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Commentary: The Business

IGI North American President Sees Omni-Channel Retail as the Way Forward

Digital platforms are crucial.




THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) has caused a ripple effect across every sector of our nation’s economy, including the jewelry industry. Business professionals must understand the implications of this virus and how the sector can prepare to be stronger for when it has run its course.

New information is reported by the hour, with many findings causing uncertainty and fear. Today, we’re experiencing:

  • Diamond pricing uncertainty. As today’s market is so limited, there are many unknowns as it relates to diamond pricing, causing an adverse effect to both buyers and sellers.
  • Precious metal price fluctuations. With high price volatility, there is less confidence when purchasing precious metal items for inventory. Combine this fluctuation with irregular spending habits, and retailers will not be able to accurately price or forecast their inventory.
  • Unpredictability regarding the pace of economic recovery and how quickly our customers will see money return to their pockets. If the industry does not know when consumers’ shopping and spending habits will normalize, it’s difficult for companies to plan accordingly — from inventory to staffing to new innovations.

As necessary precautions are taken to combat COVID-19, we proactively need to evaluate supply chain disruptions. This can’t be an “only the strong survive” scenario. We must recognize that consumers are not in a position to prioritize spending on fine jewelry and accessories. Companies must also simultaneously determine how work can be done remotely or in the safest way possible for employees onsite to ensure the health and safety of staff while still propelling their businesses forward.

This may be the most dramatic shift in business we’ll ever live through, and if history is any indication, consumers will come out of this more demanding than ever. While jewelry will remain one of the most sentimental categories, transparency and authenticity will be crucial values for companies to uphold. Customers will want (and need) the utmost confidence in what they buy after an extended period of unpredictability.

Companies should take advantage of this unprecedented time to create innovative avenues to reach their customers and operate their business. In this era of social distancing and growing prevalence of online markets, it’s the optimal time for jewelry companies to capitalize on effectively utilizing digital platforms. At IGI, we are creating online education platforms for retailers and consumers and curating new content on the Institute’s blog. When the dust settles, we will see elevated success for brands that transformed their brick-and-mortar business into a thriving omnichannel operation. This period of ideation can serve as a beacon of hope and will help empower the sector to be stronger once we’re on the other side of this pandemic.


Avi Levy is International Gemological Institute (IGI) North American president.

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For 25 years, Stafford Jewelers of Cincinnati, Ohio, was THE place to go for special gifts, engagement diamonds, high-end Swiss watch brands — in other words, the crème de la crème of fine jewelry. But this summer, the Stafford family was ready to retire. So, they chose Wilkerson to help them close up shop. “One of the biggest concerns was having the sale in the middle of COVID,” says Director of Stores Michelle Randle. Wilkerson gave the Stafford team plenty of ideas as well as safety guidelines, which they closely followed. “All of the employees felt safe, the customers coming in the door felt safe and we did a lot of business,” says Randle. How much business? “The inventory flew,” she says. Translation: They sold millions and millions of dollars-worth of merchandise. Randle calls it, “an incredible experience.” Would she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers who are thinking of thinning their inventories or retiring? “Everyone got more than what they expected out of the sale. You have to hire Wilkerson. They’re amazing.”

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