With the majority of this year already in the rear-view mirror and one of the most important retail seasons for jewellers quickly approaching, Professional Jeweller takes a minute to reflect on the last six months and pinpoint the key trends set to shape the rest of 2018…
The battle of Brexit
The past 16 months have been a politically turbulent time and the knock-ons have already been felt by jewellers across the nation before the implications of what Brexit really means for business have been spelt out. What we do know so far is that shock resignations, talks of controversial agreements, and rumours of yet another general election or referendum, have led to consumer confidence taking a hit, and consequently shoppers have been forgoing ‘non-essential’ purchases, such as jewellery. “I think the economy and general economic uncertainty will still affect trade,” shares Fabulous Jewellers owner, Jo Stroud. “Interest rate rises, concern over job losses because of Brexit, and a general feeling of uncertainty will mean people will still be wary about spending, making each purchase far more considered.” But it’s not just consumers that are changing their ways as a result of Brexit. Retailers are more hesitant to spend money on stock and according to Jeremy France director, Harriet France, jewellers have been forced to reconsider their approach to running businesses. She comments: “Hesitation with Brexit is still around and will be for the second half of this year. Professionals are showing nervousness and bonuses may not be as forthcoming as previous years. ” While the industry will have to continue to battle with the effects of Brexit with no clear understanding of its full impact for the long-term future, it’s important to note shifts in consumer shopping habits and consider how the industry can still capture a slice of the retail market, even during difficult times. There is no denying Brexit has not been good for many jewellery businesses but we must look at positive trends as well.
As department stores close, independents should shine
The first half of the year saw the likes of House of Fraser and Debenhams announce plans to downscale and close stores as part of plans to rescue business during difficult trading times. While this does not bode well for the future of the high street, the closure of such big stores does spark an opportunity for independents to attract shoppers who would have previously stuck to the big name chains they’ve grown to know and recognise. Furthermore, research shows consumers are looking to shop local again in a bid to find something special and unique. In the Pink store owner, Karen Webb-Meek, shares: “I think there is a move away from larger department stores, and smaller multi-brand retail stores, and a move towards more niche shopping and specialist outlets.” To capture the market though, independent jewellers need to really offer something unique and special. Looking ahead, NAJ chairman Harriet Kelsall warns: “With rates still too high for bricks and mortar retailers (and too low for internet retailers), those with actual shops will continue to find things challenging and have to focus on really offering something different that people can’t get online.”
Worth its weight in gold
Yellow gold saw a lift at the end of last year and continues to shine now. The return of the metal to the jewellery market to date has most definitely not gone unnoticed, with many jewellers and suppliers predicting the trend will continue its upward tick as the year winds to a close. Jewellers have credited the latest royal and British consumer influencer Meghan Markle with the growing popularity of yellow gold jewellery, having been snapped wearing gold-plated rings by Missoma, and a yellow gold engagement ring from Prince Harry. Testament to its popularity in the fashion market, jewellery giant Pandora launched ‘Pandora Shine’ at the beginning of the year, a collection of affordable trend-driven 18ct gold-plated sterling silver jewellery. “Yellow gold is coming back into fashion so there is a lot more yellow gold-plated silver coming through but in trendy, fashion-led designs,” says independent jeweller John Greed, with ChloBo creative director, Chloe Moss, adding: “Already in high street fashion and across the catwalks we have seen the return of soft yellow gold. From gold hoop earrings to dainty gold rings, we suspect an increase in popularity due to its tonal ability to warm certain skin tones and add a shine to any summer wardrobe.”
Loud and proud jewellery
According to some jewellers, the market has seemingly done a complete 180 spin. While minimal designs have reigned supreme for the last few seasons, customers are now eager to go in completely the opposite direction and make a statement. Harriet Kelsall, founder of Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery, has identified a shift towards striking, statement jewellery that draws the eye. She explains: “Chiming with the runways, we can expect a season of statement earrings and high necklines. “Whilst chokers were a huge accessory last season, long necklaces will lead the way when it comes to accessorising AW18’s tailoring trend. Precious metal itself will be the focal point and we’ll see simple, chunky pieces with clean lines. Gemstones will be prevalent in bright colours and serve to lift autumnal tones.” While minimal, dainty and delicate designs are often favoured in the UK, this year statement jewellery is also having its time. From bold earrings, to chunky chokers and larger than life necklaces, bigger pieces are expected to win sales for retailers up and down the country. “There has been so much minimalism for so long, I think people are ready for a more glamorous look which is great for us,” shares Gecko creative director, Desiree Pringle. She continues: “We have seen some of the strongest performances come from diamond styles, statement earrings and cocktail rings which would not have been the case this time last year.”
Christmas comes late
The last couple of years have flipped the high street on its head and, as a result, one of the most reliable seasons for sales is now something of a question mark. While shoppers are still buying presents to place under the tree, some have noticed that December doesn’t benefit from the Christmas rush in the same way that it used to. Due to a variety of factors, Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. Jo Stroud from Fabulous Jeweller shares: “There is no real uplift in November any more, so we don’t budget for any increases in revenue before December itself; and there is still always that rush in the final few days.” She continues: “They key is to be realistic in your business about the additional revenue Christmas will bring as it is not such a boost to revenue for any retailer as it used to be; and do more throughout the year to drive year-round sales, through events and promotions — so you are less reliant on a big number in December.” With consumers heading into stores later, this has had a knock on effect for suppliers as retailers have been in less of a hurry to stock up for the season, but suppliers do not see this as a concern. While shoppers may be cutting it fine this Christmas, it’s important for retailers to use shop floor staff time wisely, with experts recommending quiet store times during November and December should be used to train employees on how to upsell and increase the average transaction value. Jewellers should also make sure their websites stand out as many customers are coming into store later because they do the bulk of their Christmas shopping online first.
