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Price or Emotion?‎

Editorial

Oct 26, 2012 5:07 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... There is a long-standing perception among diamond traders and jewelers — the more price ‎information becomes available to consumers, the more difficult the emotional pitch ‎becomes. ‎

Indeed, walking the halls of the recent Hong Kong show, or any of the international ‎diamond bourses for that matter, one gets a sense that the trade is more adept at dealing ‎in certificates than the actual diamonds. “Look around, no one describes the beauty of ‎the stone they are selling anymore,” one manufacturer’s marketing director lamented in ‎Hong Kong. “There’s no mystery left. Everyone knows the price, including the ‎consumer.”‎

It is true, transparency comes at a price. An informed consumer is able to compare ‎prices, which ultimately results in lower retail profit margins, placing downward pressure ‎on the rest of the trade. ‎

In today’s Internet age, price comparisons are unavoidable. Consumers armed with a ‎print out from an online search can walk into any brick-and-mortar store with a low ‎estimate of what they are prepared to pay for their choice of diamond. Further standards ‎set by third-party independent grading laboratories, along with the Rapaport Price List, ‎have brought additional transparency to both the B2B and B2C markets. ‎

Ensuring a level playing field across the diamond pipeline — including among consumers ‎‎— is critical to maintaining confidence in the product and creating additional demand for ‎diamonds. Along with price transparency, full disclosure regarding where the diamond ‎has been sourced and, where possible, how it was processed, all contribute to the ‎industry’s goal of establishing a fair, open and competitive market.      ‎

Grant it, diamond jewelers are caught between the need to communicate with their ‎consumers in an honest manner and the risk that those same consumers will use the ‎information to diminish the retailer’s profit margins. ‎

But the idea that price transparency erodes the emotional appeal of the diamond is ‎misguided. Rather, the market should be asking what the value of diamonds is as a ‎deeply symbolic product, and what retailers are doing to differentiate their product.‎

Women value diamonds for the message it represents — the sustainability of their ‎promised relationship — regardless of price. Flowers are attractive, but they’re not ‎sustainable. A diamond is forever — the bigger, the better, the stronger the illusion of the ‎commitment. And that hasn’t changed as diamond markets have opened up. ‎

That’s not to say that the industry should rest on its laurels. As this column has ‎emphasized extensively before, the industry must raise its profile in the consumer space, ‎particularly as it faces rising competition from other luxury products. Generic marketing ‎is needed, but intense competitive branding within the industry would be more effective. ‎For a jeweler that is confident in its brand, price doesn’t matter. The same is true for an ‎industry secure in its message and product.‎

Of course, informed consumers are tougher customers. But that is the way of the world ‎as people are armed with more information than before. The deeper question therefore is: Can ‎retailers justify the price they are charging above the interdealer price by the added value ‎they provide? ‎

Jewelers need to recognize that with greater price transparency, their profits are ‎increasingly defined by their added value. How they add value to their product is the ‎biggest challenge facing individual businesses in the industry today and ultimately, it is ‎how the diamond is sold that differentiates one retailer from the next. ‎

Why don’t consumers just buy off the Internet? Well they do and increasingly will. But ‎they go to stores to get the whole package offered by the jeweler – including their ‎branding, service, knowledge and expertise, and full disclosure about the diamond ‎product – be it price, grading and ethical guarantees. With the ever-rising competition ‎from the web, it is up to jewelers to ensure that they provide that extra value.‎

Wholesalers and manufacturers can differentiate themselves in a similar way in their ‎market space. But at the dealer level, they are forgiven for trading with a market-type ‎mentality. Price matters in the market place and the perceived dealing in certificates ‎reveals a dynamic diamond trade, rather than a so-called commoditized one. While one ‎may not see the emotional connection or the descriptive sales pitch at the wholesale ‎level, passion is in abundance, which is a far more important ingredient to the trade. In ‎fact, an exaggerated emotional attachment to their goods may diminish that passion to ‎sell, presenting them with additional risk.‎

If anything, price transparency brings extra confidence to the trade. Furthermore it is ‎essential to attract additional avenues of demand such as from the financial and ‎investment community, which has the potential to bring billions of dollars of finance and ‎liquidity to the diamond market.‎

The industry can maintain its emotive message to raise demand through a dynamic ‎price-driven trade. In fact, combining the two represents a tremendous opportunity for the ‎diamond market. The ideas are not mutually exclusive. In the current difficult economic ‎environment, consumers are increasingly looking for specific price points and products ‎with a message. As it struggles to gain market share this coming holiday season, both ‎price and emotion are what differentiate the diamond industry. ‎

The writer can be contacted at avi@diamonds.net  

This article is an excerpt from a market report that is sent to Rapaport members on a weekly basis. To subscribe, go to www.rapnet.com or contact your local Rapaport office.

Copyright © 2012 by Martin Rapaport. All rights reserved. Rapaport USA Inc., Suite 100 133 E. Warm Springs Rd., Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. +1.702.893.9400.

Disclaimer: This Editorial is provided solely for your personal reading pleasure. Nothing published by The Rapaport Group of Companies and contained in this report should be deemed to be considered personalized industry or market advice. Any investment or purchase decisions should only be made after obtaining expert advice. All opinions and estimates contained in this report constitute Rapaport`s considered judgment as of the date of this report, are subject to change without notice and are provided in good faith but without legal responsibility. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights.
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Oct 29, 2012 10:18AM    By Avi Krawitz
James, you make a fair point. The point I was trying to put across in my article was that the diamond industry is in a unique position to use the emotional appeal to enhance its price points and therefore its margins. Not many industries have that marketing tool at their disposal.
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Emotion vs Price
Oct 26, 2012 9:13PM    By James Sinclair
As a retailer of more than 40years experience, I am contiually amazed at the advice given to me from people who do not face the problem daily, if not hourly. Starting with the Supplier of Choice program, the rise in education of the client, the Rappaport price list and the over riding dependence on certification many of us old timers are starting to believe in conspiracy theories. Avi, spend a day in my shoes and tell me that we can sell more or at higher margins by pushing the emotional angle and maintain a viable business.
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