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Trends & New Developments that marked the year 2018



Jewellery in India has long been governed by conservative choices and behaviour, among retailers as much as consumers. For decades the business was predictable: precious jewellery and family jewellers reigned supreme.

No longer. That era is quickly fading away. Worse, the unflinching faith of Indian consumers in jewellery as a store of value, and in family jewellers as a long-term relationship, are also slowly melting away.

With change so pervasive and so deep, the old truths of this trade are losing their power. The result is that the jewellery industry has entered a most interesting phase, one that promises rich rewards ahead for the right choices made today.

For retailers, it is not always easy to know what those choices ought to be. Consumers are themselves creating and flooding down new paths to discovery and decision-making. Demand is evolving away from culturally sanctioned norms that sanctified precious jewellery. For family jewellers, this is a terrifying and confounding spanner thrown into the works.

In this special year-end edition, The Retail Jeweller analyses the key trends, some well-established, some emerging, that are finding their way into the business strategies of progressive retailers, and lists the most important and relevant developments and events of 2018.

Turn these pages to learn from the agility and self-confidence of the jewellers who are changing to benefit from change, who turn challenge into opportunity, who seek out and find new avenues for growth and profit.

– Soma Bhatta

EMI – Retailers popularize zero installment EMI options to fast track sales

The Reserve Bank of India strictly bans the sale of gold jewellery on EMI. A few innovative retailers have found a legal way to offer their customers EMIs on studded jewellery. It is no longer uncommon to see jeweller’s advertise with a small asterisk highlighting the availability of zero interest installment.

This certainly opens up a small slice of the market to less well-heeled buyers — but it doesn’t answer the needs of the vast majority of Indian consumers who want only-gold jewellery for their most auspicious occasions. Within the industry it is clear that EMIs on gold jewellery, or at least a flexible gold jewellery–buying scheme is the need of the hour.

JewelFina.com’s Flexi Cardless EMI scheme is one approach. It helps customers get a “wedding loan”, a type of personal loan that can be used to purchase the jewellery they require. To access these funds the recipient has to show income proof and must provide documentary proof that a wedding is impending. The recipient can be either member of the couple to wed, or one of their parents. Conditions satisfied, the loan amount is credited directly to the customer’s account and the EMI schedule begins.

And not surprisingly, Jewelfina claims that in the last 2 years since they launched, 1100 jewellers have enrolled for the scheme including some renowned retail chains and many small and large independent family jewellers.

All those anxious jewellers who think customers have been deferring purchases due to lack of liquidity, it’s time to popularize the availability of this new and glorious easy pay option.

Happy wedding jewellery sales!

Tech the Path to the customer’s heart

Jewellery retail is in the midst of major change. From global mining giants to regional retailers, progressive players are moving strategically to integrate technology with retail. This is chiefly because the fast-moving, adaptive and intensely customisable world of online shopping is making consumers yearn for new experiences in bricks-and-mortar retail as well — even in luxury categories like jewellery. Brands are turning to technology-driven experiences to achieve a more immersive engagement with their target audience.

Sawansukha Jewellers, Kolkata, has transformed its customer service experience by introducing radio frequency identification (RFID) cards. A customer who makes a purchase receives an RFID-enabled loyalty card. The next time she walks into the Sawansukha showroom, the RFID system reads her card automatically and prompts sales executives with details of her previous visit, including the name of the salesperson who attended her, the jewellery choices she made, her design preference history, in fact, every detail down to what beverage she chose.

Delhi-based PC Jeweller has taken its big customer experience step via an augmented-reality app that allows a customer to virtually “try out” jewellery designs, in real time, that she can’t actually hold in her hands.

In showrooms equipped with the PCJ app, a customer can sit and look into a digital mirror that, naturalistically and without delay, shows what she might look like in a range of earring designs of her selection. The jewellery seen in this mirror is visually proportioned to look life-size. What’s more, the image moves naturally on the screen along with the customer’s own reflection. It is a remarkable offering, and a thrilling customer experience.

