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Eileen McClelland

What Jewelers Must Understand About Millennials, and 8 Other Takeaways from AGS Conclave

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After a few days immersed in education at the 2018 AGS Conclave, I’m eager to share some highlights from sessions I attended.  One theme is the fact that as demographics and lifestyles are changing, opportunities for growth and new directions arise along with all of the well-known challenges.

MILLENNIALS MEAN OPPORTUNITY. Retailers convinced that millennials don’t buy diamonds may not have all the information. In fact, millennials, who are now 24 to 38 years old, are much more likely to buy diamonds than any older generation, according to research from the Diamond Producers Association. Millennials spent $16 billion on diamonds last year, of which 50 percent was wedding and engagement jewelry. There are big numbers there, and big opportunity. By 2020, the generation’s disposable income will exceed $1.4 trillion. DPA focus groups reveal that millennials especially find value in the authenticity and rarity and individuality of diamonds. — From “Focus Group Confidential: Surprising Things We Learned From Millennials,” presented by Sarah Gorvitz, strategic communications and insights lead for the Diamond Producers Association.

CATER TO SELF-PURCHASING WOMEN. Women’s roles, attitudes and empowerment are affecting all consumer purchases. When it comes to jewelry, women are celebrating myriad moments in their lives, which can be unrelated to family or relationship milestones. A 2017 diamond acquisition study revealed that bridal represented 24 percent of diamond purchase value in the U.S; gifting, 47 percent, and self purchasing, 29 percent, which reflects a 50 percent increase over the past decade. Women’s spending power has increased, and they are buying more diamond jewelry for themselves. – From “De Beers Group Insights to Influence Your Marketing and Selling Strategies,” by Charles Stanley, president of Forevermark U.S.

CUSTOM IS KEY. Jewelry sales are growing ($91 billion in 2017) but jewelry sold by “other sellers” is rising much more rapidly than independent jewelry store sales. There are 91,000 places to buy jewelry but just over 23,000 jewelry stores. Today, 15 percent of engagement ring sales are custom; a decade ago, it was just 5 percent. So the ability to customize your offerings is key to increasing your sales. – From “State of the Jewelry Industry: Facts, Figures and the Future,” by Harold Dupuy, VP of strategic analytics at Stuller.

RECOGNIZE CASUAL TRENDS. Dress has become more casual and jewelry needs to reflect that trend, too. Remember that business casual is now the norm for office workers, while those working at home are likely to be wearing yoga pants and T-shirts. Make sure you can offer casual, wearable jewelry styles that fit today’s culture.  “Very heavy gem-set jewelry is the equivalent of Queen Anne dining sets or heirloom silver they have to polish. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want expensive jewelry. They just don’t want it to look like their parents’ jewelry. They value story, authenticity and individuality. You can’t count on younger customers growing into the taste for traditional fine jewelry.” – From “Too Old To Start Over But Too Young to Retire? Strategies to Balance Risk and Reward Amid Constant Change,” by Hedda Schupak, industry analyst and editor of the Centurion Newsletter.

HIRE CAREERISTS. It’s possible to shape millennial hires into serious sales people, but you’ve got to take hiring seriously yourself, first. That means no shortcuts or impulse decisions made to quickly fill a staff gap. Figure out who the job candidate is before he or she shows up for the first interview.  Joshua Pruschen, manager of Maxon Fine Jewelry in Springfield, MO, interviews each candidate three times. But before the first interview occurs, he asks each candidate to take a personality and skills assessment. If they’re joining the staff, he wants to make sure they’re interested in and capable of committing to a career. – From “Management 101.5, Managing Effectively, Efficiently and With Confidence.”

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EDUCATE SHOPPERS ON DIAMOND SHAPES. The appeal of a diamond shape to an individual seems instinctive, says jewelry designer Jade Lustig. Lustig is founder and creative director of Jade Trau, and a fifth generation diamantaire. If you’re selling a diamond ring, figure out which shape your customer is naturally attracted to. “A girl who wants an emerald cut doesn’t even see the other shapes,” Lustig says. “Her eyes glaze over.” Diamond shape should be a basic of everyone’s education, she says. – From “The Majesty, Mystery and Miracle of Diamonds: Why Jewelry Designers Love Working With Them,” moderated by Deborah Marquardt, chief marketing officer of the Diamond Producers Association.

MAKE EYE CONTACT. Studies show that 75 percent of the time the client is making eye contact with the seller – trying to assess their honesty — while the seller is looking at the client only 40 percent of the time.  If you were to increase your eye contact 50 percent or more, your credibility automatically goes up. But don’t do it 100 percent of the time – that’s just weird. – From “Sales Influence: Find the Why in (How People) Buy,” by Victor Antonio.

