LONDON — Women might have packed away their party dresses and heels in response to lockdown — but they’re investing in more fine jewelry.
Global retailers have been seeing an uptick in jewelry sales throughout the year as customers become increasingly conscious of the need to make smarter investments or to gift meaningful items to loved ones whose birthdays, anniversaries or weddings they’ve had to miss.
Jewelry also plays well on Zoom, helping dress up casual looks that people are wearing while working from home.
So with the holiday season approaching, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers alike are putting the accent on fine jewelry in their holiday campaigns, gift guides and virtual concierge services.
Although much of Europe might be in lockdown until at least the beginning of December, that hasn’t dampened shoppers’ appetites, according to retailers, who are getting used to selling high-value jewelry and watches on Zoom, WhatsApp or any other social platform their customers favor.
“We’re confident that Christmas gifting and celebration will be front of mind when we open our doors once again. But many of our customers won’t even need to wait that long as they have been shopping in full force through our virtual personal shopping service,” said Beth Hannaway, head of fine jewelry and watches at Harrods.
The department store has placed increased focus on the fine jewelry experience since reopening its doors over the summer, and has opened dedicated, in-store pop-ups by the likes of Cartier.
Now, during the U.K.’s second, month-long lockdown, Harrods has been quick to pivot to virtual personal shopping services that allow customers to view the store’s full stock from their screens, and even design bespoke pieces via Zoom.
“The interest in shopping online for watches and jewelry has accelerated significantly over the last few months, catching up with more mature digital categories like beauty,” added Hannaway, pointing to a dedicated “World of Watches” online celebration, which is slated for later this month.
The upcoming holiday period is expected to see an even further spike in sales as shoppers are placing more emphasis on purchasing meaningful gifts for loved ones: “In 2020, we have witnessed a shift towards celebrating love and gifting for others, rather than focusing on self-gifting, which had been the growing trend until now,” noted Hannaway.
Los Angeles-based jeweler Suzanne Kalan, who opened her first boutique in Harrods a few weeks before London went into its second lockdown, also noticed a smooth transition between offline and online sales.
“The boutique is the pinnacle of my six-year relationship with Harrods, so nothing was going to stop me. Of course, it’s a very nerve-wracking time for everyone, in every industry, but jewelry has definitely kept its desirability,” said the designer.
“I do feel that the demand in the U.K. for my rainbow fireworks pieces has continued, and we were pleasantly surprised to see such great sales as soon as we launched the boutique. These have continued as strongly, even with the temporary closing of the store,” said Kalan.
Joyful pieces have indeed been a priority among shoppers, as much as investment-worthy, heirloom pieces.
“During the first lockdown, and as the Zoom effect took hold, it was clear customers were looking for timeless, investment pieces they could buy now and wear forever — and we saw no resistance to price. They were buying both fun, ‘feel-good’ fine jewelry, such as Carolina Bucci’s colorful beads and Yvonne Leon’s quirky pieces, as well as classic investment items, like tennis necklaces from Anita Ko and Suzanne Kalan, and high price-point watches, such as Cartier’s Baignoire and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak,” said Libby Page, Net-a-porter‘s senior fashion market editor.
Page sees those same buying habits continuing throughout the holiday period, which is why Net has just debuted a dedicated watches and fine jewelry campaign to coincide with the holiday season. The campaign highlights many of the household names the retailer has been working hard to bring onboard throughout the years, including Cartier, Hermès, Piaget, IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The jewelry customer is also becoming increasingly interested in learning about the provenance of gemstones and diamonds and making more considered investments in high-quality materials.
“Customers are spending more on jewelry and investing in diamonds and pearls. They’re wanting more information on the quality of the materials and looking to learn more about each piece prior to purchase. We are also seeing more customers slowly start to learn more about unusual techniques, rare gemstones and invest in niche designer-makers, which I find the most exciting,” said Min Lee, Farfetch’s jewelry specialist, who is currently working on creating edits and gift guides that will help the Farfetch audience navigate the site’s 260 fine jewelry brands.
Farfetch, which launched fine jewelry in 2018, has already seen traction across its hard luxury sector this year: Lee pointed to a launch of customized Cartier fine rings and bracelets, which prompted an immediate demand for more information and high sell-throughs. She also flagged popular product launches by the likes of De Beers, Chopard, Boucheron, Pomellato and Tasaki.
“Jewelry is so easy to layer, and the shift to casual dressing has underscored just how essential and adaptable it is in any wardrobe,” said Lee of the increased interest in jewelry, particularly Zoom-friendly earrings, chain necklaces and diamond pieces that can be worn for years.
At Mytheresa, fashion buying director Tiffany Hsu pointed to an increased appetite for quality diamond and gold pieces that feel like “timeless investments,” but added that forward-thinking designs by new names like Eéra were just as popular.
“We launched Eéra a year ago and it’s been incredibly successful for us. It has a really fresh, and very fashion-forward, approach to fine jewelry. We definitely see demand among our clients for less conventional fine jewelry brands,” added Hsu.
More dedicated jewelry e-commerce platforms are also cropping up to cater to consumers’ increased appetite for fine jewelry.
This summer, Copenhagen-based site dubbed Finematter bowed with the ambition to become the Farfetch of fine jewelry, while this month another specialized retail platform, Once, launched to market with a selection of brands such as Messika, Amrapali, Boodles, Ileana Makri, Loquet London and more.
“As a new technology platform, Once bridges the gap between fine-jewelry buyers and sellers and makes the industry more efficient and transparent while offering a simplified visitor experience,” said the platform’s chief executive officer Shezan Amiji.