Sachin Jain, Managing Director, Forevermark, De Beers India, takes us through their retail strategy for 2021.
Forevermark’s confidence in the Indian jewellery market can be reflected in its plans to open 10 additional independent boutiques this year, launch an e-store as well as introduce transformatory technology in its stores to offer a phygital consumer experience.
How is Forevermark faring post the pandemic?
2019 was a year of high growth for us. We also started our exclusive retail store strategy in 2019. January and February of 2020 continued that momentum and was up 20% over 2019. Then Covid hit and the world stopped.
We had a fundamental belief that the category itself is very strong and diamonds and gemstones hold value. Once the country began unlocking, we saw strong momentum in tier-II and tier-III cities. Tier-I markets took much longer because the scare of infection was higher. We saw consumers coming in from September and since October 16, the first day of Navratri, there has been no looking back. Post Diwali, we have seen a phenomenal performance for diamonds.
How would you compare sales to pre-Covid levels?
2019 was our best year yet. We ended 2020 in some of our key markets at par with 2019 levels and in some of them, we have dropped. The collective drop has been 7-8%, which according to our calculations was very healthy. In the midst of the lockdown, we thought it would be 30-50% lower. Where we have ended is not so bad.
The actual averages would be the same (pre- and post-Covid) but certain partners are performing better than others. This is because of their on-ground activities, staying connected with consumers, introducing new design lines. Partner retailers who have been agile are doing well.
There has also been a change in consumer requirements. We have only completed one month of 2021 and February is still ongoing, but it has been a very good start for Forevermark.
What are your expectations for 2021?
2020 has only proved that diamonds are a rock-solid category and hold meaning in the minds of consumers. I am very positive about 2021. It has started on a good note and we expect to end it with a 30-40% growth from 2020 at the minimum.
How are Forevermak’s independent boutiques in India faring?
We have 9 operating boutiques across different cities – Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Delhi, Noida, Chandigarh, Ludhiana and 2 stores in Kolkata.
We are absolutely super proud of the way consumers are coming into the boutique and we have been able to convert the new-age modern consumer who is looking at an entire brand experience. And I feel proud because the retail strategy is in collaboration with our existing retailers and we are only going further and opening more stores with them. We aim to end 2021, with a total of 20 stores, only with our existing retail partners.
Does Forevermark plan to retail online in India?
We are working on it. For us, it has to be a hybrid model in partnership with all our leading retailers. We are finalising the nuts and bolts. You will hear from us very soon.
Could you tell us about the new technology you are adopting at the retail level?
I will talk about it in two parts: online and at the retail store.
We have been engaging in social listening and storytelling for a long time and Covid has only pushed this further. We have hired tools to track the social footsteps of the brand and where it is headed. We work with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp for business. We are also working with Google, which is called the Always On strategy on how Forevermark appears on searches.
We have also acquired a company which helps consumers to search for jewellery by images instead of key words. This is very important for our category.
In the retail environment, we are doing a variety of things some of which has got delayed because of Covid.
One of them is intelligent AI-based visuals outside the store which customises content based on the profile of the consumer standing outside. It factors in male/female, age group, individual or with family, etc. into consideration before broadcasting a visual.
We are also using technology to track walk-ins. It not only tells us about how many people have walked in, but which parts of the store are performing better so that we can leverage those physical spots. These are being rolled out shortly.
How do you ensure greater in-store engagement?
A Forevermark customer is slightly younger, more digital oriented, more brand conscious. We have screens in our stores which allow consumers to come and play some video games with us. These are diamond-based games and we give some small gratification for playing them. It helps them to understand diamond as a category in a very integral manner. The time they spend at the store has gone up 4 times because of this. We are also coming up with new-age stores now which will have a discovery wall — a combination of physical and digital stuff and we will be launching this in Hyderabad very soon. It is a transformatory technology which displays the whole journey of a diamond from mine to the finger. We will divulge more on this soon.