Rapaport Magazine
Markets & Pricing

Digital gives results a boost

Retailers saw a solid first quarter as consumers diverted their entertainment and travel dollars to jewelry.

By Lara Ewen
Vaccine rollouts and a robust luxury market helped the jewelry industry flourish in spring 2021. In particular, retailers with a well-defined digital strategy said they had maintained and even expanded their customer bases, with help from bridal. While some jewelry dollars might be rerouted to the travel and restaurant sectors later in the year as the country reopens, most store owners said the year was off to a strong start, and they expected that trend to continue.

Jump in Revenues

Engagement-ring sales have been especially strong, in part because smaller weddings tend to mean less money spent on catering and more money to put toward wedding jewelry.

“Since the beginning of 2021, sales have been really great for us,” said Valerie Madison, owner of Valerie Madison in Seattle, Washington, which specializes in engagement and wedding jewelry. “Many of our couples have settled into their new, smaller and more intimate wedding plans for 2021. Naturally, rings come with that.”

Last year was her best ever, and her 2021 sales are building on that, she added. “We’re fortunate to be performing more strongly than last year. Covid-19 certainly made people think about their priorities, and luxe jewelry purchases felt special to our customers during an uncertain time.”

The year has also started out well for Dana Walden Chin, cofounder, with his wife, of Dana Walden Bridal in New York. “Our sales are generally pretty strong and consistent across the board,” said Walden Chin. “But since January 1, we’ve noticed a huge uptick in business. We’re lucky enough to have a tightly knit community of clients, many of whom are returning for jewelry after their initial engagement ring and wedding band purchases. But we’re also noticing a substantial increase in the number of new clients that are reaching out and inquiring about our engagement rings and wedding bands. About 80% of these inquiries are converting to sales at some point in the year, so we’re very pleased with 2021 thus far.”

At online-only retailer Swoonery, founder and CEO Jean Z. Poh said business was increasing as the overall consumer mood lightened. “We had a strong first quarter, and momentum keeps picking up,” she related. “I feel the vaccine has given people hope of getting out and about again, and that’s being reflected in their purchases.”

Poh closed Swoonery’s Fifth Avenue jewelry salon in New York in 2020, but used the change to refocus online efforts. “Last year was one of our strongest years,” she said. “Swoonery started as an online retailer, so we didn’t have to adjust our operations much to handle the pandemic.”

What’s moving

Even stores with brick-and-mortar locations have found that clients are ready to spend more online.

“Our online sales are usually under the $10,000-per-item price point,” commented Walden Chin. “In-studio appointments have quite an open range, but our average price point is around $20,000. Interestingly enough, since we’ve been taking virtual appointments, many of the higher-price-point diamond transactions, $20,000 and above, have been happening online as well.”

For Madison, there’s not much difference between online and in-store customers. In both cases, “our best sellers seem to be the same,” she observed.

Finding new customers

Madison’s Instagram account — with over 71,000 followers — and her more than 100 five-star Google reviews helped her expand her reach. “We have found new customers very organically,” she said.

A robust online marketing plan has also worked for Poh. “We have a diverse digital marketing strategy that accounts for most of our growth,” she said, adding that gold — especially yellow gold — was trending. “We’re selling earrings and bracelets in the $5,000-to-$7,000 range. Gold and diamonds, everyday pieces, but on the chunkier side. We’re definitely seeing [that] yellow gold is back.”

Walden Chin’s current customers are his best resource. “We’ve found new customers through organic growth and word of mouth, which are key in New York City,” he said. “In the end, every sale is a trust transaction. When folks have a first-rate experience with us, they tell people in their network, and we have new clients that are really invested in who we are as creatives, and our brand. And as much as we love our new clients, it’s important to note how much we value our returning clients. They’re the bedrock of our business and really supported us during the New York City lockdown. Many of our clients came back to us to shop for jewelry, even if they weren’t necessarily in the market, just to support our work.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2021. To subscribe click here.

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