SLOW ‘EM DOWN. How can you get repair clients to look at jewelry while they’re popping in and out of your store to pick up or drop off repairs? In some strip center stores, it’s tough; a customer can literally walk down the middle and zing — right to the service desk. Consider adding an island, to create more of a flow around the cases. “You can’t make people look at things, but you can slow them down on their rush to pick up whatever the are there for. There may be a way to reuse your existing cases to create more of a meandering path, or maybe buying one new case would make it work.” – Interior designer Ruth Mellergaard of Grid 3 International, from “How a Store Renovation Improves the Customer Experience,” moderated by Trace Shelton, editor in chief of INSTORE.

PROTECT YOUR WORK. Any original work of artistic expression qualifies for copyright protection.  If a jewelry designer creates earrings in the shape of a bumblebee, for example, the designer can’t stop someone else from creating their own interpretation of bumblebee earrings. But a copyright can protect the specific design. The copyright is automatically secured when the work is created and fixed in a tangible medium. Notice of copyright is not required in the U.S., but filing for registration with the copyright office will help you prove you had the design at a certain date. To apply electronically, registration costs $35. JVC has published a guide titled “I Have An Idea! JVC’s Guide to Intellectual Property Law.” – From “Intellectual Property Laws for Jewelers,” by Sarah Yood, senior counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.

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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Eileen McClelland

Gemfind’s Data Mining Has Potential to Predict the Future

New subscription service available for trend forecasting.

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EVERY TIME CONSUMERS click on a piece of jewelry on a retailers’ website, they leave tantalizing clues behind about shopping trends that have the potential to predict the future.

Alex Fetanat, CEO of GemFind Digital Solutions, has found that because of the digital services the company provides, particularly website management, diamond sourcing apps and e-commerce functions, they have access to a rich source of data. The company, which connects 400 retail jewelry clients with 124 jewelry manufacturers and 60 to 70 diamond suppliers, is able to track hundreds of thousands of consumer clicks each month.

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“We generate reports based on historical searches and clicks on every website we manage,” Fetanat says.

That data can determine what’s trending and what people are searching for in terms of diamond size, cut and clarity. And because the search for a diamond engagement ring typically takes 30 to 90 days, the data can be used to predict shopping trends. It can also be focused on a specific geographic area.

Generating reports based on that consumer data is a new service that Gemfind is offering in the form of a subscription service as well as an in-depth analysis.

Fetanat says the service can be invaluable to diamond cutters and sightholders as well as retailers. “If they see what consumers are searching for and clicking on they will be able to better curate a list of what’s needed in the market rather than just randomly buying things. When you know what consumers are searching for, you can better stock inventory and grow sales through effective target marketing.”

For example, a semi-annual report published recently by Gemfind reveals that:

  • Forty percent of diamond searches are for VS1 and VS2 clarity. This may indicate that few consumers understand that an SI 1 or even an SI2 can be just as beautiful and brilliant as a VS diamond, indicating an opportunity for education on the retail level.
  • Most popular color search is G, followed by H and F. The predominance of the G-H color range shows that consumers understand diamond color and pricing for those colors in comparison with the DEF range, which is a function more of rarity than beauty.
  • Most popular diamond carat weight is 1 carat to 1.25 carats; .75 to 1 carat make up the majority of the remaining consumer searches.
  • Searches for round diamonds continue to dominate the market, but ovals have been increasingly popular, overtaking both cushion and princess for second place. Square cuts, representing cushion, princess and Asscher each represent about a fifth of consumer diamond searches.
  • Most consumers do not search for diamond cut grade, but of those who do search for cut the excellent cut grade predominate. Because excellent cuts are expensive and rare, consumers are unnecessarily constricting their search in this area. That indicates the consumer needs additional education on cut grade.
  • Consumers searching for loose diamonds tend to focus their search in February and March, which covers both Valentine’s Day and spring proposals.
  • Overall, consumer knowledge of GIA and other diamond grading laboratories is very limited. But those who do search for certificates understand the value a GIA certificate gives a diamond while having little to no knowledge of other labs.

To receive a trends report each quarter, visit www.gemfind.com/trends-report; for more information, call (949) 752-7710. To order a copy of the full report, visit https://info.gemfind.com/gemfind-diamond-consumer-trends-report-2019-0.

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Eileen McClelland

Longtime Jeweler Eases Into Retirement but Still Loves ‘Placing Beautiful Things With the Right People’

Jo Rosenblum King prepares to auction a treasured collection.

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Jo’s parents, Earle and Isobel and Jo Rosenblum King

JO ROSENBLUM KING is one of the first jewelers I got to know after I joined INSTORE in 2007. I met her at the Houston Jewelers Breakfast, a group that generously took me under their wing, and she helped me embark on assembling a fine jewelry wardrobe by selling me my first strand of pearls, which, true to her clienteling super powers, she remembers 12 years later.

