De Beers Buys Out LVMH; Takes Control Of Branded Retail Shops
London, UK—A diamond may be forever, but the 16-year partnership between De Beers and LVMH is kaput. De Beers Group announced Tuesday that it has completed the purchase of LVMH’s 50% shares in De Beers Diamond Jewellers, the retail partnership venture launched to great fanfare in 2001.
At that time, executives from both entities anticipated the combined brand equity of De Beers and LVMH would lead to upwards of 250 branded De Beers diamond jewelry shops in luxury locations worldwide, but today, De Beers Diamond Jewellers’ retail network comprises just 32 stores in 17 cities around the world. It has several locations in China as well as an established presence in London, Paris, and a new flagship location on Madison Avenue in New York City, which opened in December after the original De Beers store at 55th and Fifth Avenue (shown left) moved.
The launch of the De Beers-branded retail stores, while not significant competition for luxury independent jewelers, was an unmistakable signal to the diamond industry that De Beers was shifting from its historical role of industry custodian to focus on the down-market sale of its own stones.
Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, said: "With its strong brand awareness, consummate diamond expertise, and a commitment to responsibility, De Beers Diamond Jewellers is a trusted and industry-leading diamond jeweler. More fully integrating the De Beers Diamond Jewellers brand and store network will enable us to deliver an even more differentiated diamond offering, alongside our fast-growing diamond brand, Forevermark.”
Francois Delage, CEO of De Beers Diamond Jewellers, said: “De Beers Diamond Jewellers is firmly established as one of the world’s leading diamond jewelry retailers. We already have a shared heritage and strong brand link with De Beers Group. By being fully part of the Group, we will benefit even more from the unique diamond culture, established since 1888. We will continue to offer passionate and peerless diamond expertise to our discerning clients around the world.”
Interior of the new De Beers Diamond Jewellers store in New York City.
Hero, New Hybrid Of Digital And Live Selling, Debuts With John Hardy
London, UK—A huge problem with selling luxury jewelry online is that a $1,000 diamond doesn’t look much different from a $10,000 diamond when both are just shown as static photos on a hygienic white background on a screen.
“The emotional component comes in person when you’re looking at it in the showroom,” says Alistair Crane, CEO of Hero, a UK-based retail technology company that is working to bridge the gap between online selling and human interaction.
Its new technology, recently implemented by luxury brand John Hardy, allows customers to click a button and be connected to a live sales associate. The initial contact between shopper and sales associate is via chat box, but as soon as the connection is established, they can switch to live-stream, so the customer can see the associate in store and also see the jewelry up close. The associate then can show details like a clasp, the inside of a piece, how it sits on the body, and so forth, live, in real time.
“It’s all the things you’d want answers to before spending thousands on jewelry,” says Crane.
At present, John Hardy is the company’s main entrée into the jewelry industry, but Crane says the technology easily can be used by any retail jeweler with minimal startup expense.
The customer's view of Hero's live/online hybrid technology from the John Hardy website, above. Below, the sales associate's view:
If you come in with a big capital requirement it turns retailers off, he says. Hero works on a shared success model, similar to other affiliate fees. Typically, those fees range from 2% to 10%, depending on the product line and margin.
“We’re not looking to change [retailers], just support the way they’re already operating,” he says.
The software is in use by retailers in the United Kingdom, but other than the John Hardy partnership, not yet in the United States. In the UK, Crane says thus far it’s been larger retailers that have reached out because higher end brands and higher order values make it easier to justify the investment, but from the customer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter whether they’re spending $100 or $10,000.
“They all want the same level of information and service,” he said.
Stuller, Inc. Hosts Mini Conference For Leading Jewelers Guild
Lafayette, La—Stuller Inc. recently partnered with the Leading Jewelers Guild to host a one-day conference at its global headquarters in Lafayette, LA, giving members of the guild an entire day of education and networking.
The one-day event, somewhat similar to Stuller’s famed Bridge events, started with an opening from Stuller president, Danny Clark, then followed by educational classes ranging from new trends in bridal jewelry to innovative developments in technology. The group also toured the 600,000-square-foot Stuller factory and talked with founder and CEO Matt Stuller.
The Leading Jewelers Guild at Stuller headquarters.
The goal of the event was for Stuller to expose these luxury jewelers to everything the firm can offer, said Alex Graham, customer events manager.
“We had an awesome time at Stuller,” said Jenny Caro, of Jewelry by Design in Virginia. “Hearing Matt Stuller first hand tell his story about starting his business from scratch was very interesting. He is an inspiration to the jewelry industry for what he has accomplished.” She urged jewelers to visit the firm’s headquarters or register to a Bridge Conference.”