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Eileen McClelland

Rapaport Urges Independents to Be Ready for Historic Transfer of Wealth

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MARTIN RAPAPORT turned his spotlight on independent jewelers during his annual Rapaport Breakfast event at JCK Las Vegas on Sunday, stressing their importance as the foundation of the diamond industry.

Independents are capturing about two-thirds of the American market in jewelry.

“Jewelers need to know they are important and deserve the full support of the diamond trade,” Rapaport said.

He advised independents to be prepared for a change in demographics that will bring the greatest transfer of wealth in history, from baby boomers to millennials, many of whom will be looking for buyers for their parents’ and grandparents’ diamond jewelry.

“You and your customers are a ping-pong ball in an ocean of change,” he said. “There’s going to be billions of dollars in finished jewelry on the market over the next 10 years. You must have the expertise to buy. You need to take care of that customer if they’re selling. The diamond business is not a one-way street. It’s a relationship.”

Guest speakers at the breakfast included Aleah Arundale, diamond dealer and founder of the Jewelers Helping Jewelers Facebook group; Sam Indelicato, a Gen Z director of jewelry at RDI Diamonds and co-founder of Saphyre Media; and David Kellie, CEO of the Natural Diamond Council.

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“Jewelry is one of the few industries that survived as small and independent. It comes down to the unique proposition of what we’re selling,” Kellie said. “The emotion that the consumer has around their jewelry is specific. Each piece of jewelry means something, a moment, an achievement, a memory. That is why small independent jewelers have survived.”

Kellie said independent jewelers will continue to succeed because most consumers want to establish the trust necessary to know what they’re buying. That trust is built on reputation, on word of mouth and on multi-generational families.

Arundale said it’s more important to train staff to be competent consultants than to rely on tech to drive purchases. “People don’t know what they want. If they knew what they wanted, they would’ve bought it. They want someone to tell them what they want.”

But Indelicato said it’s a fine line; as a Gen Z shopper he hates being sold, especially by a pushy salesperson. “I go to the internet, I know what I want, I research it to make sure the price seems correct and then go into the store. We have to use technology to reach them, but not bombard them. Build your reputation on digital, Facebook, Instagram, going to local events, connecting. But you have to use the internet to build your reputation.”

Rapaport said clienteling is a process that does use digital strategy.

“But then it’s really looking at how to convert the client in an honest way that justifies the amount of money they’re spending,” he said. “The independent jeweler has something very valuable to sell and that’s the experience.”

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Rapaport also urged independents to be true to themselves when deciding whether to sell lab-grown diamonds.

“Differentiate between the low-cost sparkle business and the expensive, real diamond jewelry business. Stay true to who you really are, to your real identity,” he said. “There’s going to be all kinds of shiny things coming in but stay true to your values. Jewelers need to have confidence in the value of the service and products they sell.”

Kellie said that in his view diamond jewelry has long-lasting meaning and sentiment. “To me, if that value is going down, doesn’t the sentimental value feel like it’s doing the same?”

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