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Lightbox Jewelry To Be Rolled Out to Retailers Within Next Two Years

The consumer launch was more successful than anticipated.

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LAS VEGAS — A year after De Beers rocked the JCK Las Vegas show by introducing Lightbox, its own lab-grown diamond jewelry, Lightbox managing director Steve Coe returned to the show with the news that the consumer launch was more successful than anticipated.

Lightbox pieces, which are lab-grown diamonds set in accessibly priced fashion jewelry, have been sold since September online and in pop-up shops.

Coe announced that he expects to begin market testing the brand in retail stores later this year. After the company’s $94 million plant in Gresham, OR goes online in 2020, production will increase and the brand will be offered to a broad range of retailers by 2021. Color offerings and jewelry-design styles will likely be expanded as well.

Coe says extensive consumer research has backed up the De Beers belief that laboratory-grown diamonds are best suited as fashion accessories for everyday wear, and not for significant occasions, such as engagement, for which consumers say they prefer natural diamonds.

In keeping with this philosophy, Lightbox does not plan to manufacture lab-grown diamonds that are larger than 1 carat. Lightbox jewelry will continue to be priced from $200 to $1,000 with a set price of $800 per carat. Settings are an additional $100 for sterling silver or $200 for 10K gold. De Beers currently offers Lightbox lab-grown diamonds in light pink and blue as well as in white. Although consumers surveyed by De Beers do initially seem confused when asked about lab-grown diamonds, continuing research has found they also are open-minded about purchasing them.

Lightbox surveys indicate that 98 percent of women are satisfied with the purchase once they own them. Young women are open to lab-grown diamonds, but are willing to pay more of a premium price for natural diamonds. The purchase of Lightbox jewelry is considered to be in the same category as a handbag or a premium pair of sneakers, Coe says.

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Email has been the best driver of sales; it tends to hasten conversion and lead to repeat purchases. Ten percent of shoppers who make a purchase have returned to make a second. Consumer conversion to purchase has been very rapid and more like the speed at which shoppers choose to purchase cosmetics and accessories than fine jewelry.

Currently, the biggest sellers are 1 carat solitaire earrings.

Coe also addressed general industry concerns on the topic of laboratory-grown diamonds.

TRANSPARENCY: De Beers laser inscribes each of its lab-grown diamonds of .2 carat size and larger, and would encourage other manufacturers to do the same.

GRADING: De Beers does not grade lab-grown gems because, Coe says, each manufactured diamond is of the same consistently high quality. He compared them to cars that come off a production line. Why would one be considered “better” than another if all of them are built under the same conditions?

TREATMENT: Although Lightbox lab-created diamonds are not treated beyond the process it takes to make them, De Beers takes the position that if a lab-grown diamond is treated to enhance its color, that treatment does not need to be disclosed. “This is nonsense,” he says. “This is a manufactured product. Color treatment is just another stage in the production process.”

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PRICING: Pricing structure is and should be very different than the pricing of natural diamonds, Coe says. Lightbox’s pricing simply reflects the cost of making them. “With natural diamonds, you have to take what nature gives you, so of course, larger stones are much more valuable than smaller,” he says. Among lab grown diamonds, a 1 carat lab grown is not more rare than a half carat. Either can be made to order. But the cost of producing a 1 carat lab grown diamond is roughly twice the cost of producing a half carat lab grown diamond, so that is how Lightbox determined its $800 per carat pricing structure.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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Commentary: The Business

To Stand Out From the Crowd, Build a Real Marketing Plan

A scattershot approach won’t work.

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WHO CARES ABOUT fine wine and nice cars? We should all be drinking two-buck-Chuck and driving a practical car, right? It would be cheaper, and cloth seats are the new leather. And while we’re at it, forget about the Jimmy Choo stilettos. You can match a sensible pair of shoes from Payless with that skirt … think of the money you’ll save. So, why don’t we? Because you would never bring two-buck-Chuck to a dinner party. Nice cars are reliable and fun to drive. And Jimmy Choo stilettos … come on. What do all these things have in common? Image, reliability and brand recognition.

It wasn’t that long ago that people were adamant about being different, building their brand and separating themselves from everyone else. But now a dark shadow of complacency has settled upon us, fueled by cheap services. Most of this comes from the fast growth of digital media and the slew of small companies that have popped up offering services from social media to paid search and email marketing. With most jewelers still not fully understanding this “new media,” it all comes down to cost.

There are a couple of reasons for this; first is a lack of buy-in. Many retailers don’t really believe in social or digital media. They just know everyone else seems to be getting involved, so they probably should, too. As a result, they seek out resources who will do the work cheaply and with minimal marketing dollars behind those efforts. That’s also the No. 1 reason their efforts fail. The second reason is believing these services are all the same. They’re not. Posting on Facebook or managing paid search in and of itself is not marketing. Without a sound strategy with objectives, you could actually be doing more harm than good. You don’t really think you get that for a couple hundred dollars a month, do you?

It’s sad but true: you get what you pay for. Most of the time, it’s templates, spitball marketing, below average results and a lot of time on the hamster wheel. What does that say about your store and your brand? When we all get over the cheap services, cheap websites, cheap everything, we’ll realize that there is something about being different, building the brand and separating ourselves from everyone else. That’s the day we’ll look back on the Age of the Cookie Cutters, open a bottle of Chateau Margaux and say, “Let’s build a marketing plan.”

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How Independent Jewelers Can Build a Strong Brand in a High-Tech World

Here are five ways to build a powerful brand while utilizing the latest tech in visual merchandising.

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RESPONDING TO THE pressures and opportunities of technology is a challenge for any jewelry retailer. Here are insights for using brand and visual merchandising to get the high tech and traditional balance right.

1. Start with the brand experience. How we shop and communicate is changing, but human nature remains the same. Traditional branding and visual merchandising still work in jewelry retailing. The latest tech trend can be just a distraction if you haven’t got the basics right.

2. Understand your story and your shopper’s journey before thinking about technology. Appeal to the senses, delighting shoppers through texture, color, lighting, sound, even scent. Focus on creating a mood and setting a scene to make an emotional connection with impact, with or without technology.

3. Use new props and displays to freshen up your shopping experience. Innovation is at work in areas like signage, props, forms, and fixtures. Here are a few low tech ideas with modern appeal:

  • Sparkling 3-foot-wide lips bring fashion, fun and smiles to a store.
  • Floating stone shapes hanging like clouds juxtapose lightness with weight to showcase jewelry with drama.
  • Multi-handed sprays of arms present bracelets, watches and rings in a way that is far beyond the staid vitrine.

4. Remember that physical retail will never go away. Online retailers are turning to physical stores because online-only is relationship- and experience-limiting. Retailers from Amazon to James Allen are opening actual retail doors.

JamesAllen.com, an online diamond retailer, recently opened a store in Washington, DC. It is a physical manifestation of the online brand. Intimidating aspects of the traditional jewelry store are gone. Here is a welcoming, comfortable environment that invites exploration. Video images of jewelry greet shoppers as they engage with 3-D CAM/CAD design, virtual inventory and visualization tools. They can touch, feel and try on cubic zirconia ring models free of locked cases. The store is a test bed for virtual reality, consumer co-creation, shopping gamification, and product customization.

In-store technology goes beyond experience. By capturing shopper behavioral data, we can understand how customers interact and adjust stores accordingly.

5. Make sure your store stands out in a blurred, borderless retail landscape. The customer experience isn’t confined to a specific channel. A clear brand delivered with continuity across the physical, online, mobile and virtual is what wins. Don’t ask “what technology?” Begin with the brand, the customer journey and the experience. Regardless of technology, jewelry retailers that deliver continuity, clarity and relevance across channels will have an indelible and profitable impact.

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Shane Decker

What Not To Do During the First 30 Seconds of Any Sale

Huddling at the back is a big no-no.

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HAVE YOU EVER walked into what appeared to be a nice store, only to spin and leave faster than you came in? Or, have you ever walked into a nice place of business and watched two salespeople look at each other, then you, then each other again, like they’re seeing which one of them is going to wait on you?

You’re not alone — we’ve all had this experience, and jewelry stores are no exception. At too many stores, you’re not greeted at all, and sometimes, you can’t even find anyone to take care of your needs. This is one reason the Internet is doing so well.

People today are time-starved, and they will decide within the first 30 seconds of entering your store whether or not they’re going to give you their money.

Let’s begin with the first five seconds: every customer must be greeted — ideally, from the “sweet spot” in your store (15 feet inside your door to the customer’s right as they walk in). When you’re a client and you’re acknowledged, you feel important. It’s a relief subconsciously to realize that the sales associates know you’re there.

Never allow your sales floor to be vacant when clients come in. Many say they are just looking, but that’s an opportunity for you to use your first close by saying, “I always do that before I buy; let’s get started!” or “I’m glad you came in to take care of that today.”

“I’m just looking” means “I’m just spending.” It means “I’m on a mission, and when I find what I’m looking for, I’m gonna buy it.” It does not mean, “Leave me alone.” Like I said before, we are a time-starved nation, and nobody is just looking.

Do not come from the back of the store to the front; you should be there already. When you come from the back, your mind is focused on the busy work you were doing or the donut you were eating.

Never greet a customer from a group huddle. It’s good to laugh in your store, but if you’re all laughing about something when the client walks in, they may think you’re laughing at them.

Do not use canned openings like “Hi how are you?” or “What can I help you with?” Clients don’t need “help”; they want professional assistance to make a purchase or information about a service needed. Likewise, don’t say, “Good morning, welcome to Smith Jewelers.” That gets old, fast. What if they come in three or four times a year and hear you say the same thing? Keep your greetings creative and make sure they’re welcoming. Your greeting should be professional and make your client feel glad they came into your place of business.

Be present for the start of the sale, and keep it professional. Starting strong allows you to make it to the end (and hopefully close the sale). By doing so, you’ll keep your client from wanting to go to the Internet — after all, we do want to talk to real people, especially when it comes to jewelry.

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