Sector booms as parents and kids demand more sophisticated jewellery.
Over the past few years an increasing number of new brands have tried their luck at the children’s jewellery market. Kathryn Bishop analyses the recent changes in the sector, and profiles the maturing child consumer who wants to be ahead of the game when it comes to being bejewelled and on trend.
In 2011 the childrenswear and accessories market in the UK remained one of the rosier sectors of retail leading to a flurry of luxury brands such as Stella McCartney, Gucci, Paul Smith and Burberry to move into producing dedicated children’s lines. And similarly in the jewellery business, brands have not been slow to identify what they hoped would be a gap in the market.
Children have long been catered for by the jewellery industry with brands and manufacturers focused on ceremony or landmark celebrations such as the giving of a silver Christening bangle, through to charms or tokens to mark events such as first days of school or birthdays.
Today, however, it appears that children’s jewellery is becoming a gift for any time – a just because item that mum, aunty or grandparents can give to show they care, rather than because of a milestone event. Furthermore, the changes to children’s awareness of brands and fashion has also led to a more developed and discerning child consumer – 15 years ago a 10-year-old child might only have desired a toy, but now a child of the same age has a wish list of branded goods and jewellery that mimics their mother’s or older sister’s tastes.
The children’s jewellery market is still relatively niche and while supermarkets and value retailers such as Matalan and Primark have become attractive choices for children’s clothing, specialist jewellery retailers are retaining sales for non-costume children’s jewellery. When it comes to buying for children, it would seem that gift givers still want to shop in a jewellery store for gifts that will no doubt be loaded with emotional attachment.
Emma Clifford, fashion and clothing analyst at market intelligence company Mintel, says the average spend on children is being positively impacted by a higher number of affluent families in the UK. “The childrenswear market is profiting from the shift towards smaller and wealthier families,” she says. “More women are delaying motherhood until their 30s, when they are financially secure and better positioned to splash out on their new arrivals.”
As a result, Clifford believes that affluent parents are encouraging “premiumisation” in the children’s market – that is, they are encouraging brands to create more high-end or expensive goods for a much younger generation.
Erica Illingworth, founder and director of children’s jewellery brand Molly Brown London, says the market is beginning to sit up and take note and despite the increased competition that this might mean for her brand she says she welcomes new investment in the market. “We are seeing other brands focusing more on this sector of the jewellery market and introducing stronger and bigger children’s collections, which is great,” she says.
Illingworth says that Molly Brown has enjoyed “an excellent start” to the year and has launched two collections ahead of spring, a time that is characterised by communions and Christenings – traditional hunting grounds for children’s jewellery sales.
Vicky Leyshon, head of design at Gecko Jewellery, which owns children’s jewellery brand D for Diamond, has noticed a rise in brands moving into the market. “The competition in this niche sector has increased over the past three to five years, but not many brands have stayed the course,” she explains. “It is a very competitive market.”
While other brands might have failed to make it, sales at D for Diamonds have grown and Leyshon says that retailers now have more faith in the brand and are buying more into its branded jewellery lines. “We have also noticed a heightened interest in D for Diamond since our rebranding and that current customers are adding more lines to their stock due to reinvigorated interest and demand from the consumers.”
Jeff Lancaster, founder of jewellery brand Kit Heath, which has been creating children’s jewellery since 2004, says that the UK is still a growing market, even when some families might be tightening their belts. “Children’s jewellery is definitely becoming more popular as consumer trends move away from only purchasing classic Christening pieces to designs that can be given for birthday and Christmas presents,” he explains. “Even in challenging times we love to spoil our children.”
Lancaster recognises there are “a few more” brands moving into creating children’s jewellery but says in reality it is still quite a small sector of both the jewellery and childrenswear market. “The market really remains quite small and so I doubt there’s room for too many,” he says. “We do expect the market to continue to grow slowly but surely.”
Despite the claims of more longstanding children’s jewellery brands that it is an attractive market for new players but one that is hard to crack, new brand on the scene Lily & Lotty says the initial response from retailers to its products has been “really good”. Just a year since it first launched, it is already stocked in about 40 UK jewellery and gift retailers.
Lily & Lotty founder Graham Stock is no stranger to the jewellery industry, having worked with Hot Diamonds in its Thai manufactory for many years before leaving and launching his own collections of diamond jewellery in 2010. He began with two women’s lines – It Diamonds and Lily & Lotty. After showing the latter brand to retailers, which was quite youthful compared to It Diamonds, many of them encouraged him to create something for children instead and so he extended the brand to include lines of children’s designs.
“We went to The Jewellery Show at Spring Fair in February 2011 with 20 lines of children’s jewellery under the Lily & Lotty brand,” explains Stock. “We designed it with my three daughters who are eight, 16 and 21 as well as with my wife who was a jewellery buyer and has worked in the industry for 30 years.”
