After years of booming sales, fierce expansion and blowout advertising campaigns, the fiscal crisis has caused fine jewelry brands to rethink their strategies for 2009. While many brands are sticking with their luxury ethos and staying upmarket, others are keeping their options open with silver lines and other more affordable alternatives.
Despite the financial turmoil, companies remain somewhat buoyant about next year.
“Anniversaries and big celebrations remain,” said Frédéric de Narp, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America. “The environment isn’t positive and people need romance.”
At the firm’s annual holiday luncheon last month, Tiffany & Co. chairman and ceo Michael Kowalski said, “Clearly, consumers have been shaken by recent events. They are looking now for institutions they can trust and count on. We believe Tiffany is one.
“For over 170 years we have weathered economic dislocation, civil wars and world wars, periods of irrational exuberance, periods of excessive pessimism and of debilitating fear. But through it all we have continued to produce exquisite things valued for generations….So if there is a convenient truth for Tiffany today it is simply this: In good times and bad, people seek beauty and joy, and they still celebrate important occasions.”
Several brands have lessened or diminished their advertising budgets, but many others feel it’s still important to be out there and be counted. So brands such as Graff, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Yurman and John Hardy are employing marketing and sales initiatives to bolster brand awareness and strengthen customer relations. Graff will continue to host its intimate client events, and Yurman is reaching out to existing clients to sample the brand’s new fragrance, as well as host trunk shows.
“We’ve adapted our business model to really handle the situation as it is today,” said Paul Blum, Yurman’s ceo. “We are going to maintain our position in the luxury category.”
Yurman will continue to develop its international business and expand its diamond collection, and next fall the brand will open a new flagship on Madison Avenue, which is being called “the town house” inside the company.
Van Cleef & Arpels has an aggressive retail expansion in line for 2009. There are plans to open five stores in North America in the next 15 to 18 months, continuing with the rate of growth in recent years for the brand. The firm is also bolstering public relations efforts to gain market share.
“Given the expense, [advertising and marketing] is something that we’re going to be more prudent about,” said Emmanuel Perrin, president and ceo of Van Cleef & Arpels North America. “We’ll do selected events.”
De Beers, the diamond jewelry firm, has no store openings planned for next year, as it takes a breather from a busy 2008.
“In 2008, we doubled the number of De Beers stores worldwide from 25 to 50, and in the U.S. from five to 11,” said Hamida Belkadi, chief operating officer of De Beers U.S. “In 2009, we do not plan on opening any additional stores and will focus on solidifying the existing 11 stores in each local market.”
Recent entries into the silver category, such as Leslie Green, Ippolita and Stephen Webster, are performing well. Retailers credit their success to the rich look and a more accessible price point compared with gold lines.
Slane and Slane and John Hardy, two brands with roots in silver, are continuing to do trunk shows to entice customers with new merchandise and to connect them to the brand.
“It is very important to us to speak to our strategy,” said John Hardy ceo Damien Dernoncourt. “We don’t want to change our focus all the time because things are changing.”
Hardy is still in a growth mode. The firm, with its core business in North America, opened wholesale accounts in Russia and at Le Bon Marché in Paris this fall. It will continue to grow into those markets, as well as the Middle East.
“Sales for the last three months were not what we were planning them to be a year ago, but we are still growing,” added Dernoncourt, who added that the sweet spot is $850.
Silver is a growing category and will continue to be strong next year. Marco Bicego, the Italian firm that has an average price point of $2,000, reported increases for 2008 so far and will focus on existing retail accounts with Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Bailey Banks & Biddle. Marco Bicego is sold in a network of 450 doors and the U.S. is the brand’s largest market, though it is increasing its business with accounts in Russia and Dubai, as well as locations across Europe.
“I have personal appearances to get consumer feedback,” said designer Marco Bicego. “I’m planning conservatively, but I’m still positive.”
Bicego has begun to dabble in one-of-a-kind high jewelry pieces with success. Last month, the company sold a pair of earrings for $110,000.
Several smaller jewelers are thriving. Last month, Sharon Khazzam launched the Sharon Khazzam Rare Collection at Barneys New York. The line of extraordinary diamond pieces includes stones such as a 72-carat yellow diamond briolette. Khazzam said there is a lot of interest and that sales are continuing.
McTeigue & McClelland, a fine jewelry firm based in Great Barrington, Mass., opened a new private salon to sell its limited diamond and gemstone jewelry. Los Angeles-based designer Irene Neuwirth said there is a demand for high-ticket items above $40,000, and Ella Gafter continues to see demand for its rarefied jewelry with South Sea pearls, diamonds and rubies.
Prince Dimitri, a descendant of Catherine de Medici and Mary, Queen of Scots, who started a jewelry line in 1990, has moved on to designing only one-off pieces of jewelry and art. His pieces range from $27,000 to $2.2 million. One standout is a topiary modeled after the ones at L’Orangerie de Versailles, which include three whopping cabochon emeralds amounting to 89 carats.
“I have some American and some Russian [clients],” said Prince Dimitri. “It’s for people who have seen it all….It took a village to make [it all].”
Lee Siegelson, owner of Siegelson, which specializes in rare antique jewelry, said people continue to look for beautiful pieces of jewelry.
“We take a long-term perspective on the things that we’re buying,” said Siegelson. “Our clients watch CNBC and are concerned with different factors economically, but we’re selling the same type of jewelry we’ve sold before. It’s slowed a bit, but overall if you’re worried about your livelihood and existence, you’re not necessarily going to go out and buy a piece of jewelry.”
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over the top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty