Colin Shah: We Are Entering A New Era Of Jewellery Retailing

Colin Shah, Chairman, GJEPC, delivered the keynote address at the The Femina Fabulous Jewellers 2021 held virtually on 15th July, 2021. The theme of his address was ‘A Merchandising Blueprint For The New Normal’.

Colin Shah presented an industry overview, highlighting the trends and new strategies that jewellery brands need to follow to maximise revenue opportunities in the new normal.

Here is a round-up of the points covered by him:

“We are facing epic times – the pandemic is an unforeseen adversity of such large magnitude that it has had a tsunamic effect on not just the health front, but on social, political and economic fronts as well. 

But these hard times also trigger our survival instinct and force us to adapt to the changing world scenario.‘Turn your wounds into wisdom,’ as Oprah advises.

We are entering into a new era of jewellery retailing and marketing. The pandemic, that has distanced us for over a year, has compelled us to rethink, re-strategise and come up with new ways to reach out to customers.

In the near future we will see a hybrid of online and offline marketing strategies, that will not only improvise the in-store experience, but provide an engaging and interactive platform for the brand’s online presence.

We have lost a considerable amount of time, but on the other hand have gained a lot of insight to scale up businesses. In order to achieve long-term sustainable growth, we need to have a 360 degree Retail Perspective.

To quote Jeff Bezos: ‘In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.’

Tightening marketing budgets and restricted spending could create just the right adverse conditions that creativity thrives on. Expect to see a burst of new ideas following covid; a period that will be marked with a growing appetite for risk.

This is the perfect time for bold action! I urge all the creative minds to come forward and share their vision of the future — who knows, the next billion-dollar retail innovation could be incubating right this moment in the mind of one of your listeners.

Digital commerce

Brace up for the Digital Revolution – there will be a wave of changes sweeping through our lives due to the increasing ubiquity of AI.

Embracing new technology to step up digital sales is the key. More and more retailers will have to study data-driven insights in order to tap the newer segments of population, and keep the existing customers regaled with innovative products and an enhanced shopping experience. This will involve: Keeping track of digital and physical footprints; studying their buying patterns, engaging them for sales conversion… This will require agility in catering to their demands.

A superior omnichannel approach boosted by cutting-edge technology will offer interactive options to consumers – like the AI virtual try-on jewellery; real-time virtual visits to a retailer’s multiple stores spread across the country for optimising the selection of a product of one’s choice; online video consultations.

Social media

Social media is a game-changer.  You can reach out to the world to showcase your designs — it may not have instant sales conversions but can help with brand recall and building a loyal following.

Customisation

Tailoring the needs as per the requirement of the consumer is catching up fast. More and more orders are being placed for bespoke commissions in the jewellery segment as consumers want a stamp of personalisation – to either celebrate their small moments of victory or important milestones.

And, there’s another spin off to customisation: as the cost of gold is rising, women want to repurpose or restyle their heirloom pieces, so that they can be relevant for today’s times. The new-age customer is smart enough to save money, retain the beauty of old craftsmanship and have a brand new piece for half the cost or less. In times of the pandemic, big and small design houses and retailers have been able to challenge themselves to come up with new ideas to blend old with new aesthetics, and, in turn, sustain themselves. 

As the trend for personalised jewellery grows, retailers will have to build in-house design solutions to cater to customers. As the tech spreads and costs come down, I foresee that 3D printers will be the norm in retail showrooms soon.

Concept Stores

To have a full-service jewellery store, retailers could look at collaborations with other designer brands to have a curated collection of jewellery not found anywhere else, except at their store. Everyone wants to feel special, and this could be one way to step out of the box to accelerate sales.

A store-in-store for just youthful jewellery catering to the millennials or Gen Z.

Private Trunk Shows

If you cannot bring the customer to the showroom, you go to her – the concept of by-invitation-only trunk shows is gaining traction these days.

Disclosures

Digitalisation and online buying will only accelerate the need to have proper disclosures and declarations, gem grading certifications, hallmarking, etc. to build consumer confidence.

The new generation of consumers are concerned about the environment and social issues and they insist on knowing the source of what they are buying.

Trends:

Diamonds —  The fundamentals of the diamond industry appear to be stronger than they were going into the pandemic. Currently, diamond inventories are low and with most of the world’s population expected to be vaccinated within the next 4 to 6 months, demand for diamonds is expected to be high for the rest of the year.

On the manufacturing front, technology will improve diamond cuts and yield.. but one needs to be savvy about using digital marketing to its full potential.

On the retail side, diamonds have retained their shine through this dark period – and the demand is coming from the traditionally strong market – the US. The reason is the healthy stimulus package of $8,358 for each American that has strengthened their purchasing power.

Demand for diamonds is increasing in China, pushed by the growing middle class, which mainly consumes diamonds under  1 carat.

Back on home soil, the trends in diamonds are crystal clear … classic pieces set with solitaires, fancy-cut diamonds are seeing an uptick even in India. As we gradually leave behind the devastation wrought by covid,  people will be all eager to ‘catch up on life’ and I believe that the post-pandemic scenario will see more engagement and wedding dates being fixed. And this is one opportunity retailers will cash in on.

Gemstones – While emeralds and rubies are in demand, especially in the high-ticket segment, consumers are warming up to the idea of accepting new gems on the block – spinels, tanzanite (in place of sapphires), tourmalines, garnets, opals, and more.

Gold – The fascination for the yellow metal will never wane in India, but yes, the new gen is opting for minimalist, daily wear forms, while the bridal segment still pulls in almost 50% of gold jewellery sales – jadau, plain or gem-studded heavy sets are trending. However, weight wise sets lighter than 15 to 20% than earlier are preferred because of the rising cost of gold.

Platinum – This rare metal has its own niche segment, catering to the market for engagement and wedding bands and rings. Gifting during weddings and self-purchasers are keeping the sales momentum steady in the country.”

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