When glitter isn’t enough, it’s time to get creative

While jewellery retail trends often mirror those of apparel and luxury goods, typically the category has lagged a few years behind. But this is beginning to change as experiential innovations catch on.

According to Daedal Research, the global jewellery market grew 5 per cent from  US$333 billion in 2017 to US $350 billion in 2018. In Australia, according to Ibisworld’s 2019 report, the jewellery industry grew 1.8 per cent annually between 2014 and 2019, partially due to an increase in tourist spending on luxury goods.

But the growth is patchy, varying across jewellery types, channels and countries.

When the market dries up

In the US, about half of 2000 consumers surveyed by Mintel in December 2018 had made no jewellery purchases at all in the preceding 12 months. In 2018 nearly one in 20 of the country’s highly fragmented, mostly small independent 19,000 jewellery businesses closed, according to the Jewelers Board of Trade.

Signet group, owner of brands Kay, Zales and Jared, has seen its shares lose 75 per cent of their value in the past three years due to declining footfall in the nation’s aging shopping malls, and is closing 150 stores as a result. 

E-commerce has taken longer to increase in jewellery than other categories, historically due to consumer reluctance to buy high-value items online. But shoppers are increasingly “showrooming” – trying on offline and buying online.

As of this May, according to GartnerL2, the online share of sales has doubled in the past five years and now accounts for 10 per cent of the US and Western European jewellery markets. Fashion jewellery sales online are expected to continue growing faster than those of fine or precious jewellery.

The growth of mono-brand stores in apparel and luxury goods – such as the expansion from half to a two-thirds share of total sales by LVMH’s own-branded stores in the 10 years to 2017 – is increasingly reflected in jewellery.

According to McKinsey, branded jewellery share doubled from 2003 to 20 per cent in 2014, driven by Cartier and Tiffany and newer entrants such as Pandora. Further growth was expected from luxury goods players in adjacent categories introducing jewellery collections. 

It’s the branded companies that are experimenting with experiential.

More than just trying on for size

Bulgari could be considered to have kicked things off in 2016 with a form of art installation in its Bond Street, London, store when it exhibited some late 20th century jewellery pieces along with their original design drawings.

Then at the end of 2017 Tiffany opened the Blue Box cafe in its flagship New York store. The next year, it opened the Style Studio in London’s Covent Garden. The duck-egg blue, Instagram-intended store sells the brand’s “everyday items” homeware and accessories range displayed on wooden crates to engage lower-spending, but still aspirational, customers.

The studio is intended to be more creative than formal, encouraging shoppers to create unique jewellery looks with unexpected combinations. A #MakeItTiffany personalisation bar enables customers to draw designs on a tablet and have them copied onto their new Tiffany piece, or simply have it engraved.

[SUB HEAD] Vending machines and pop-ups

An in-store vending machine stocks Tiffany perfume (these have since rolled out to other Tiffany locations). There is a curated range of the most desired collections, including Tiffany T and Tiffany City HardWear. An ongoing program of immersive experiences and events is planned, ranging from styling sessions to performances, art installations and animations.

Cartier, meanwhile, has been experimenting with pop-ups in Japan. A pop-up gallery named Tank 100 was installed within its Tokyo Roppongi Hills store to celebrate the Tank collection centenary.

Designed as both library and nightclub, the main room – dubbed “Tanktheque” – featured both artwork and technology. A large, red installation shaped like a castle and topped with lit candles was surrounded by displays enumerating the history of the Tank brand, and digital signboards played futuristic video works by Parisian artists. Tablets with online shopping options were available for shoppers to buy Tank collection pieces in situ, as well as any other Cartier item. Future pop-ups are planned.

Branded jewellers are beginning to leverage the emotional aspects of in-store experience which can’t be replicated online, and bring the digital and online in-store. It remains to be seen if the independents will follow suit.

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