Prince Charming: the royal baby jewel rush

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Did Prince George’s arrival drive sales for retailers and brands?

In 2011 the jewellery industry toasted the royal wedding with imitations of the Duchess of Cambridge’s sapphire ring, commemorative charms and boom in interest for coloured gemstones; so has the arrival of Prince George of Cambridge proved as lucrative? We hear from retailers and brands.

Crowds gathered outside St Mary’s Hospital, a group swelled at the gates of Buckingham palace and TV stations from across the world broadcast live from the edges of St. James’ Park. No other baby in recent history has commanded so much attention as George Alexander Louis Mountbatten-Windsor, better known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.

His birth, and the months leading to it, created excitement among all sectors of retail, from the obvious kit and caboodle necessary for a new arrival – clothes and cots as marketed at John Lewis, baby wipes and nappies at Tesco – through to more celebratory forms of gifting for new mums and royal fans alike, which is where a number of jewellery brands have embraced the birth with open arms.

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The prince’s birth was transformed from a very personal event to a sales opportunity. Just as the royal wedding helped to raise the profile of sapphires and Welsh gold, as well as jewellers such as Robinson Pelham, which created bespoke jewellery for the Middleton family for the big day, the arrival of the Prince of Cambridge paved the way for a flurry of commemorative jewellery designs.

HISTORICAL CONNECTIONS
Brands including Clogau, Pandora, Thomas Sabo, Carat*, Links of London and Claudia Bradby designed individual charms or pieces of jewellery as a memento of the birth.

Clogau is known for its enduring link to royalty owing to its use of Welsh gold, a metal that has been used to make royal wedding rings for several generations. Having created its sapphire Princess ring in 2011 in homage to the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring, Clogau this year launched three charms to help commemorate the birth of the Prince of Cambridge – one in solid rose gold and two in silver, with designs including a baby’s bootie and a stork.

The marketing potential of the charms – with Clogau’s far-reaching global audience, in particular in Asia and the US – was a chance not to miss, and Clogau’s UK brand manager Sonia Menezes says the outcome has been positive. “The response from consumers and wholesale has been very good. We also launched a popular, limited-edition celebration ring on QVC UK and were featured on shows throughout the day of the birth,” Menezes explains. The brand’s overseas retailers have also picked up on Clogau’s royal baby charms, and the pieces have been added to the selection for Clogau’s first show with US shopping channel Shop NBC.

At Birmingham jewellery manufacturer Charles Green, royal connections are a part of its history, with the company previously making a gold locket for the Queen Mother. As a way of celebrating the prince’s birth, Charles Green opted to offer a discount on its lockets, taking 8.6% – the baby’s birth weight in pounds and ounces – off of its wholesale locket prices. Charles Green director Oli Sutton explains: “Retailers have told us that past celebratory news or events involving the royal family have led to a rise in consumer confidence and people wanting to commemorate the event, which in turn leads to an increase in sales – the Diamond Jubilee last year and the availability of a commemorative hallmark is a good example – so we wanted to mark the occasion by offering an extra discount across our whole range of lockets.”

Sutton says the company has been amazed by retailers’ positive reactions to the offer. “Which goes to show there still is a very good market for luxury, handcrafted British jewellery,” he adds.

IN-STORE BABY SHOWERS
It is not just jewellery brands and suppliers that made the most of the birth. Retailers also took the chance to host in-store events centred around the prince’s arrival.

Baby showers have become customary for many British mothers-to-be and are the perfect gifting opportunity to celebrate the mother and the new arrival. Wongs in Liverpool held a baby shower at its store several weeks before the birth, not only to celebrate the impending arrival and drive some jewellery sales, but to give local women a chance to support a nearby housing association by donating £10 worth of baby clothes.

“We were keen to host a ladies’ event and thought that a royal baby shower for charity would give us the opportunity to showcase our showroom, whilst assisting a local charity,” explains Wongs director Peter Wong. “The afternoon was an enormous success and our guests had a great time, providing baby outfits for those people who really need them most.”

Dorset’s Forum Jewellers also hosted an in-store celebration to mark the royal arrival, complete with champagne and cupcakes. Forum director Helen Molly explains: “We sent email and Facebook invites asking our customers to join us during the day. Many of our regulars came to celebrate and we sold 15 of the Pandora baby carriage charms.”

Indeed, the various charms created to commemorate the birth of the Prince of Cambridge have proven to be some of the most successful celebratory products. For Ed Ferris, owner of Swag’s six retail stores and 17 Pandora concept stores in the UK, the Pandora baby charm provided strong sell-through.

“[The Pandora charm] has been selling very well since the launch; the people buying this charm have been mostly buying it for themselves and not as a gift,” Ferris says, adding that Swag’s trade in general has been “exceptional” since the birth of the Prince of Cambridge, particularly in its stores situated in key tourist areas. “Our Windsor Pandora store was very successful with the London Bus last year and the baby charm has been no exception,” Ferris explains.

Jo Stroud, owner of retail chain Fabulous, also used social media as a fast-paced conduit to promote royal baby products, including charms from Thomas Sabo, Pandora and Nomination. “The royal baby gave us a chance to keep customers up to date with jewellery that is relevant and topical,” says Stroud. “It has been customers whose own baby is due this year that have been the most interested, as every baby is royalty to its own parents. And with 1,199 women giving birth on the same day as Kate in the UK alone, there is plenty of scope for celebration.”

FUTURE GIFTING?
The royal wedding certainly helped to raise awareness of vintage-style rings and coloured gemstones. So will the Prince of Cambridge’s birth do the same for gifts and christening jewellery?

“Birthing gifts from husbands to wives have increased in popularity over the years and I am sure the [eventual] royal christening will have an effect on sales for christenings,” says Wong. “We have also sold a number of letter pendants for babies which appear to be a popular choice.”

While a baby-carrying stork or pushchair charm might be a sweet trinket to celebrate this new arrival, it is perhaps the more understated items with a more personal meaning that offer long-term gifting opportunity. Claudia Bradby’s soft blue pearl and acorn charm necklace, launched to celebrate the prince’s birth, is one such example of jewellery that is not ostentatiously about the baby.

“I am not very good on dummies or rattles and wanted to make something a bit more symbolic,” Bradby says. “I love the obvious idea of acorns growing into oaks, but it has the resonance of echoing the Middleton family crest which features three acorns.”

So do retailers see longevity in the royal baby charms and jewellery? Forum’s Molloy thinks the demand for these charms might have waned come Christmas, but adds that consumers will continue to buy the royal baby charms to mark the birth of babies also born in 2013.

The general increase in parents or partners buying gifts for new mothers has already been noted by the rise of push presents, and the sales opportunities they create. Now, the anticipation turns to Prince William as we wait to see if he has selected jewellery for the Duchess of Cambridge to commemorate the prince’s birth.

This feature was taken from the September issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.

 

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