Independents and national jewellers up and down the country have been seeing continued success with their bridal jewellery offer, with many naming it the biggest part of their business.
Bridal has and will always be important because it can start a special relationship with a consumer that will have them coming back to commemorate all memories, moments and milestones.
However, in order to keep seeing continued success suppliers must be on the money with their product offer and retailers need to make sure they are delivering a customer experience that is a cut above the rest in today’s competitive market.
Here, we find out what the industry has been doing to innovate in this sector of the market.
ON THE SHOP FLOOR
Like many, luxury jeweller Laings strives to deliver an extraordinary customer experience, no matter the purchase, with staff going out of their way to make everyone who walks through the door feel special.
In today’s digital age though, the customers relationship with a store doesn’t start from the moment they cross the threshold — something Laings has increasingly taken into consideration.
Brian Nelson, general manager at Laings Edinburgh, shares with Professional Jeweller: “It all starts with a strong social media and web presence that exudes quality and confidence to potential customers. This is often their first experience of Laings and it’s important to make a luxurious first impression.”
As bridal clients are often looking for something more unique, Laings also offers a bespoke jewellery design service, which helps give the business a competitive edge in the areas it trades in the UK.
Having a strong bespoke design service also sets Allum & Sidaway apart, with many shoppers commending the retailer’s bespoke design director, Ivonna Allum, for helping them create a unique and personal piece.
To enhance the bridal shopping experience in store Allum & Sidaway has also introduced a wedding dress boutique at its flagship showroom in Salisbury.
Situated on the first floor, the new venture allows brides-to-be to not only shop for wedding bands and jewellery, but to find their dream dress as well.
“Bridal business is one of our favourite aspects of our trade; to share in such an important occasion is so special. Now we can extend our bridal offering to deliver the ultimate personalised experience,” shares Allum & Sidaway managing director, Jason Allum.
To help bolster business Allum & Sidaway’s planning a bridal showcase event this year, which will combine the wedding dress boutique and jewellery offering with products from other local suppliers.
For David M Robinson, a large focus over the last 12 months has been on the jeweller’s new showroom in Manchester, which steps up the company’s efforts to be leaders in luxury and to wow clients from the moment they walk through the door.
When it comes to bridal, every effort is made to build true relationships with clients, which is why a bridal expert will look after them from their first enquiry, very often through many years of anniversaries and birthdays.
“As competition increases on the high street and online, your client can easily opt to make their purchase elsewhere, thus their expectations increase. It is our job to go above and beyond each time,” says Alisha Duffy, showroom manager at David M Robinson’s boutique in Liverpool.
“What we must remember is that purchasing an engagement ring can be both a daunting and overwhelming task for clients who may have previously never purchased fine jewellery. Our clients appreciate the assistance of our helpful experts and this is what makes us stand out. After 50 years of crafting beautiful diamond jewellery, I guess you could say we know a thing or two about making the journey as stress-free as possible.”
At Lumbers in Leicester the jeweller offers a same-day service, which will allow shoppers to change the size of a ring or even swap a diamond with ease.
This after care service has proved just as important as other aspects of the business for the award-winning jeweller.
In addition, the jewellery retailer’s director, Dominic Gomersall, says bringing the buying of diamonds in-house and buying mounts direct has given Lumbers an edge over competitors as “clients always know they are getting the best price”.
Dominic Gomersall affirms: “We don’t double the price and half it as some retailers do.”
To enhance its bridal offer further, later this year the jeweller will be creating the ‘Lumbers Diamond Room’, which will give clients the opportunity to relax away from the main store and have an even better engagement ring buying experience.
In Edinburgh, Hamilton & Inches remains a cut above the rest by offering unique and high quality products produced from its workshops on-site, and for the first time this year the business will be producing its very own collection of engagement rings.
Chief executive officer, Victoria Houghton, reveals: “Next year will see the launch of a new range of engagement rings, which have been designed in-house and will be handcrafted in our own on-site workshops. It is a real strength of ours to be able to do everything in house, from the initial designs and samples to the finished ring, but we have never created our own collection of engagement rings before. With the huge success of our 2019 Scottish Gold jewellery launch, we are very excited to showcase what our in-house craft people can achieve.”
