Women shop for every type of accessory up to six times a year, except fine jewelry, alerts MVI Marketing, a Los Angeles-based consumer research firm that specializes in the fine jewelry market. In fact, consumer reports reveal women on average buy four pairs of shoes a year.
For an industry that caters to women, Marty Hurwitz, CEO of MVI, believes it is missing the mark. Dominated by men selling a product to and for women, he says self-purchasing women are underserved by U.S. jewelry retail.
Hurwitz bemoans that marketing is geared to the gift giving man, and that the diamond engagement ring is the end-all-be-all sale, despite low margins and enormous competition.
MVI research identifies self-purchasing women as one of three key consumer segments for the next 25 years of retail jewelry. And, the way to her heart is through fashion, color, and speaking to her directly.
What Women Want
Women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their impact on the economy grows annually, with global incomes of women forecasted to reach $18 trillion by 2018, cites Ernst & Young. Women drive 70% to 80% of consumer purchases through buying power and influence, tells She-conomy, with roughly 75% of women identifying themselves as primary shoppers for their households.
Women also make 85% of brand purchases, and are loyal to brands that represent their values, says Stephanie Holland, author and founder of She-conomy, Birmingham, Alabama. Transparency is important, and customer service is a key differentiator.
Hurwitz cites the retail sweet spot for self-purchase women is between $99 and $399. He advises jewelers carry more gemstone designs to develop this market. According to MVI research in 2015, a quarter of women would buy for themselves jewelry with color stones or pearls at least once in a year, 17% say twice, 7% cite three times, and 5% say more than fives times.
Gems offer many opportunities to create something fun, affordable, of good value, and wearable, and that’s what women want, says designer Sara Blaine, a Benchmark partner in Atlanta. Her latest designs feature gems in greens and blues—the two colors dominating Pantone’s spring palette—including aqua chalcedony, chrysoprase, turquoise, topaz, and iolite.
“As color trends are harmoniously shared between fashion and jewelry, it is beneficial for the jewelry industry to be aware of the season’s trending palettes,” advises Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “Given these are the most popular shades on the runways for the upcoming season, jewelers can take notes in the creation of their new pieces, to ensure they will complement the colors their consumers will be wearing.”
Maureen McIntyre, vice president of merchandise for color stones and pearls, Richline, New York hails peridot the perfect match to Pantone’s Color of the Year, Greenery, citing lots of gem options reflected in the palette. She sees an increase in sales of London Blue topaz, and success with new designs featuring green and pink tourmaline, tanzanite, and apatite. “We’re getting a lot of positive feedback on anything floral, and these colors are perfect for this trend.”
Companies like Richline, Prime Art & Jewel and EMA Jewelry cite Ethiopian opal among the hottest gems on the market. “There’s so much light in it; it goes with everything; and it’s a natural gem that’s affordable,” says Eddie Weiss with EMA Jewelry, New York. “Customers love it, especially in yellow and rose gold.” Morganite, too remains a favorite, proving to be a bridal center stone alternative. “It’s a beautiful color that looks great with popular rose gold.”
McIntyre and Blaine cite pearls a must-have. “There’s so much you can do with them, so much fun in colors and shapes,” says Blaine. McIntyre expects pearls to be important for 2017, citing Honora’s (a Richline brand) success with contemporary designs, colors and metals that follow fashion trends, and styles that mix in gems. In fact, at a recent Jewelers of America Fine Jewelry Preview, pearls were prominent in versatile fashion designs like earrings in gem jacket, front-back and threader styles, and bold openwork rings and bracelets from designers and brands like Honora, Imperial Pearl and Mastoloni, cites Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations.
What You Can Do
Stylist-to-the-stars Michael O’Connor advocates jewelers look at fashion and lifestyle publications, websites and blogs to follow what people are talking about. “Women don’t want to copy their favorite celebrities, they use them as a guidepost for what’s hot. They want ideas on how they can look their best and create their own style.”
O’Connor advises jewelers show women how to work with jewelry in complementary ways. “Incorporate in your merchandising and marketing visuals from runways and red carpets that call out certain trends and identify how your jewelry speaks to that. Think less about the product and more about how it is used to create a look.” He suggests jewelers seek inspiration from fashion retailers, who use a more integrated approach.
Jewelers need to communicate how their products fit into a woman’s lifestyle and work with her wardrobe, making it more of an everyday essential than a treat, says Tracy Chapman, women’s marketing expert and director of strategic planning for the New York-based The Terri & Sandy Solution. She hails Pinterest and Instagram key visual tools to help customers connect the dots, as well as target communities ideal for customer outreach and data collecting.
Blaine says the right sales associates should have an interest in fashion, and be adorned in jewelry styled from stock. Holland notes that if women are a big part of your customer base, they should be well represented in your business. Research shows that companies with gender-balanced teams have a higher return on investment.