Indian Gem & Jewellery Creation’s Forevermark boutique in Kolkata comfortably keeps up with its digitally savvy customers. A Microsoft Surface tablet installed here allows customers to view the origin and all other important details of a diamond immediately upon buying it, just by keying in that diamond’s unique inscription code as obtained from Forevermark. Not only does this build customer confidence, it reinforces the credibility of the product and verifies the date of origin. A separate LED screen outside the store shows visuals of the latest Forevermark collections.

Smaller-scale, local and sub-regional jewellers are also stepping up. They are employing technology to find ways of improving the experience of the customers they know so well. The natural first step is to understand how their customers view them. Using data to answer such questions is normal practice among online players, but today even small jewellers do it.

Take Ratnalaya Jewellers of Patna, Bihar, for instance. Its custom-made new app allows the company to seek and capture consumer feedback. This information helps the retailer improve the experience it offers. The feedback input covers all aspects from the customer’s interaction with sales staff to the retail experience as a whole, including product range.

The outcome of this genuine seeking of her opinion is that each customer feels that Ratnalaya cares for her. At the same time, the brand learns how it can give each shopper a better experience on her next visit, while getting to know her better and engaging with her in a meaningful way.

In a competitive marketplace, service becomes the biggest differentiator. Humanising your brand, with a helping hand from technology, is the way to go.

Small Formats Big reach

For most conventional family jewellers, “Keep tapping into your most profitable, highest-value customers,” has become a widely accepted business principle. That’s not all. Even while focused on this small target group, jewellers’ attention tends to remain tied to the wedding segment.

Today this unquestioned precept is being turned on its head. Retailers are seeking out new buyers, who may be low in per-purchase value but are large in number.

Targeting this segment also allows retailers to enter the big and growing category of fast-moving, fashion-oriented, affordable designs. Following this strategy is the fastest way to acquire new customers while tempting existing customers with the opportunity of repeat purchases.

No less than Malabar Gold & Diamonds (MGD) is taking this path. The retail major recently announced a new focus on jewellery for gifting, a fast-growing segment in India and other countries. MGD will use this pivot as a growth driver for its jewellery business. The goal is to lead the market in this segment.

Tanishq is steadily increasing the footprint of its brand Mia, launched in 2011 to target working women. “We want to make Mia a Rs1,000cr brand within five–six years,” says Sandeep Kulhalli, senior vice-president (retail and marketing), Jewellery Division, Titan Company.

Reliance Jewels is following a similar strategy. Within the next 12–18 months, according to the company, there will be more than 200 Reliance Jewels shop-in-shops at Project Eve and Reliance Trends outlets. These locations will promote lines in 9–5 jewellery and affordable jewellery, priced at Rs5,000–10,000.

Mumbai-based Waman Hari Pethe Jewellers (WHP) is moving with the trend, offering lightweight jewellery through select Shoppers Stop locations. There are 25 such WHP shop-in-shops outlets so far.

Prince Jewellers from Chennai has introduced shop-in-shop of a new (sub-brand) TIA which targets the same segment, in all of its 11 stores. Based on positive response they plan to now expand into departmental stores.

A number of other large retailers may not have taken the shop-in-shop route, but they are addressing the same consumer demographic. They have opened a plethora of new outlets of late, on a similarly compact and consumer-friendly scale.

Among them is PC Jeweller, Delhi, whose small-format new stores stock low-value items and are designed to attract customers who tend to be intimidated by glittering, large-scale, high-priced stores.

Indian Gem & Jewellery Creation (IGJC), Kolkata, has opened small-format but exclusive outlets in malls.

Pure-play online brand CaratLane recently inaugurated the 15th physical retail outlet it has opened in this financial year alone. In all, the e-commerce brand has nearly 50 small-format retail outlets, in 17 cities.

Any jeweller seeking fresh avenues for growth should study their example.

Longer list of listers

The Nirav Modi–Mehul Choksi scam was a rough blow to the reputation of this industry. It hurt the stock prices of many listed gems and jewellery companies. It hurt the industry at large by making financial institutions wary about fresh lending.

Nonetheless, organised players remain confident about long-term opportunities for the sector. They are eager to capitalise on India’s unfolding growth story.

Among the large national chains, for instance, Malabar Gold & Diamonds (MGD) is laying the ground for an initial public offering (IPO). In a recent interview M P Ahammed, chairman, declared MGD’s intention to list on the stock exchange. Audit firm Ernst & Young is auditing and accounting the jewellery retailer’s books ahead of the IPO, which is targeted for the 2020 financial year.