This combination put Stock on track for success and during the show he said he was surprised at how positive a response he received for Lily & Lotty’s jewellery, which is now sold through more than 40 UK retailers.
“We try to be quite sophisticated with the designs, having started going down the route of candy floss pink at the beginning,” says Stock. “My eight-year-old daughter said ‘no, no, no’, that she would want the more grown-up-looking designs, so as a result the jewellery is more sophisticated, downscaled versions of the main Lily & Lotty collection but of the same quality.”
Stock says the brand has received positive feedback in the children’s jewellery sector. “It is a relatively niche market but it is a growing market,” he says. “We do a lot of market research as kids are getting more sophisticated and yes, while there is a market for the girly girl, more and more know their jewellery brands.”
LITTLE GIRLS VS. YOUNG LADIES
While Stock says that the market for girl’s jewellery might be growing up, just how the brands are responding is telling about the direction that children’s jewellery is taking.
Linda Lambert is the founder of girl’s jewellery brand Jo for Girls, which sells through Amazon and has about 400 active retail partners in the UK and Ireland including department stores. She has noticed a shift in how and what she is designing; taking a look back at her own childhood, while also asking her colleagues – a young mother and a grandmother – for ideas and feedback.
“I am taking a lot from my own childhood,” Lambert explains, describing the success of her split Best Friends pendant which was last year shortlisted at the Gift of the Year Awards. “It’s all about nostalgia because with children’s jewellery, while you’re designing for children, you’re marketing it at the adults, at the mums and the grandparents.”
Despite this, Lambert says that children want a voice when it comes to the jewellery they wear and that in fact she started the brand after she couldn’t find children’s jewellery suitable as a gift for her niece aside from baby and Christening jewellery. “Children want to be mini-mes and want what their mum and sister have got,” she says.
Jewellery designer Rachel Galley, who works under her own brand name, concurs with Lambert that parents, and mothers in particular, are influencing what their children are wearing. “I made some silver bangles with balls that rolled around inside them and found that a number of customers were taking them off and giving them to their children to hold like rattles,” says Galley. “So I made a couple in smaller diameter sizes, starting at 3cm, with the same rolling balls.”
Galley says she had never really thought about the children’s market since launching her brand in 2004 and so the success of this line has been an unexpected bonus. “Last week alone I sold about half a dozen.”
And the effect of copying mummy is not just linked to the design but also to the retail experience. “A lot of my stockists in wealthier areas of the UK are saying that mums are treating their kids to jewellery when they’re shopping,” Galley explains, noting that her star pendant design has also sold to teenagers.
Even brands such as Tresor Paris, known for its crystal bead bracelets, have designed with children in mind, enabling them to emulate jewellery worn by not only adults and teenagers but the pop stars and personalities that they see on TV or the internet; a strategy that is backed up by findings from the University of Leicester.
In a 2005 report, researchers from the university carried out a study into child consumers and fashion, and how children and parents adapt to the changing market for fashion and accessories.
It found that children as young as six recognised which brands were considered cool, while designer outfits and branding were used by parents “as a means to express material wealth”.
Influences such as pop stars and sports personalities also functioned as a point of reference for children. However, Leyshon argues this influence is not as prevalent in fine or silver jewellery designed for children.
“Media influence is particularly relevant for older children and teenagers due to trends in school, and are definitely more influential in costume jewellery, but not as much in fine jewellery,” she explains. “But as younger children’s jewellery is bought by parents and family, they tend to be drawn towards more fine classic pieces which are bought to mark special occasions. There is also a trend of daughters wishing to wear a smaller version of what mummy wears, which encourages more mini-me pieces.”
At Molly Brown, the brand has taken to designing for slightly older children and making jewellery with extra chain length so it can be worn by parents as well. “We have already introduced collections specifically aimed at older girls,” says Illingworth. “The Collection12 birthstone bracelets are very popular with teenagers and adults as well, and we have also pushed the idea of layering to customers and this has worked well particularly with older girls.”
Jeff Lancaster agrees that parents are still an influence but suggests that school friends and peers also play a large role in what children desire. “We can all see that children are influenced by their own media streams, but ultimately their parents and friends are their biggest influencers,” he explains.
Lancaster is keen to point out that while Kit Heath taps into the influences shaping children’s likes and dislikes, it is keen to avoid encouraging little girls to grow up too fast. “Children aspire to be grown up [but] we are very conscious not to take advantage of this for our own commercial gain – our jewellery is for adult gifting rather than self purchase by a child.”
MARKETING TO KIDS
As touched on earlier by Leyshon, when it comes to children’s jewellery the catch 22 is designing for children while creating jewellery that mums, grandparents or those gifting the item can appreciate the value and design of.
