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What to Expect in the Industry This Year

Jan 14, 2021 5:07 AM   By Leah Meirovich
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RAPAPORT... Three industry insiders share their predictions for the diamond and jewelry trade in 2021.

Elle Hill
CEO of industry consulting firm Hill & Co.

While many bemoan 2020 as a year they would like to forget, the challenges 2020 laid at our doorstep created the necessity to reimagine almost everything about the way we do business — proving that necessity is the mother of invention. The consumer’s needs, wants and buying behavior rapidly changed. B2B and B2C businesses rapidly executed digital transformations to show up where the world works and shops: online.

These seismic pivots were not temporary. Consumers embraced the convenience of shopping online, click-and-collect, virtual appointments. Businesses discovered how much of the corporate buyer’s journey happens online, long before a meeting — which can just as easily be a [Microsoft] Teams or Zoom call. My predictions for 2021 are a result of the trends we have observed during 2020.

Predictions:

1. Digital transformation is essential to compete. The old ways we have done business are no longer available to us. We will see a continued shift toward harnessing the strength of technology.

2. The rise of the conscious consumer. People will want to buy from companies whose morals align with their own. Initiating sustainability into your competitive strategy is now essential for success.

3. Lab-grown diamonds are only debated by us, inside the trade. The consumer who buys them has already embraced them and will continue to accept them as yet another option from our industry.

4. B2B businesses will begin to embrace [the idea] that corporate buyers are customers, too, who need to be marketed to and nurtured. They will continue to shift much of their marketing and sales online.

5. Independent retail jewelry store numbers will continue to decrease as owners retire with no heir who is interested in taking over what is erroneously perceived as an old-fashioned business.

Kevin Vantyghem
Wholesaler, owner of Vantyghem Diamonds, and Young Diamantaires member

Maybe most will answer [the question of what our predictions are] with the type of jewelry or diamonds being sold, or lab-grown diamonds and their market share, or whether sales will keep rising. I would like to make predictions on the industry’s overall health. I think we have seen great partnerships and communities brought together this past year. Many were very busy working on growing their industry community, working on new e-commerce, and strengthening their relationships with their customers and colleagues. We saw the Natural Diamond Council (NDC) during the middle of this have a refresh and launch with amazing marketing for natural diamonds. We saw the Young Diamantaires group build its member website and Facebook group and connect with many industry organizations around the globe for our fundraising initiative.

It’s weird to say that I was less optimistic going into 2020 without Covid-19 than I am coming out of 2020 with everything that has gone on. That is not to say there haven’t been hardships or aren’t tough times to come. But it has been amazing to see the industry coming together, the next generation in the industry stepping up, and changes that needed to be made happening faster. 2020 was a rebuild, and we have been working hard to lay the foundation for a new start; 2021 will continue with these efforts.... It may still be a rebuild for the first half of 2021; a lot is tied to Covid-19 and the vaccines. To put my two cents in, though, the natural diamond industry will be stronger and better, and is moving in the right direction now. Demand for natural diamonds will keep increasing this coming year; [those] with stock will be selling out faster than most years, and with that, new partnerships will be forged for many years to come.

Predictions:

1. Natural diamonds on the rise, fighting back and taking back market share.

2. A refresh of the natural diamond industry. New communities and organizations will emerge.

3. Independents that were able to adapt and stay connected with their customers online and in-store will benefit the most.

4. Origin-specific, ethically sourced and responsibly mined diamonds will continue to rise.

5. Fancy shapes like ovals will continue [to be popular, but there will also be a return] to traditional-style rings — solitaires, etc.

Melissa Smet
Executive director at the Syndicate of the Belgian Diamond Industry, and Young Diamantaires member

My predictions for the diamond and jewelry industry for 2021 are optimistic, but I can’t envisage the industry remaining the same after Covid-19. Also, in the diamond and jewelry industry, Covid-19 has really acted as a trend accelerator. To begin with, the Covid-19-fueled digitalization will further pick up its pace in the year 2021, in the form of digital diamond conferences, virtual trade shows, more business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, etc. Furthermore, I think the consumer trend of buying local will continue to see growth. In addition, further technological development will make even the not-so-tech-savvy companies across the entire diamond pipeline see it’s time to jump on the technology bandwagon.

Last but not least, I predict that the diamond industry will — more than ever — “mind the gap” in 2021. The decision-makers in the global diamond industry, including board members, are mostly male and over 50 years of age. We need to narrow this gender and age gap. Young professionals and women can bring a fresh perspective to the challenges our industry is facing. The more different voices at the table in 2021, the more creative and qualitative the solutions will be.

This article was first published in the January 2021 issue of Rapaport Magazine.
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Tags: Elle Hill, Hill & Co., Kevin Vantyghem, Leah Meirovich, Syndicate of the Belgian Diamond Industry, Vantyghem Diamonds, Young Diamantaires
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