The pandemic has proven a trendsetter in just about every sector, and jewellery is no different.
Above all else, though, there is one trend that the UK’s fine jewellery industry has seen triumph in recent months: jewellery with ‘meaning’. It is a word that will come up in conversation with any jeweller or brand when discussing where the segment is heading right now.
“More than ever people are looking for designs that have meaning and that can help them in a much deeper way than just looking good,” says Alice Millner, founder of relatively young jewellery brand Alice van Cal.
But what exactly do we mean when we talk about meaning? There are a few more words that crop up a lot that could perhaps go some way to answering this question.
“We have seen a focus on personalisation, customisation and the self-purchaser,” explains Alix Gonsoulin, Stuller vice president of marketing. “It’s clear that the end-consumer wants to buy products that truly represent who they are and what their values are. Customers are seeking out products that are unique to them.”
Hitting on many of those same buzzwords, Kovadi founder and creative director, Maria Kondakova-Kaltsidis, concurs with Gonsoulin: “We have seen a strong demand for unique pieces with special meaning, individual to the client.”
Along with this shift in consumer behaviour has come a significantly higher average spend reported by most companies.
It might seem logical that, with economic uncertainty, the public would spend less and in a way they are.
They are spending less often but, when they do, they are using unspent holiday funds on big-ticket items they know they will treasure for a long time to come.
Picchiotti’s Maria Carola Picchiotti, director of marketing, sums up the psychology of the shift in consumer behaviour, saying: “Consumers are definitely more cautious with their spending after the pandemic. If they do decide to spend, it will be for long-lasting, valuable pieces.”
She goes on: “We see the same trend in fashion. Many brands or retailers promote valuable pieces to be worn over and over, pieces that one will find in their wardrobe in three or four years and still want to wear.”
The appeal of this sort of purchase is twofold, Picchiotti reminds PJ: not only does it save the buyer money in the long-run, but it is also the more environmentally-friendly way to shop – a priority that is here to stay.
Almost eight in 10 respondents to an IBM survey last year said that sustainability was important to them in their shopping choices, with the all-important 18-35 demographic valuing ethical brands even more highly.
Therefore, customers now demand a product that will last them a lifetime – or even longer.
Ntinga director, Stephanie Lee, brings the conversation full circle when she tells Professional Jeweller: “I think people want something that has meaning, even something that can be passed down the generations.
“While we feel that the running-line, easily repeated pieces will be a staple for most shops, they have really started to rely on the larger, more bespoke, showstopper pieces which will get the customers through the door and become a talking point as something rare and unique that a retailer is offering.”
Similarly, Kovadi’s Kondakova-Kaltsidis adds: “Clients want something special, with a personal meaning – pieces to treasure and keep for years to come.
“Fine jewellery remains a stable opportunity for investment, even during turbulent times.”
The industry is seemingly united in noticing the increase in “higher price-point pieces” and the trend for “bespoke designs” that Alice van Cal’s Alice Millner describes, but has the pandemic caused these fast shifts or merely been a catalyst for changes that were already well underway early last year?
Millner believes: “In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated and strengthened trends that were already existing.” As well as higher spends and “meaningful design” she adds to that list “e-commerce, reactivity, social responsibility and sustainability”.
Echoing Millner’s emphasis on e-commerce, Domino Jewellery sales director, Andrew Sollitt adds: “Digitalisation has been the biggest change for us from the pandemic. It was definitely coming anyway, but we believe the pandemic has sped up the desire for online purchasing across the fine jewellery market.”
However, whether customers are buying online or in-store, relevant and high-quality products remain king for both retailers and brands.
Stuller’s Alix Gonsoulin concludes definitively: “I think the shifts we have seen in the industry are here to stay.”
While he says that digital sales will only grow in importance as time goes on, even now that stores are open again, it is good jewellery that will bring both clicks and footfall: “Personalisation and customisable jewellery,” he says, “will continue to be what customers are wanting and expecting.”
FINE OR FASHION