For many brands this is a challenge of both design and market research to ensure their product is neither too girly, too grown up or too expensive. Simultaneously, the quality of the product, its packaging and point of sale in-store remains important, as this will sometimes be the first point of exposure for both the child and the gift buyer.
For Lambert, Jo for Girls tends to hit seasonal peaks around Christmas and in the early parts of the year when Christenings and communions are prevalent. “We do a lot of traditional jewellery sales such as crosses and guardian angels for Christenings and first communions,” she explains. “Especially in Ireland where tradition holds fast.”
Lambert says that, when it comes to creating jewellery for little girls, “as long as it sparkles it will sell”, especially at Christmas, and references purple as the bestselling colour in her jewellery collections during the festive period in 2011. “We are designing all year round, though, and want to create pieces that can be worn into adulthood, not chucked away a year later because they’re gimmicky,” she says
Jo for Girls jewellery, Lambert says, is created to be gifted well into the teens, and even notes that her daughters’ friend, who is in her 20s, wore Jo for Girls’ red enamelled designs on her wedding day, as alternatives to rubies. “What we feel is that our collections are classic, they will appeal to most ages, they’re sharp, clean but still girly.”
While Stock says that his diamond collections are sophisticated, and suggests that girls are looking for jewellery that is more grown up, his collections still feature typical girls’ jewellery motifs such as butterflies, hearts and angels. However, he and his family have taken to creative ways of market research ahead of designing.
“We have pizza-making parties where my daughters’ friends come round and we give them a clipboard and show them some designs and get their thoughts, and then their mums come around and we ask them about prices and how much they’re willing to spend,” explains Stock. “Surprisingly most would rather spend £25 or £30 on a piece of jewellery rather than, say, £15 of £20 because they would rather feel like their money is going somewhere.”
Another brand that has worked with both parents and children is Kit Heath Kids. Lancaster has worked with retailers on in-store events to help promote and raise awareness of the brand.
“We provide our retailers with store events designed to capture the imagination of parents, grandparents and children,” he says. “We provide everything from publicity of the event to a free prize draw and cupcakes on the day.”
As well as in-store events, the brand has also pushed its digital presence with consumer interaction via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, using the sites to talk to consumers “not just about our jewellery but about themes and features that relate to the context it’s worn and bought for”. For example, Kit Heath Kids newsletter emails also promote companies designing for children’s birthday parties, promoting their products through its own consumer outreach.
The past year has been about redevelopment at D for Diamond, where Q1 figures in 2012 were “very much higher on last year’s Q1 figures”. Leyshon says this is due to re-branding in 2011, which included new colourful packaging and motifs, as well as improved point of sale displays and brand imagery.
Taking a different focus to marketing to mum, Molly Brown London has created a new collection of promotional materials for use in jewellery retailers, including look books and strut cards. The brand has also listened to feedback from retailers and has created staff training programs. But, the past few months have also been about the launch of a whole new facet for the brand – a collection created especially for mothers called Molly B Couture.
“We have spent the last few months developing the most exciting venture for us in 2012, the launch of our new adult brand, Molly B Couture. We have also developed a new website to coincide [with the launch] with an incredibly strong luxe feel,” explains Illingworth. “I think this will have a big impact on the growth and development of both brands throughout 2012 and beyond.”
KEEPING THE APPEAL
While the media, pop stars and television will continue to influence children, some brands offer that multiple retailers should make the most of offering children’s jewellery alongside adults as a form of add-on sale. Leyshon, who also designs collections for Gecko Jewellery’s wider ranges such as Elements Silver, says retailers should not overlook the options available to them.
“Multi-label suppliers who have a strong ladies brand can also try to capitalise on their expertise by offering the retailer and consumer a similar fashionable [children’s] style, a means of making children trendy,” she explains.
Likewise, Emma Clifford of Mintel says that retailers should make a point of drawing attention to their quality goods, for example those made from materials such as silver, gold, gemstone-set and enamelled jewellery. “Retailers with higher price points need to emphasise the superior calibre of their children’s offering, how it excels and hence is worthy of the initial investment.”
Galley agrees. “I think price is important and I don’t think anyone wants to spend £300 on their children, but it’s good to have a handful of pieces to expand your collection with,” she says.
Evidently the children’s jewellery market has a number of new contenders, from those who are dipping toes into the water fresh to those who have years of experience in the jewellery industry behind them and want add a new dimension to a business.
While still a niche area of the market for both jewellery retailers and designers considering a move into the sector, there is no doubt that children’s jewellery has moved from classic Christening gifts to more serious purchases that will give a little girl – or boy – their first taste of grown-up, precious jewellery. And with that, both designers and retailers should be prepared to take children, their taste and their slice of the market as a serious proposition.
This article was taken from the May 2012 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read a digital version of this issue click here.