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It’s Story Time in the Diamond Industry

Day 1: Notes from Las Vegas

Jun 5, 2017 9:35 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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Standing in the security line at JFK International Airport, preparing to unbuckle my belt and take off my shoes, I realized why I love coming to Las Vegas each year for the various shows that are taking place this week. For one thing, you get to see old friends and the many industry characters who attend. For another, there’s generally a flood of news coming out of the shows. There’s really no other event in the trade’s calendar that gives the same insight into the pulse of the diamond and jewelry market.

I was therefore hardly surprised when I passed by Jean-Marc Lieberherr, CEO of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), in the security line, where he teased me that his organization would have a significant announcement out by the time we landed in Las Vegas. Sure enough, the first email I received on arrival was an announcement that the DPA had secured a $57 million budget for this year — of which $50 million was earmarked for its US campaign.

That’s a notable increase from last year’s budget — more than quadruple — and will effectively allow the DPA to conduct a “full-scale launch of the ‘Real Is Rare’ campaign,” Lieberherr said in the press release. We’ll be keeping close watch on what the DPA does with its war chest in the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, Forevermark revealed a change in focus for its fourth-quarter advertising campaign at its annual breakfast in Las Vegas on Sunday morning. The De Beers brand will concentrate on women self-purchasers by introducing a collection that “celebrates the individual qualities and accomplishments of women.”

Following research De Beers published last week showing that millennials are increasingly buying diamond jewelry for themselves, Forevermark will launch a line of earrings, necklaces and rings — as well as an advertising campaign — to capitalize on that trend this Christmas.

That got me thinking that we’ve been hearing an awful lot about millennials in the last few years. But really, the conversation is less about the millennial generation, and more about the millennial way of consuming.

As a Generation X-er myself, I don’t buy stuff the way I used to. I also engage with companies and products differently. I tweet, like posts on Facebook and Instagram, and research what I want online, if I don’t make the final purchase there, too. And I want to be assured what I’m buying is real, has meaning and value.

Turns out many of the JCK Talks education seminars on Sunday focused on those very issues, with the industry emphasizing storytelling to engage with those (us) new-age consumers.

In one such example, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) outlined its “Mine to Market” traceability program, which it claims can determine a polished diamond’s origins with certainty in 90% of cases. The GIA has developed an app that enables retailers to tell the diamonds’ mine-to-market story, using the lab’s provenance data to enhance the customer experience.

Similarly, the World Diamond Mark — the marketing effort of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) — presented its “Part of You” program, which involves collecting diamond stories during and after the show to use as a promotional tool for the industry.

Throughout the day, there was an underlying focus on enhancing the authenticity of the diamond jewelry experience, be it through storytelling or other means — and with that, an acknowledgement that the industry needs to reverse the declining sales numbers and negative price trends of diamonds and diamond jewelry.

That’s especially true as e-commerce gains momentum in both general retail and the jewelry market. As jewelry consumers are late adapters to online buying, particularly on the high end of the market, jewelers have benefited from having more time to develop their strategy, Greg Kwiat, CEO of Kwiat-Fred Leighton, pointed out to me.

But there is a sense that time is running out, and jewelers need to have a digital strategy in hand if they don’t want to be left behind.

Brands presenting at the Couture show, which started last Friday and runs through Tuesday, emphasized the need to present their retail partners and end consumers with something different and unique. They also stressed the importance of engaging more with end consumers to tell their brands’ stories and maintain their authenticity.

For diamond jewelry, that’s very much part of the omni-channel experience. Brands are having a conversation with consumers online, through social media or by offering customization tools to personalize the diamond-buying experience.

In March, the Hearts on Fire brand launched a customization tool on its website that allows consumers to be more involved in the design of their jewelry. The company then directs the customer to the nearest store that carries the brand to try the piece on and close the purchase, explained Kristin Suppelsa, Hearts on Fire’s vice president of marketing.

Those that are not making such moves are struggling to survive, Kwiat said.

So far, exhibitors at Couture have been fairly positive about the market after the weekend’s activity, with retail buyers there looking for new designs, innovation and added-value service. And as trading at the more expansive JCK show opens on Monday, these conversations about how to engage in an ever-changing market environment will no doubt continue — pushing diamantaires and jewelers to figure out exactly what story they have to tell that sets them apart from the others.

Image: JCK
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Tags: Avi Krawitz, De Beers, Diamond Producers Association, diamonds, Dpa, Forevermark, Hearts On Fire, Jewelry, kwiat
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