In August this year, Senco Gold filed draft papers with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to raise an estimated Rs600cr through its own IPO. At present, the company has 93 showrooms in 72 cities and towns.

Smaller regional players, too, are optimistic about future prospects. Early this year PN Gadgil & Sons of Pune, Maharashtra, filed a fresh DRHP (draft red herring prospectus) with the SEBI. This is a preliminary step to issuing an IPO.

According to data from March 2018, the company operated 23 stores across Maharashtra, and one each in Gujarat and Karnataka. The plan is to have 40 stores by the end of financial year 2020.

Going by media reports and industry grapevine, a fresh cascade of jewellery companies is preparing to go public. Likely candidates include the regional chains Joyalukkas, Kalyan Jewellers and PNG Jewellers. IPO plans of these companies, however, are at an early stage. No draft documents have yet been filed with the regulator.

In short, organised players – both small and big, have a positive outlook on long-term prospects for the industry. Undaunted by short-term sales swings, they are getting ready to climb the growth curve.

Unique gratifications to build brand trust, image and engagement

Effective marketing, today, is about engaging with customers directly. It is no longer enough to announce the occasional discount or product promotion. In the age of social media, retailers know the importance of building communities of customers.

Such communities are good at generating endorsements organically. Consumers like to seek out, and then talk about, their experiences — a fact that benefits any brand that comes up with enjoyable and satisfying events or promotions.

Senco Gold & Diamonds, Kolkata, recognised this opportunity early. The retailer launched Swarna Samman almost a decade ago as an annual awards event to honour eminent personalities from different walks of life. For the eighth edition, the jeweller introduced a new category, Swarna Samman–Sonar Meye, which means “girl belonging to gold” in Bengali, to felicitate women who lead inspirational change.

By committing itself to a socially positive agenda, Senco stands out from its peers. It is giving back to society, being a good corporate citizen and acknowledging the contributions of people who make a difference.

The C Krishniah Chetty group, Bengaluru, this year organised an annual Travel the World contest for its women customers. The tagline is “Relationships are as strong as diamonds”. The winner receives an all-expenses-paid round trip to anywhere in the world, provided that she takes along a female relative or family member. The idea is to strengthen the bonds between members of an extended family and, hopefully, reduce the splintering of society into nuclear family groups.

For CKC, the contest is also a way of highlighting the brand’s commitment to long-standing relationships, such as it has with customers.

Ulhas Jewellers, Goa, has chosen another route to customer engagement. It tries to show its patrons a path to self-fulfilment through skilled pursuits. The jeweller recently entered into an association with a well-regarded local musical competition called Goencho Avaz. Open to singers in Konkani, the regional language, the event is already five editions old.

Ulhas’ relationship with this popular event helps link the brand with a sense of regional well-being, tradition and pride. The positive sentiment is not confined to older people. The nature of the competition, and the way that it nurtures local talent, allow younger consumers to associate the brand with the finer things in life. Trust, comfort and aspiration: an excellent base upon which a good jeweller can build.

These examples demonstrate how jewellers need to look beyond staid promotions and channelize their marketing spends. Senco, CKC and Ulhas have done well to build platforms and invest in promotions that add meaning and depth to their brand image while improving the lives of the people who comprise their target audience.

The choicest, for the choosy

Which is better for a store display: 50 jewellery pieces crowded together, or 10 pieces spaced apart?

Does option 1 sound like a sure thing and option 2 a gamble? The truth is otherwise. Jewellers in India are fast coming to realise that what helps seal a deal with a customer is the power of design and not the volume of stock.

Today’s customers walk into a showroom well prepared, knowing already what they are likely to buy. What’s more, they have little time to spare.

“Traders across the industry are reducing inventory,” says Samir Sagar, director, Manubhai Jewellers. His company is also busy optimising its stock. “Nowadays even loyal, long-term customers don’t want to see dozens of jewellery pieces,” which overwhelm the shopping experience with superfluous choices.

