Jewelry chains discover a new generation of shoppers as a pandemic wedding boom gets underway

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  • Young consumers are playing an increasing role in helping to propel the jewelery category forward.
  • That’s partly because many are either thinking or preparing to get married: about 2.5 million marriages are expected to take place in 2022, marking a four-decade high.
  • During the week of Thanksgiving, jewelry sales are expected to increase by 39.7% compared to a year ago, according to Mastercard Spending Pulse.
  • Millennials are more attracted to lab-grown gems, and jewelers are adding products with these stones.

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Before he proposed to his now-fiancé last fall, Mark Hostowski spent weeks scouring the Internet for information about a diamond’s “4 Cs”—cut, clarity, color, and carat—and grading certifications.

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He added that the 31-year-old had never made such a big purchase in his life. He definitely wanted the engagement ring to be extra special. And he went to extra lengths, including contacting the owner of the e-commerce jewelry marketplace directly rare carat, before committing to buying the final product online.

“The ring was by far the most expensive thing I ever bought. It was nerve-racking,” said Hostowski, an entrepreneur based in the New York City area. “I feel like I’m a jewelry-buying expert now.”

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Smaller consumers, such as Hostowski, are playing an increasing role in helping to grow the jewelery category. This is because many people are either thinking or preparing to get married. As predicted by The Wedding ReportAround 2.5 million marriages are expected to take place next year, which will mark a four-decade high. Couples will not only splurge on engagement rings but also wedding bands and other accessories for the big day.

Meanwhile, other shoppers are looking for ways to show appreciation to a loved one during the pandemic, and jewelry is a great way to do that.

“People really love giving lasting gifts that emphasize love and commitment, and especially during times of challenges, which I think everyone can definitely relate to.” [right now]Jeweler Brilliant Earth CEO Beth Gerstein said.

In the last holiday season, from October 11 to December 24, sales in the jewelery category fell by nearly 4.3%, As per Mastercard Spending Pulse data, Despite the decline, however, it outperformed sales at apparel retailers and department store chains, Spending Pulse said.

However, on this holiday jewelers are expecting a more strong end to the year. During the week of Thanksgiving, which includes Black Friday but not Cyber ​​Monday, jewelry sales are projected to grow 39.7% from a year ago, Spending Pulse said, Overall retail sales excluding auto and gas are projected to grow by about 10% over that time frame.

‘Feel-good shopping’

According to Mary Driscoll, managing director of luxury and fashion at CoreSight Research, some consumers were able to hoard money during the pandemic because they weren’t spending the last year on travel and other experiences. She explained that these consumers put extra dollars into their bank accounts and are able to save up for aspirational purchases.

“If people still had jobs and were working from home … developing this Zoom lifestyle, luxury became a way to celebrate life,” she said. “And one of the best feel-good purchases in luxury is jewelry because there are often stories behind it. [it],

Driscoll said younger consumers also claim to care more about sustainability than their elders, and they are promoting the development of lab-grown diamonds. He added that more jewelery companies are adding eco-friendly options keeping this in mind and it is helping the category grow.

Instead of being mined from the ground, lab-grown diamonds are manufactured. It uses technology that replicates the process of growing natural diamonds but with less environmental impact. The stones are also less expensive and guarantee that it is not a so-called blood diamond, which comes from a conflict zone.

“They have avatars, they live in a virtual world, they are living in the metaverse,” Driscoll said of millennials, a demographic that includes ages 25 to 40. “A lab-grown diamond isn’t off-putting for someone who is under 30. It’s more than 30 for someone who is under 30. And then there’s no problem in terms of the ethics of the diamond.”

De Beers, once an outspoken critic of synthetic diamonds, launched its own lab-grown diamond brand called Lightbox in 2018. And Pandora, best known for its silver charm bracelets, said earlier this year that it would stop selling mined diamonds and focus on more affordable, durable and lab-grown gems. will focus.

Meanwhile Tiffany’s, now owned by European luxury conglomerate LVMH, began revealing last year country of origin Its diamonds are more than 0.18 carats. The high-end jewelery chain has also adopted various other tactics to reach out to the young consumers. In April, it began selling its first men’s engagement rings, tapping into the rise of same-sex marriages. And it has enlisted celebrities like Jay Z and Beyonce to star in its ad campaigns.

“If you don’t capture the millennial customer, you put your business model at extreme risk for the future,” said Oliver Chen, a retail analyst at Cowen & Co.

social media in origin

Brilliant Earth, a jewelry chain founded in San Francisco in 2005, said that about 87% of its active consumer base is either Millennial or Gen Z, which includes ages 9 to 24.

According to Gerstein, many of Brilliant Earth’s customers are finding brands through social platforms like Instagram. The company primarily relies on its website to sell engagement rings with a wide assortment of lab grown gemstones. It has about a dozen showrooms where people can try its products in person.

“Social media has been a staple for us from the beginning,” she said. “It’s just the youth consumer mindset.”

The company offers virtual appointments on its website and recently launched a gift portal for holiday ideas. Gerstein said that among the items to top shoppers’ wish lists this year are zodiac-inspired pieces and tennis bracelets.

“This generation wants to buy from brands they can feel good about wearing,” she said of millennials.

Brilliant Earth, which listed its stock on the Nasdaq on September 23, joins other jewelry chains such as Better, stud And Kendra Scott who market their businesses online towards younger consumers. Some focus more on everyday pieces rather than fine jewelry.

David Yurman, a privately held jewelry chain known for its signature cable bracelet and more high-end pieces, said it has also been attracting millennial shoppers to its amplified digital marketing efforts in recent months .

“The brand feels very relevant right now,” said Lee Tucker, head of merchandising and marketing at David Yurman. “We are seeing in our data an influx of new customers for David Yurman brands, many of whom joined us during the pandemic through our e-commerce channels.”

Hostowski said she bought her fiancée’s engagement ring online only because she was bombarded with commercials for multiple brands following her initial Internet inquiries about the diamond. She has started shopping online for another piece of jewelry to give her over the holidays.

“Some of [my fiancee’s] Friends who are now thinking of proposing have reached out to me and started saying, ‘Where did you get that? What was your process?'” he said. “I had a really good experience.”

— CNBC Melissa Repko

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