For jewellery retailers that are unable to design and manufacture their own jewellery products, they rely on suppliers to keep up with the latest trends and innovations to offer them something commercial, yet eye catching, to place in their windows.
And, thankfully for British jewellers, they have a number of UK suppliers which deliver not only second-to-none products, but a service to match as well.
“We work hard to stay ahead of the trends; it’s why we engage in regular customer focus groups, listen to the feedback from our field sales team and research jewellery, fashion and other industry trends to seek inspiration as to the next trend,” shares Domino Jewellery creative director, Naomi Newton-Sherlock.
Domino Jewellery regularly launches new products, many of which quickly become bestsellers. Last month, for instance, the award-winning supplier launched a new line of 25 shaped and decorative wedding rings in response to continuing personalisation trends.
New launches are always supported with holistic, effective and evolving services, with the supplier really believing in a partnership approach.
Newton-Sherlock explains to Professional Jeweller: “Retailers are looking for a full-service package from suppliers. It’s no longer just about providing retailers with a high-quality product.
“We aim to provide our retailers with high quality, design-led, innovative products that are ethically manufactured. We do this within the most competitive lead times, delivered with industry leading service levels, all backed by a full marketing support package. It’s this holistic approach and the two-way feedback loop that is key to everything that we do at Domino.”
Hockley Mint hit the nail on the head when it launched the Embrace collection at International Jewellery London last year. The heart-shaped, British-made designs won the approval of British jewellers, and became the company’s best collection launch for years. Due to the success, the company will be adding to this collection in 2020 with a selection of halo engagement rings featuring the same distinctive looping setting.
Strong new product launches come coupled with a customer-first attitude from Hockley Mint, with the supplier recognising flexibility is extremely important to retailers in today’s market.
“More end-consumers are asking for slight variations on standard styles or bespoke adjustments,” says Hockley Mint’s creative manager, Poppy Elder. “As a British-made manufacturer, we can easily adapt pieces as they are all crafted and finished on site. This reduces lead times and makes offering consumers a twist on the classic a more viable option for retailers.
She continues: “Our retailers have been asking for reduced delivery times, which has really inspired us to up our game. For Christmas 2019, we extended our ordering dates well into December to support our retailers, while also bolstering our stock levels to ensure next day delivery on some items.”
Fine jewellery manufacturer, Stuller, has also noticed a rise in jewellers needing a fast turnaround service.
Stuller bridal director, Alex Graham, shares: “While Stuller has a vast inventory ready for next-day shipping, everyday a retailer asks us for something outside of the standard — whether it’s a modified style, a quicker turn around for a special project, a rare gemstone, or a completely custom piece. Our job is to figure out how we can say yes to all of these requests, every time. Because we want to give the retailer a win every time, and that’s the biggest support they need — a partner that can not only say ‘yes, we can do that for you’ but also, ‘we can get it there fast’.”
As a company, Stuller prides itself on offering clients a full bridal experience — from endless design options and easy-to-use tools to bespoke services and social media support.
In 2020 Stuller will be building on this with the launch of a new wedding band experience and the continued development of its 3c assortment making customising an engagement ring, eternity or anniversary ring, or a wedding band easy, fast, and reliable.
“Being able to create quality, custom designs with a quick turnaround continues to be incredibly important to our retailers who are facing large demand from consumers for something unique. Stuller continues to work on options and resources for our retailers to meet these demands through our CAD/CAM department,” Graham says.
Elsewhere award-winning supplier, Gemex, also offers retailers a free state-of-the art fully bespoke CADCAM service, the standard of which is one of the very best in the market, while its website continues to be extremely popular amongst jewellers, helping the diamond firm sell in excess of 40,000 diamond set rings a year.
Taking its service up a gear, this year will see Gemex provide Application Program Interfaces (API’s).
Gemex managing director, Lee Ruben, shares: “We have a good 50 retailers on board ready to implement API’s onto their websites which will allow their sites to talk to our website 24/7. The great advantage is that our customers can show over 16,000 sku’s of our products without the need to invest in product. The API ensures that the retail price is always up to date no matter how adverse the fluctuations in metal or diamond prices or even exchange rates. The updates are all fully automated.”
As the bridal market continues to boom, many retailers and suppliers will be working closely together to create a niche in what can often be described as a crowded market place.