In 2019, it seemed that direct-to-consumer jewelry labels were just heating up as the shoe and handbag categories were counting declines.
In October, The NPD Group said women’s fashion shoes were down 4 percent compared with the same period a year prior. This came after an April study by the firm noting that women’s handbag sales were down 11 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
All the while, Millennial jewelry start-ups were raking in notable investment. In April, the Toronto-based jewelry brand Mejuri announced a Series B round totaling $23 million, which came less than a year after their $5 million Series A round was announced in September 2018.
Then in late June, the New York-based DTC jeweler Aurate announced a $13 million Series A round that it planned to use toward retail and data strategy. The brand opened its first two stores in New York City in October, with locations in SoHo and the Upper East Side.
And in November, the DTC piercing salon Studs opened its first location with a $3 million series A round obtained prior to launch. Just one week after opening, the company’s founders Anna Harman and Lisa Bubbers had already begun looking for larger retail capacity, as their inaugural location was consistently booked from morning to close.
Mejuri chief executive officer and cofounder Noura Sakkijha told WWD of her brand’s success in May: “Traditionally, the purchase of fine jewelry has been occasion-driven. Based on that assumption, its marketing has been focused on men buying expensive items for the women in their lives. But that message from big, traditional jewelry companies is outdated and not super exciting to Millennials.”
The brand is instead geared toward women who are buying jewelry for themselves. “Women inform our product content,” said Sakkijha. “How they wear it. How they buy it for themselves. But we also wanted women to buy frequently and see Millennials purchase jewelry in the same way they would buy shoes or handbags.”
The same motto rings true for Aurate, which says 90 percent of its consumers are self-purchasing women who exhibit a 40 percent repeat purchase rate.
While it is a self-funded operation, Brooklyn jeweler Catbird has also seen runaway success with DTC fine jewelry geared toward Millennial women. The brand said it sells 2,000 pieces of its in-house jewelry brand per week — all of it sustainably made in Brooklyn.
Each of the labels are careful to offer an entry price point, with the average piece hitting around $250 and luxury collections and bridal pieces that can extend into the five-figure range. They are nimble with e-commerce and customer service while speaking directly to their consumer with personable social media voices.
Said Sakkijha of her brand’s strengths: “The big brands may do more high-luxury pieces. But we’re quick. We’re agile. And technology can allow us to do things that weren’t possible years ago.”