Queensland, Australia—As always, jewelry and gemstone shows provide an excellent opportunity to have a whole range of experiences like renewing friendships, meeting new people, observing new jewelry and gemstone items, and attending educational seminars, talks, and social activities and programs.
My impressions were that the overall mood of the JCK Las Vegas show this year was quite positive, and feedback from the people I spoke with was that their expectations of the show had been exceeded. This was reassuring news for everybody across the spectrum of the jewelry and gem business.
As a supplier of Central Queensland gemstones, my particular interest at the show was on the coloured gemstone market, including developments concerning progress towards mapping the supply chain for coloured gemstones, trends regarding consumer behavior relating to purchasing of jewelry and gemstones, new and emerging jewelry designers’ opinions and insights, and observing how retail jewelers in the USA are adapting (or not) to contemporary marketing and sales of jewelry items. Here are my observations:
Macro Trends - Marketing and Sales. I confirmed through my observations and conversations that the trends towards personalisation and individualisation of jewellery continues unabated. More and more designers are promoting and creating custom work using a wide range of material and gemstones with consumers favouring these items. Although this large trend is originating off a small base relative to the mainstays of jewelery creations, the trend is undisputed and, in my opinion, will continue unabated.
I also observed that broadly speaking the retail jewellery industry continues to struggle with marketing, promotion and sales. A number of the seminar presentations I attended approached this topic from different perspectives, yet arrived at similar conclusions. Retail jewelry in the US is generally failing to come to grips with changes in tastes/technology and demands of the informed consumer. Arguable many retail jewelers have become “detached” from the younger consumer, particularly the Millennial consumer.
Insights I gained from the various seminars relating to retailing/sales strategies/technology seemed to highlight that the much of the retail jewelry industry was stuck in somewhat of a “time warp” utilizing marketing and sales practices and strategies from the 1970s and ‘80s, clearly in a disconnect with today’s consumers, particularly female and younger consumers.
Speakers at one seminar highlighted the disconnect in retail jewelry with contemporary 2017 consumer behaviors giving examples of poor service, confronting and intimidating experiences when entering jewelry stores, and anachronistic practices relating satisfying consumers’ needs for information and a pleasant purchasing experience.
One young speaker at a seminar on Multi-Generational Shopping Habits and Marketing Tips revealed his impression of shopping in a traditional jewelry store which he regarded as completely out of touch with his generation. His views advocated for significant change in the way stores are organized, the way jewelry items are presented and allowed to be handled, and he felt the design monotony of the actual items themselves thus required a complete overhaul of the retail sales model. These features coupled with the lack of understanding of social media use and impact, enabled me to understand the reasons why large numbers of retail jewelers are going out of business.
Another seminar topic considered how some retailers are advocating the need for more understanding of the new communication and connection technologies rather that the traditional gemological skill sets. Recent articles published in The Centurion both by myself and Hedda Schupak highlight a raft of concerns relating to contemporary jewelry retailing and specify some clear areas of concern as well as some likely trends going forward.
In summary, the JCK show served as a platform to confirm that all is not well in the retail jewelry sector and that much needs to be done by individual jewelry retailers to address these business disruptions as well as action by the associations and organizations providing assistance to help retailers change their business practices and move forward and succeed in serving customers’ needs.
Coloured Gemstone Market Developments. I was interested to see a number of gemstone dealers embracing the trend for ethical mining and responsible sourcing of coloured gems. Consumer choice and consumer demand for more transparency in gemstone procurement and production activities has resulted in a number of coloured gemstone merchants establishing their business model squarely on these principles. The likes of Columbia Gem House and Sheahan Stephen have implemented a range of their own protocols to ensure that ethical mining standards and provenance information is well known and understood given complete transparency to gemstone sourcing activity.
I also attended the JCK talk about responsible sourcing of gemstones. Andrew Bone (no relation), CEO of the Responsible Jewellery Council, indicated that progress was being made to develop a guide for compliance with responsible sourcing for coloured gemstones, and that by the end of 2018 a compliance system should be implemented.
I predict that more gemstone merchants will move (or be forced) into this market to maintain a viable business model, and that these merchants will be forming close relationships with producers from all gemstone locations across the globe, assisting them with improving their extraction and production standards and responsibilities.
In summary, I think that the JCK show was a further step along the pathway of a changing jewelry and gemstone market and industry. It is not only that consumer tastes have changed, it’s the case that consumers themselves have changed.
The need for greater collaboration between the market sectors of the industry is quite obvious. Producers will need to collaborate more with gemstone dealers and dealers with producers. Designers and manufacturers will also need to collaborate more closely with metals and gemstone producers.New ways of working together are emerging and will continue to do so into the future.