Happily for retailers, this change in customer behaviour is in harmony with increases in the price of gold. “Nobody wants to keep dead stock,” says Sagar. “So, curtailing inventory makes sense.”

The Retail Jeweller spoke with a number of jewellers, all of whom agree that it has become foolhardy to hold large stock. They are hard at work consolidating, which usually means pruning their inventory.

Some jewellers have a more proactive approach. Nakshatra Mehta, owner, Mehta Emporium, Mumbai, put excess capital (from reduction of inventory) to use in developing and acquiring more innovative, statement designs, to create a stronger identity for his brand. “I reduced the inventory and saw a better conversion rate due to the higher efficiency of the designs,” he says, “thus increasing turnover.”

Aditya Pethe, managing director, Waman Hari Pethe Jewellers, Mumbai, summarises the critical change in customer and business behaviour: “People used to buy in kilograms back then, for which huge stocks were converted fast. Now, they buy designs.”

Priyesh Nagar, Owner, Jewellers Maganlal Chhaganlal, Indore, MP, says he has reduced inventory by 15 per cent to be more “on point” with customers. “Trends come and go within months,” he says. “Celebrities, the fashion industry and social media influencers trigger and diffuse trends. We follow trends religiously and display only those jewellery pieces that are trending.”

For retailers, zeroing in on the most effective stock and designs is not a gamble but an investment. It makes them more efficient, and boosts their customers’ buying experience as well as their brand’s design value.

Exploring the power of sub brands

Technology has evolved to the point that it allows retailers to track the online behaviour and buying patterns of their customers, as well as consumers at large. This has enabled many jewellers to assess the gaps in their product offering. One way they choose to fill these gaps is via sub brands.

This year-ender edition of The Retail

Jeweller reveals how the giants of fine jewellery have gone the extra mile. They are launching sub brands that will establish identities of their own, independent of the parent brand, and attract new audience groups without any overlaps.

Take for instance Lala Jugal Kishore Jewellers, Lucknow, UP, whose sub-brand Jewels of Awadh stands out for its opulence and historically inspired designs. The parent brand retails mass-produced jewellery, but within the showroom a separate display space is given over to Jewels of Awadh, which has its own character and branding.

The sub brand is the brainchild of Tanya Rastogi, owner. According to Rastogi, it draws a healthy number of customers who seek top-end designer heritage jewellery.

Sawansukha Jewellers, Kolkata, is an old and trusted name, long known for diamond jewellery. When the brand ventured into gold jewellery, however, it carved out and redesigned 6,000 sq ft of its 45,000 sq ft showroom as a space exclusively for its sub brand Sohna by Sawansukha.

The look and feel of the space eloquently convey the actuality and aura of gold. It impresses but also makes the brand accessible to a new set of customers, who are learning to associate the parent brand with more than just diamonds.

Vaibhav Jewellers, Delhi, in April 2018 launched Visesha by Vaibhav. The word means “exclusive”. The designs launched under this sub brand are one-of-a-kind and never repeated, and intended for customers who are willing to pay a premium for exclusivity.

The sub-brand has one independent outlet as well as a presence in four of the 11 Vaibhav stores, where the parent brand saw a potential market. Three more independent stores for Visesha by Vaibhav will open in the next calendar year.

Taking the sub brand route enables a jeweller to develop separate branding and marketing for sub-brand which also gives a boost to the parent brand. This allows the jeweller to generate a fresh image for its new sub brand, independent of the image of the parent brand.

Mia by Tanishq is a fine example of the value of creating a sub brand. Mia has chartered its own course and targeted the working women segment with a new vigour. Mia is building its own following even as it builds accessibility for Tanishq for this new audience group.

Prince Jewellery, Chennai, has introduced a sub brand, Tia, for diamond jewellery priced at Rs1 lakh or less. At present Tia retails from all 11 Prince jewellery stores, but its success means that soon it will be placed in multi-brand departmental stores.

Tia was born to fill the vacuum created by the erstwhile premium brand Gili which it used to stock. And it has done so in style, already clocking twice per store/per month sale of Gili from his stores.

If you have thought of experimenting with a new product and pricing strategy to tap into a new audience group which you are currently not able to, this may be the way to turn the thought into action!

Courtesy: The Retail Jeweller India News Service

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