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IN DEPTH: The impact of BBC drama Normal People on men’s jewellery sales

Men chain

The jewellery trade has often stood accused of being slow to act on the demand for men’s jewellery, with retailers reluctant to expand this part of the market at the expense of more mainstream areas where sales volumes are higher and more predictable.

Yet those with a particular interest in the sector continue to insist it’s a mistake to ignore it, arguing that retailers who understand how buying patterns are changing and evolving remain well-placed to beef up their profit margins.

Modern jewellery brand Unique & Co’s order book certainly explains why an increasing number of jewellers feel it’s finally time to get excited about the men’s jewellery sector. Sales from its men’s collection rose by almost 30% last year and while the national lockdown has naturally put the brakes on the velocity of that growth, sales had certainly been heading in the right direction up until March.Unique & Co director Daniel Ozel is adamant things will bounce back quickly. “The men’s sector is definitely a growing market. Even big brands like Tiffany or Louis Vuitton are tapping into this market now. We are positive that the men’s jewellery market will develop well,” he says. “Also, our price point between £29 and £79 RRP is an attractive one, which is still affordable and will probably do well in economic uncertain times. So, all in all, we believe we will do well with our men’s collections.”

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Gecko is another brand that is feeling pretty bullish about the prospects of its men’s jewellery line. Prior to Covid-19 coming along, sales were up 15% during the first few months of the year. With online sales providing some relief while retail shops remain closed, the company is confident that the third and fourth quarter will be in line with budget expectations.

“We are optimistic about the sale of men’s jewellery now that the jewellers have reopened,” says general manager Ruth Johnson. “Our Fred Bennett collection includes some fantastic gift ideas for men at Christmas, which always sell well, including keyrings, wallets and, of course, the extensive range of wristwear, which cater to every budget.”

Jewellery with meaning has also become increasingly important with the current climate”

Gecko has noticed particular demand for engraveable and leather wristwear, while it also saw a huge surge in demand for men’s silver chains following the success of BBC1’s Normal People.

“The chain worn by the male lead actor had its own Instagram page with over 180,000 followers. We saw sales of our men’s silver chains in both Beginnings and Fred Bennett increase by over 80%,” reveals Johnson.

“Sales on these silver chain lines continue to be strong, so we believe the trend for men to wear silver will continue during the second half of the year. We’ve also seen an increased demand for heavier gauge silver bracelets, particularly those that can be personalised with engraving.”

Gecko has introduced some heavier pieces as well as some new Celtic designs, which always tend to do well. Its new Beginnings catalogue is now tabbed to make it easier for the retailer to find the products they’re looking for and every piece that can be engraved is clearly marked. It is also planning to launch a new kit of men’s leather bracelets into Fred Bennett in September.

“There are some gorgeous new colours, textures and clasps used, and all will retail under £35,” reveals Johnson.

Robert Tateossian, founder of Tateossian London, says that men have focused more on casual style during lockdown and, in line with this, the company has observed an increase in sales of necklaces and bracelets, as well as jewellery with meaning. It has also witnessed an uplift in its limited edition and collectible cufflinks.

The chain worn by the male lead actor had its own Instagram page with over 180,000 followers”

“I believe that men’s jewellery will continue to grow – we will see smaller categories grow, such as brooches and lapel pins, as a great way to express personal style. We have also seen that men have considered casual jewellery more in the past months and we expect this trend to continue to grow.

“Jewellery with meaning has also become increasingly important with the current climate – gemstones with meaning, talismans and charity pieces will all do well.”
Unique & Co’s Ozel highlights wristwear and rings as blossoming areas of men’s jewellery, but other categories are also coming on strong.

“We have also seen a higher demand on neckwear and chains during the last few months. One of the biggest trends remains layering and stacking of wristwear. Our collection of bracelets with multiple strands has sold extremely well. Plating details in black, blue and rose gold are also popular and we are bringing in more plating finishes in gold, bronze and brushed for autumn/winter. And rings are also a growing trend for us. Some of our rings are bought as a cheaper alternative as wedding rings, but also as a general style accessory,” he comments.

One of the big challenges for the industry since Covid-19 struck is that men haven’t had the same incentives for buying jewellery for themselves as they perhaps usually would.
That has impacted the kind of products they have been putting in their online shopping baskets. “As men have not had smart occasions to attend recently, sales have been more focused on casual, fashionable jewellery and accessories, although we do sales for cufflinks that are fun as these make great gifts and we have had many orders for our quirky cufflink styles,” says jewellery designer Babette Wasserman.