Jo and her local “competitors” taught me that jewelers who cooperate can learn a great deal from each other. It was inspiring to see that collaboration in action as they traded advice, jokes and gems over waffles or scrambled eggs at the crack of dawn. It helped me understand, too, how INSTORE was a type of jewelers’ breakfast for retailers who might otherwise feel isolated.

Jo told me this week that although she did more or less retire a few years ago, she still has jewelry in her vault that she plans to auction. She wants to get the word out about that, because she wants each cherished piece to find the right home.

Since she joined her family’s business as an adult, her favorite part of selling jewelry was placing her favorite pieces in nice homes. “I began to feel like an adoption agency,” she says. She made sure they were presented in the best light possible, too, once packaging a charm bracelet of baby shoes (one for each of seven children) in a doll house. “Sometimes you had to go all out with certain customers and buy things to create a magnificent giftwrap,” she says.

Jo grew up knowing the value of personalized customer service.

Her parents, Earle E. and Isobel (Billie) Rosenblum opened a mom and pop store in a downtown Houston office building in 1955 when downtown was still the center of the city’s commerce and populated with well-heeled oil-industry types. One of those Houston clients, a rancher, had bought a new Cadillac and wanted CZs set in the fins. They took on the job, but had to make frequent repairs because every time they visited the gas station, some CZs would wind up missing.

Earle and Isobel expected all of their children to work in the family business when they were growing up.

“We wrapped gifts to earn money,” she says. “We all spent summers and Christmas working in the store. My brother, my sisters, we all had to wait on customers. But as an adult I never had anything to do with it until they asked me to come help with the jewelry store when someone was on vacation.”

Suddenly, retail jewelry became a calling and not a chore.

“How bad can it be when you’re surrounded by beautiful things?” Jo says.

Earle died in 1996 and Jo bought Isobel’s share of the business in 1999 and moved into a retail space at the Hilton Houston Post Oak in Houston’s Uptown neighborhood.

The space was tiny and narrow but Jo loved to fill it with hand-picked treasures and enjoyed meeting hotel guests from all over the world while continuing to nurture local relationships.

Her customers always appreciated her honesty about what looked good on them, or not so good.

And she enjoyed expanding their horizons and their appreciation of fine jewelry.

“Expanding their expectations was my favorite thing,” she says. “They’d come in with a little bitty earring and I’d bump them up and up to larger sizes. I liked finding things that looked good on them. I do have a good eye for that. I miss going to shows and picking out things that my customers would like.”

Jo doesn’t recommend retiring “cold turkey” and so she has continued to meet with long-term clients as a jewelry consultant since she closed her retail doors four years ago, while appreciating being able to sleep later.

Things had changed in the jewelry business at that point and competition had become incredible. “Everyone who ever managed a jewelry store would go out and open their own. There were so many jewelry stores,” she says. “When my dad first started there were a handful and Houston wasn’t half as large. But customers would trust you, they would assume you gave them a good price because you had been their jeweler forever. Now they want to buy it online and then see what you think of it, because they trust you.”

“It was a nice career and a lovely business, placing beautiful things with the right people.”

Now she’s decided it’s time to sell the remaining jewelry from her collection, those special pieces still looking for just the right home.

For more information about Jo’s Fine, Fabulous and Funky Jewelry & Gift Sale, which goes live on Nov. 1, visit liveauctioneers.com.

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Big Survey

2019 Big Survey: Jewelers Predict Next Trend in Jewelry

Results of the 2019 Big Survey are in. Here’s a sample.

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WE ASKED 800-PLUS retail jewelers to take an educated guess at the next breakout category in jewelry.

Here are their top 10 responses:

1. Lab-created diamonds and finished jewelry. (“I think we are already seeing it and it is anything with laboratory-created diamonds.”)

2. Yellow gold (“Yellow gold has been hot, but with the current prices I am not sure.”)

3. Color (also described as rare, exotic and bold. Spinel was mentioned more than once.)

4. Silver (including silver fashion with lab-grown diamonds)

5. Custom and custom bridal

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6. Stackable rings and bracelets

7. Men’s jewelry (Fashion, engagement rings and precious metal wedding bands were mentioned.)

8. Pearls

9. Avant-garde or alternative bridal, including anything asymmetrical

10. Pre-owned jewelry, including vintage jewelry, updated estate jewelry, repurposing old jewelry and restoration of a customer’s jewelry

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted in September and October and attracted responses from more than 800 North American jewelers. Look out for all the results in the November issue of INSTORE.

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