Get the basics right
With so many things to think about, whether that’s Christmas, staffing, events or building a digital presence, some jewellers have been forgetting the bread and butter principals of retail, with many members of the trade sharing horror stories of what they have experienced inside jewellery stores. From messy displays, to staff leaning over counters and not making eye contact with consumers, a quick mystery shop to a selection of jewellers would reveal simple standards are not always being kept. However, with Christmas coming later, and footfall in general being sparse, quieter days present the perfect opportunity for jewellery retailers to make sure all the basics are in check. This is not a criticism, but an observation that’s been shared by many. Even big brands and retailers are highlighting the need to go back to basics and make sure their house is in order. Once the basics are in place, businesses will find it easier to capatalise on every potential sale that walks through the door. “The high street will never go back to what it once was,” admits Stroud. “We are in a completely different world now, so the pattern of buying, the volume of sales, and the quantities of individual items has changed beyond recognition. But that’s OK, as long as you are prepared for it, and you plan for it.” At Fraser Hart the team are making sure customers looking inside store windows are being acknowledged, while at Thomas Sabo the new MD wants the brand to be a market leader in even the smallest areas of the business.
Retail therapy vs experience
Another notable change is in how consumers are treating themselves. Recent reports have revealed that when it comes to non-essential purchases, shoppers around the UK would rather spend their money on experiences than things, something which the industry has been discussing heavily. “Consumer spending is changing and jewellery is competing not only with other products, but more and more with experiences and activities,” shares Unique & Co founder, Daniel Ozel, adding: “Consumer and, in particular, younger customers, prefer to spend money not only on products, but on holidays, experiences and activities.” In an exclusive interview with Professional Jeweller’s sister publication, WatchPro, the managing director of family-run jewellery retailer, Pragnell, said he believes experiences and holidays are actually the greatest competitors for the jewellery industry. Charlie Pragnell explains: “I think our greatest competitor for the watch and jewellery business is experiences and holidays because people are marking the moments in their lives with memories. Our job is to make sure that watches and jewellery are a better option because they don’t change while the memories of holidays can fade and change over time.” If people are favouring experiences over products, it’s more important than ever for jewellers to make shopping in their stores memorable. From making consumers feel at home, to doing something to make them feel special, experts suggest retailers need to go above and beyond to connect with consumers emotionally, and in turn, win over their business.
Don’t forget Black Friday
Like it or lump it, Black Friday is a big event for the retail industry, and one the UK has struggled to shake off even though many have campaigned for it to end. For many retailers, the mass sales event can be blamed for the late Christmas rush. Owner of the eponymous store, Harriet Kelsall, shares: “Black Friday destroyed Christmas retail when it was established about three years ago and as a result that extra Christmas custom has reduced slightly.” Research reveals that last year’s Black Friday weekend was the most successful in history for online retailers based in the UK, and recent findings suggest it will continue to grow this year. Most importantly, studies from last year show that Black Friday impacted online sales, more than footfall on the British high street, so as consumers Google what deals are on offer for November 23 it’s worth jewellers exploring how they can appear in such search terms, even if they don’t want to bow down to the day’s heavy discounting demands.
Take on technology
Embracing technology with full gusto no longer gives you brownie points. At this stage, every jeweller should be grabbing tech solutions by the horns and making the most of what it has to offer. At the very least, jewellery retailers should have an online presence by now. In the Pink’s Webb-Meek explains: “Savvy jewellery retailers who have or are starting to embrace social media and internet sales will see growth, those that don’t will get left behind, so it’s certainly time for jewellery retailers to rationalise what they sell, and really embrace Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, if jewellery stores don’t have a website they need to get one and figure it out fast.” It has long be said that a time will come when the gap between jewellers evolving and those standing still will become so large, and the latter will be left behind. Now experts are saying this time is coming very soon and jewellery companies embracing digital innovations, making online shopping easy, and using technology to make all areas of the business faster and more efficient, are the ones that will come out of these turbulent times stronger than ever. It’s not just about having a website, or being on social media, there’s technology available to put your company ahead of the curve, improve the customer experience, and even make life easier for business owners. Ryan Edkins will be launching a book at International Jewellery London called the Digital Jeweller which goes through these very touch points. If you’re worried you are going to be left behind, be sure to pick up a copy. Elsewhere, companies like Bransom are making it possible for shoppers to pay without leaving the comfort of their seats in-store, while lighting specialist Parify has wifi solutions, and fine jewellery suppliers are offering retailers extraordinary apps that can be used to show consumers more options at a click of a button, and allow bespoke options to come alive before their eyes.
Know you USP
Whenever Professional Jeweller visits a new city for its monthly cityscape feature, each jeweller is asked what they consider their USP to be, and a worrying amount aren’t sure. On today’s high street however, it’s more important than ever that each jeweller knows what makes them stand out from the store next door, and also, why a customer should be shopping with you and not going online. “In jewellery retailing I think businesses now need to establish a niche,” says Webb-Meek of In the Pink. “[Retailers should] specialise in just diamonds, high end jewellery, watches, antique jewellery, one or two specialist brands or an area of the market like gemstones, gold, fashion/costume or ethically sourced products. To the consumer, this is now much more appealing than bland multi-brand stores offering the same thing.” Of course many companies have a lot of strengths in common, but at the end of the day each business needs to have one thing that makes them truly unique. Is yours an area of customer service? A type of product you champion in store? Or do you try to create a certain environment, or go about business in a distinctive way? Do you know what your unique selling point is? Furthermore, if you asked each member of staff, would they know? As we draw to the end of the year make sure you know what your store stands for, be clear on the identity of the name above the door, and be confident in why consumers should shop in your boutique rather than going elsewhere