JENNIFER KOCHE, Senior Buyer – Fine Jewelry, Fashion Jewelry & Watches at Saks Off 5th, New York, USA, recently visited the IGJS Jaipur show organised by GJEPC from 1st to 3rd April. During her visit, Koche was struck by the wide range of products available, including everything from gold to silver and gold vermeil. As a luxury off-price department store with a focus on private label products, Saks Off Fifth was at the show to find gemstones for its inventory.
In an exclusive interview with Solitaire International, Koche commented on the growing popularity of lab-grown diamonds in the US market and stressed the importance of ethical and sustainable sourcing practices. Overall, Koche was impressed by the hospitality and kindness of everyone she met in India.
What is your impression about the IGJS Jaipur show?
I’ve been spending time at the IGJS Jaipur, just really taking it all in and seeing a lot of what India essentially has to offer. Everyone’s so accommodating or willing to kind of make anything that we would like to manufacture. And there’s been so much to work with; there’s such an array from gold, silver, and gold vermeil…
Tell us a bit about your company.
I work for Saks Off Fifth, and it’s a US luxury off-price department store. We have around 85 stores in the US around 12 in Canada and an e-commerce site. We visited IGJS here to focus on our private label; to find product to fill into white space, specifically in gemstones.
Have you been able to source the product you were looking for at the show?
There’s such a wide range of products that we’ve seen at IGJS Jaipur, from very low-end, low-dollar value to high-end products worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve come across such a range to select from to fill into the needs of the business.
Can you share any insights on the changing preferences of consumers in the US market?
In the US, I think right now we’re in a more tumultuous period than we typically have been in the past. There’s such a lack of ability to easily forecast based on everything that we’re seeing with the economy, globally, and so forth. So, we, at Saks Off Fifth, try to offer a range to appeal to the customers’ needs and preferences. We are now most recently seeing the customer preferring the more entry level, easier, sweeter-spot price points of under $500. But we also have a customer that’s willing to spend the money on quality, aesthetic at the higher price points as well. So being that we have such a range, I think that it really just depends…
Are lab-grown diamonds a category that you’re exploring?
We’re invested in lab-grown diamonds in general – it’s a small sub-sect of our total. Customers are not holding back and are gravitating towards lab-grown in the US market. Honestly, I’ve been surprised about the reaction, and it makes me a little nervous for natural diamonds as of recently. But I think that there’s a customer for both … The customer that wants the bigger look for less money is really what we’ve been focusing on. I do see opportunity within the fashion (category) as well. That’s been something that I work with a big supplier here already. So, I met with them before I came to the show.
How do you ensure ethical and sustainable sourcing practices in your business, and what certifications or standards do you look for in your suppliers?
We want suppliers that are RJC-certified, and that they have the backing and the documentation so that we feel comfortable and safe to bring in within the US. We obviously have our QC process in place, and we import via a third party. But ultimately, we want to make sure that all of the gemstones and diamonds and so forth are ethically sourced, that they’re coming from a known, trusted place.
Is there anything else that you would like to comment on?
I feel like everyone in India has been so gracious and kind and accommodating, I feel very welcome here. And I’m really pleased to be here. I didn’t attend the show last year, but I attended the show in Mumbai in 2019. I wanted to come to Jaipur, but I couldn’t because of the pandemic. I’m happy to be able to be here and finally make it, so I’m excited to just explore.