“We are all recovering from a very trying time and retail has suffered a lot, but I think men are more and more interested in accessories and like to dress well. We are already working again with many of our international customers and now that UK retail has reopened we are gradually getting back in touch with all our usual customers and look forward to rebuilding the business with them.”

As the market does expand, the number of brands creating men’s collections is poised to increase. Handmade jewellery brand Cleopatra’s Bling has just launched its first range of items dedicated to men after finding that more and more men were approaching it for jewellery for themselves.

“Not only have men been purchasing from our demi fine collection, but we have had a few special wedding orders in solid 18k yellow gold for men,” reveals founder Olivia Cummings. “I believe that Covid has been a time for us to really connect to our customers and tune into what they are looking for. Not only are men looking for jewellery for themselves, but women are looking for jewellery for the men in their lives”
So what will it take to further elevate men’s jewellery in the market? Gecko’s Ruth Johnson suggests all of the key mechanisms are already in place.

Even big brands like Tiffany or Louis Vuitton are tapping into this market now. We are positive that the men’s jewellery market will develop well”

“I believe that men are happy to buy jewellery for themselves online, so as more and more retailers offer an online platform we should see an increase in sales. It’s also clear from the reaction to Normal People that the younger males are heavily influenced by social media and also feel more comfortable making a jewellery statement than perhaps their fathers were. As a result, we should continue to see a steady rise in the demand for men’s jewellery.”

Ethical and sustainable jewellery brand Aurum has branched into men’s jewellery after seeing demand rise in recent years. Designer Guðbjörg Kr. Ingvarsdóttir thinks unique chains will be a big seller this year and expects social media to play an important role.
“I think that social media has helped to elevate men’s jewellery in the market, principally because usually people follow influencers that inspire them and there has also been an increase in advertising for male jewellery.”

Unique & Co’s Ozel agrees that influence is a major factor, and the company plans to support its product development activities with targeted marketing campaigns. It hopes it will lead to retailers giving the category more attention and space in their shops, especially given its potential for growth.

“It’s also a good way to differentiate themselves from competition. And by concentrating on the men’s sector it’s not only targeting men as customers – it also gets a lot of attention from female customers buying gifts for their partners.”

Protecting the items that customers cherish most, with WOLF

With a legacy stretching back to 1834, WOLF knows a thing or two about safeguarding priceless jewellery in fine quality cases. CEO Simon Wolf discusses how he sees the market for men’s jewellery storage panning out.

How do you view the men’s jewellery market at the moment and how has it been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic?
At the onset of the pandemic, luxury as a whole was affected – with worry and concern comes an elevated cautiousness with your wallet. What we have seen in the following weeks and months have been positive indicators. Everyone is adapting and the consumer is returning to luxury spending.

How are you supporting retailers in terms of the way that men’s jewellery is stored and presented?
Every customer deserves a WOLF – it’s more than just storage of cufflinks, bracelets, an earring or a watch. All of these items of beauty mean something to the customer – they are part of their legacy; perhaps the watch was a gift from a dear relative or maybe a self-purchase celebrating a personal milestone. For over 185 years WOLF has protected these items – protecting your legacy.

How much change has there been within your storage range for men’s jewellery?
Innovation in every collection and every box case starts out as a thought that takes shape on a blank piece of paper. With a design board for inspiration, the shape, the materials and the feel come together. Each existing collection is refined, re-evaluated – oftentimes making small adjustments to make an existing product just that much better, even if only in the smallest detail.
What are the fundamental differences between men’s and women’s jewellery storage?
Probably none. In the design process a great deal of thinking goes into the vision of who that product is made for. Perhaps it may be easier to picture a women or man purchasing a particular item but we find these generalisations don’t really work. If you appreciate skulls then Momento Mori may be for you. Simple, elegant, refined – Palermo perhaps.

Is there anything that retailers often overlook or misperceive when it comes to men’s jewellery boxes and storage cases?
It is a business and a significant one. Should a customer enter your store looking for a particular item by a particular brand it can often be quite difficult to entice that customer to purchase something else – if you don’t have that brand or collection you may lose the sale. For WOLF, every one of your customers deserves to be a WOLF customer and we protect those items that a customer cherishes. Hopefully those are items they purchased from you, but even if they made those purchases from your competitor you have the chance to care for that customer and provide them the opportunity to purchase.

Tags : AurumCleopatra's Blinggeckomen's jewellerymens jewelryNormal PeopleUnique & CoWOLF
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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