The royal wedding frenzy is under way, but will the rush to buy all things Kate have legs?
With the 2011 nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton many months away, jewelers and retailers are banking on her style — from the oval blue sapphire engagement ring that belonged to Princess Diana to the blue Issa London dress she wore to meet the press — to generate copycat sales.
“There’s definitely a connection between this type of high-profile moment and sales,” said Greg Kwiat, chief executive officer of Fred Leighton, where blue sapphires account for 10 to 15 percent of inventory. There has been “a notable increase in interest in sapphires as engagement stones.”
Sweeping advancements in technology in the 30 years since Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding can have an impact on the public’s appetite. The instantaneous dissemination of information on the Internet — along with expanding social media and bloggers and the 24-hour cycle of broadcast news — all feed a seemingly endless dissection of what celebrities wear and how and when they wear it.
Not even the struggles of the global economy to rebound from the recession seem to have dulled the desire of some to emulate the royals.
The Natural Sapphire Co., which sold out of its Princess Diana Replica Ring, priced at $1,000, within 24 hours of the engagement announcement, sees a long-term bounce.
“I’m being a little bit bullish, but I project this one engagement is going to double our business in terms of sale, in terms of our staff…in six months to a year….This ring is going to be photographed a zillion times and burned into consumers’ minds,” said company president Michael Arnstein.
Online jeweler Blue Nile sells 20 styles of blue sapphire rings, from $380 to $28,000.
“It’s fair to say there is a blue sapphire trend that is developing, and I expect that to continue for the foreseeable future as we get closer and closer to the wedding,” said John Baird, director of corporate communications. “As far as Americans are concerned, British royalty is the last true example of a living fairy tale…[and] we want to obtain a piece of that fairy tale.
“Across the board we have seen a significant increase in interest for blue sapphires, and blue sapphire rings, in particular,” Baird said, adding that Google searches for terms related to blue sapphires and Middleton’s ring have all registered a big jump.
Though Blue Nile’s business consists primarily of diamond jewelry, the company is making decisions based partly on the Middleton effect. “In the short term, we’re trying to understand, for the holiday season, do we increase our supply of blue sapphires? If yes, then by how much?” Baird said.
He speculated the impact might last until holiday 2011.
On the more affordable end, television and online retailer QVC launched a Kenneth Jay Lane-designed replica on Saturday, priced at $34.95. Lisa Morrissey, vice president of merchandising for QVC, said, “Our Web searches for sapphire rings have more than doubled in the past few days.”