, key, evil eye, initials, zodiac, and celestial motifs are favorites to hang from earrings, chains, and on safety pin-like brooches, shares Bunger, with the 14K recycled gold jewelry brand Aurelie GI and silver- and gold-plated line Ania Haie for Gens Y and Z.

Moreover, pearls continue to capture consumers with something for everyone. “Every day, approachable pearl jewelry is what’s in,” says Fran Pennella, public relations for the New York pearl house Mastoloni. Echoes Kathy Grenier, vice president of business development, Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island: “Modern, fresh designs with a bit of sparkle or color, but always the focus on the pearl.” Chain and link play a part, as well as geometric motifs and organic lines.

Men’s jewelry also presents enormous opportunities. Quality Gold believes in the category enough to add to its prestigious brands IBGoodman, the country’s premier men’s jewelry line. Men’s gold rings are bestsellers, with diamond bands in demand, from solitaire to multiple stones channel set, says Jonathan Cohen, CEO of the Newport, Kentucky company. Yellow gold is a favorite, as well as two-tone styles. Signet styles are trending too, with diamond centers.

Fruchtman expects a 4% to 8% sales growth for jewelry in 2022 over 2021.