Key Takeaways from JCK Las Vegas 2021: Jewellers Must Navigate a Digital-First New Normal to Meet Pent-up Demand
By Benjamin Schneider
At the end of the summer, I had the privilege of attending JCK Las Vegas, the North American jewellery industry’s largest annual trade event. It brings together vendors with a wide range of specialisations, including fine and costume jewellery at all price points, timepieces, and loose gemstones. Buyers represent retailers large and small, from global to local. The products seen and the conversations held at the show reveal some of the most impactful trends currently shaping the jewellery industry both in the US and around the globe.
Pent-up demand for fun, togetherness and uniqueness drive demand for products across categories
After over a year spent mostly at home, prioritising the essentials, trends at the show indicated consumers’ renewed optimism for the future, with a shift towards bright colours, bold designs, and products that celebrate life and loved ones.
Representing love and commitment, heart silhouettes were popular in both fine and costume jewellery throughout the show. Colours, especially orange, yellow and purple, as well as pearls of all shapes and sizes, were also seen across product categories. And, following many postponed weddings, as well as countless Zoom meetings that only gave consumers the chance to show off their jewellery from the neck up, “the ring was the thing”. Colourful cocktail rings to be worn on each and every finger, customisable engagement rings featuring fine gems, and mined and lab-grown diamonds in a range of cuts featured prominently across booths.
At the same time, consumers were increasingly looking to set themselves apart with personal jewellery pieces worn in a unique way – such as in their hair, as pins, or just to dress up a casual outfit. This led brooches, fringes, and other vintage and vintage-inspired pieces to capture the attention of attendees at booths representing primary and secondary market sellers alike.
Independent retailers learn to navigate a digital-first new normal
With the pandemic having forced stores to shutter and jewellery buyers and sellers alike to shift to e-commerce, many conversations at the show focused on how jewellery retailers can master digital marketing and sales tactics to remain relevant as consumer behaviour continues to evolve.
While serving customers in-store with empathy and personalised service remains vital, consumers are increasingly conducting online research on their own before ever considering entering a store. With brands and retailers needing to set themselves and their products apart from the competition as a result, video is now fast-emerging as a differentiator when it comes to digital merchandising.
From personal shopping and styling appointments via video calls with prospective and loyal customers, to product videos on e-commerce sites narrated by sales associates, retailers are finding that video-based content often outperforms mere product photos when selling online – and the same is also fast becoming true for social media marketing.
Having skyrocketed to popularity amidst the pandemic, especially among the youngest US consumers, TikTok is now driving trends in both the primary and secondary jewellery markets. As a result, brands, retailers and jewellery enthusiasts alike are increasingly producing posts that not only go viral more quickly, but can also provide a deeper level of context to their products than more static social media platforms, such as Instagram or Twitter.
Similarly, livestream shopping has also emerged as a key differentiator for jewellery brands and retailers selling online. JCK Las Vegas offered several tips and tools for hosting livestream shopping events through platforms including Twitch, Amazon, and more. These included having personable sales associates, or even visiting jewellery designers, hosting curated events, and ensuring events are well-promoted to be sufficiently interactive and social.
Gem and jewellery producers compete on values of ethics and sustainability – as well as cost
Consumers have shown heightened scrutiny of companies and the impact of their actions throughout the pandemic. To ensure they support companies that reflect their values, many now thoroughly research the actions and attributes of brands and products before buying.
While this trend has led companies not just in fashion, but across almost all consumer-facing industries, to increasingly tout their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives, it has also prompted a battle between the producers of mined and lab-grown diamonds to prove their merits.
Organisations that act to certify diamond and other jewellery businesses as ethical and sustainable, while also helping them to fine-tune their supply chains and raise money to support communities in diamond-producing areas, were present at the show, and were vocal about their eagerness to work with brands and retailers that might benefit from including their ESG credentials on marketing materials.
Meanwhile, producers of lab-grown diamonds were also prominent at the show and have been rapidly increasing their presence in recent years. Not needing to address their impact on mining communities like mined diamonds, however, brands of lab-grown diamonds instead focused primarily on their cost advantages, enabling consumers to get more and bigger diamonds for a lower cost than mined options.
Optimism for jewellery amidst continued uncertainty
While a host of uncertainties, including continued restrictions on in-store shopping, rising inflation, and supply chain disruptions – especially during the key holiday sales season – still seemed to loom large over the event, the mood at the first in-person JCK Las Vegas show since 2019 was highlighted by optimism.
Even while prioritising the essentials amidst the pandemic, jewellery remained popular among many consumers, who sought pieces to accessorise their remote work outfits, and continually looked for items for themselves and their loved ones that were unique and personal. Therefore, as consumers navigate the post-pandemic world, they will continue to look for jewellery brands that resonate with their values, and pieces that best reflect how, where and why they want to wear jewellery. Unlike pre-pandemic times, however, consumers will primarily explore websites, social media and other digital sources to shop for and discover jewellery, giving brands and retailers the challenge and opportunity of meeting consumers where they are, with the right products that resonate with who they are, in 2021 and beyond.
For further questions or comments please contact Benjamin Schneider at Benjamin.Schneider@Euromonitor.com