Rapaport Magazine
Markets & Pricing

Industry getting back to normal

The fourth quarter is off to a positive start as the solid sales of recent months prompt holiday optimism.

By Joyce Kauf
Summer’s momentum rolled into fall, offering hopeful signs for the upcoming holidays. With their retail clients reporting strong sales, wholesalers and manufacturers looked forward to a good season, even as the pandemic still raged.

New York: Extensive inventory

Nilesh Sheth was pleased to see his “better-than-expected” business continue over the summer, in part because his company stocks more than 100 different shapes. “We are known for that,” said Sheth, president of New York-based manufacturer Nice Diamonds, which works with both white and fancy-color diamonds.

“Given our huge selection, we can supply our retail clients and dealers with the stones they need. And if we don’t have it in stock, we can cut it,” he said. He believes in maintaining a large inventory, and he replenished it “constantly” over the summer.

JCK Las Vegas was a good show, considering the continuing pandemic, he commented. While he estimated that traffic was down by as much as 50%, “those who attended were serious buyers looking for specific items and trying to make the right connections for now and for the future.”

Old European and old mine cuts have been strong sellers, particularly among bridal consumers who want something unique — a trend he predicted would continue into the fourth quarter. Salt-and-pepper diamonds are also doing well, he said; their exposure on Instagram adds to their popularity.

“The momentum is there for the holiday and after,” stated Sheth. “The government is printing money, and people are spending it. Hopefully, we will come out of the pandemic soon. The industry has a few good years coming up.”

Tampa: Business as usual

“We’re back to normalcy,” declared Scott Terry, a partner at wholesaler Meridian Diamond in Tampa, Florida. The summer was a typical one, in contrast to last year, when clients “came out of the woodwork.” Still, he is looking forward to a holiday season that is “good to go.”

Terry, who exhibited at the Antique Jewelry & Watch Show in Las Vegas, observed that it had been well attended. However, given the late show date, he described it as more of a “gap-filling” than a “get-ready-for-season” event, because the larger chain stores had already made their purchases months ago.

Long fancy shapes continue to dominate sales, he reported. “Anything with length,” including rectangular radiants, rectangular cushions, marquises and ovals, are strong movers and “on trend with the retail consumers.” He predicted this pattern would continue through the fourth quarter.

“Rounds aren’t really a priority — you find yourself as one of a million when you have rounds,” he said.

Sourcing inventory often revolves around a quick turnaround. “I’ll source a stone on RapNet and offer it to the client. But more than likely, if it is exactly what the client wants, I have to move fast to make sure it is not sent to someone else. I have experienced that more in the last year than I ever have,” related Terry.

He reported declining sales for more included and bluffier stones — ones that appear bigger and higher-quality than they actually are. “You really have to get creative with the category by setting it or matching it,” Terry explained, citing competition from lower-priced lab-grown diamonds.

“The stores we work with are adopting lab-grown, even though their prices are dropping and may drop even further in the future,” he said. He was concerned about synthetics cannibalizing the market, but admitted it would be interesting to see how the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) segment evolved.

Fresno: Custom as a cushion

“We are already up 40% for this year,” reported Nader Malakan, president of manufacturer Malakan Diamond Company in Fresno, California. “This summer was even better than last year, which was one of our best years ever.” This bodes well for the rest of the year, he said — “assuming no catastrophe.”

His experience at JCK fueled his optimism, given that his clients “unanimously had record-breaking sales.” The show was marked by “very positive sentiment,” even if fewer people attended than in previous years, he said.

Bridal and fashion are selling well across the board, according to Malakan. He pointed to strong sales for 1 to 3 carats — the “medium and affordable price range.” In November 2019, he introduced lab-grown, which proved to be successful.

Malakan has experienced no inventory or staffing issues; all except one of his staff returned to work after Covid-19-related closures. For the last 20 years, he has done custom manufacturing, which has been a “cushion” with several benefits: It requires no new investment, is already sold, offers good mark-ups, and becomes a source of referrals for future business.

“I don’t see any reason why the holiday should not do well. Everything looks good,” said Malakan.

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

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Tags: Joyce Kauf