Going forward, adaptability will continue to be key.
To help jewelers stay in the know, communications and public relations consultant Jen Cullen Williams hosted a panel on retail trends during American Gem Society Conclave, which took place last week in Oklahoma City.
Here are the trends they discussed.
1. Buy Now, Pay Later.
For jewelers working with customers to help them afford that dream piece, consider adding a buy now, pay later option, the panelists said.
From Klarna and Affirm to Afterpay and Sezzle, these short-term financing platforms are popping up all over e-commerce sites. They allow shoppers to pay off an expensive purchase via several smaller payments.
In addition, layaway, a popular holiday financing offer, could be made available year-round.
“Layaway is coming on strong. You can reach an entirely new demographic by offering layaway,” said Vesilind. “You reach people who are jewelry lovers but not in an affluent stratum.”
For some, that $500 bracelet is more accessible when paid off in five installments of $100.
Though with layaway shoppers don’t get the item until it’s paid in full, an installment plan could appeal to a wider demographic of customers in terms of income.
The set monthly payments also provide jewelers with a steady flow of income, Vesilind noted.
2. Slow jewelry wins the race.
#SlowJewelry has been gaining traction on Instagram, said Guttery, who has amassed a following of more than 130,000 on the platform.
“Jewelers, designers, and stores are sharing the process of making a piece of jewelry,” said Guttery. “It shows all the time that goes into it.”
#SlowJewelry content walks viewers through the process of creating a piece of jewelry, from the stone selection, to the sketches and wax molds, to the final product.
Sustainability is of growing importance to consumers, particularly to younger shoppers, and #slowjewelry highlights the quality and staying power of fine jewelry.
“When we’re talking about transparency and sustainability, [consumers] want to know their jewelry is forever. They want to know that they’re not going to buy something that will go out of style in two years,” said Vesilind.
She recommended stocking classics in your cases, noting that jewelry “is not really susceptible to fickle trends like fashion is.”
3. “Kidcore” and “Grandmacore” are all the rage.
The panelists also talked about what’s new on the fashion front.
The color purple was popular at the Tucson gem shows, said Guttery, while toi et moi rings are also having another moment.
Oval and marquise-shaped diamonds, as well as skinny bands, are dominating the ring scene.
American gemstones and jewelry made in America are also gaining popularity, said Guttery, due in part to supply chain issues.
“Ten Thousand Things has had success with their pearls from the Mississippi River. Parlé [Jewelry Designs] has had a lot of success with Montana sapphires,” he said.
Vesilind delved into two popular styles taking over the jewelry world, “kidcore” and “grandmacore.”
“Kidcore is essentially the idea of play and fun in jewelry and style,” said Vesilind.
Beaded bracelets, neon enamel, and smiley faces are hallmarks of the kidcore look, she said, noting designers Alison Lou and W. Rosado are spot-on with this trend.
“People want to invest in pieces that have some levity,” said Vesilind, noting the difficult last few years.
Shoppers are also looking for pieces that remind them of older generations; think big, gemstone-heavy pieces and lots of pearls.
“Jewelers have been inspired by the look of more is more is more,” said Vesilind.
Everything old is new again, remarked Guttery, noting the rising popularity of estate jewelry.
Rather than ordering new inventory, he recommended jewelers look through their estate jewelry for pieces that are on-trend.
“Every jeweler doesn’t have to jump on every trend. You have to decide what’s best for you and your market,” Guttery noted.
4. Shoppers still want that luxury experience.
The pandemic put in-store events on hold, but many customers are ready to celebrate again.
“Customers want to see you,” said Guttery. “A lot of times, that’s the reason why they shop with you, because they like you, your salesperson, your store.”
While some customers are ready to dive in, others are only ready to dip their toes in, so be mindful of their comfort level and offer both large and small gatherings, he advised.
Trunk shows are a classic way to draw in customers, but retailers should also consider partnering with local non-jewelry retailers to hold joint events and potentially reach new customers.
Guttery shared some fun event ideas, like a gemstone roundtable or a yoga night.
“Remember, our No. 1 competitor in the jewelry industry is travel because it’s an experience. So, we need to create an experience for our customers.”
5. Livestream shopping is the new QVC.
In a separate session at AGS Conclave, jewelry marketer Laryssa Wirstiuk of Joy Joya held a session on livestream shopping.
Consumers are looking for digital innovation, she said, and livestream shopping blends the convenience of online shopping with the in-store perk of expert guidance.
Throw in the entertainment factor provided by a lively host and it may be just the thing customers are seeking out.
The authentic, real-time interactions are what separates livestream shopping from home shopping, she noted.
“When you’re starting this, it’s going to be awkward,” she said, but encouraged jewelers to try their hand at it anyway.
Even the majors are getting into it, with Swarovski offering one-on-one consultations and Jared hosting virtual appointments.
Jewelers can host livestream shopping sessions on a variety of platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Amazon Live and YouTube.
Wirstiuk recommended live streaming on whichever platform is the most active in terms of customer interaction.