Twenty-First Century Bling
Who could ever forget that famous DeBeers adage, ‘A diamond is forever?’ Though they may have won Advertising Age’s Slogan of the Century in 1999, we’d like to highlight the fact that it is a new century. And while fine jewelry will always have an important place in history and rites of passage, it seems more fitting in 2017, the year of so much proverbial weight, to talk about the kind of bling that's a bit more light-hearted. The happy, 'just bought a new red lipstick' kind of bling. So whether you grabbed it on impulse at the check-out or want to spend a little bit more on a new bauble, there’s a corner of this market for each and every type of consumer, and the options have never shone brighter.
How Important Is Jewelry Anyways?
Am I the only millennial who remembers afternoons at the local Clarie’s, debating like my life depended on it, which pair of earrings I was going to buy with my $10 allowance? I’m guessing not, considering that the chain has pierced more than 94 million ears over the course of its history. (I consider convincing my mother to let me pierce mine one of the crowning achievements of my youth.) Yet, after several consecutive years of declining sales, they are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, with more than $2B in debt closing in on them. Does this mean that the market for inexpensive and fun jewelry has vanished? It most certainly hasn’t, rather their sales have been siphoned off to other retailers whose full assortments offer shoppers more options across both apparel and accessories categories. In fact, retailers including Forever 21, Madewell, and H&M offer healthy assortments of costume jewelry (much of it positioned for prime impulse shopping at checkout for all of us suckers). Even Zara, whose assortment of non-footwear accessories has been historically limited, has been making a stronger push into the category. Curious about how much of the assortment is jewelry at some of your favorite online and offline retailers?
How do we know that jewelry matters? Well, it's less susceptible to discounting, as our data shows.
74% of jewelry assortments aren't on discount, while this is 57% for apparel categories.
Jewelry will likely never be the focal category for most fashion retailers, but its availability means important incremental sales opportunities and cements their respective positions as ear-to-ankle outfitters.
Baublebar: A Success Story
We’ve heard the message loud and clear that millennials are over many of the mall stores. So where is it acceptable for them to shop for their necklace or earrings fix? Enter fast fashion jewelry brand Baublebar. If you’ve heard of them it might be that they’ve racked up an estimated $75M in sales, their distribution has grown beyond purely digital to include Bloomingdales and Nordstrom doors, and they have launched co-branded product with Target.
Their strategy is deceptively simple: they release new items every day, price three-quarters of their assortment under $50, and design digital marketing campaigns that hit all the right visual notes with their fashion-savvy shoppers.
Specific tactics helping them keep their sparkle? Offering personalized pieces, ‘Buried Baubles’ at a major discount, and a bestseller re- and up-stocking strategy. Their digital smarts, diversified distribution strategy, and nimble supply chain should keep them in the running for the foreseeable future.
Stuck In The Middle
So let’s say you’re looking for jewelry that’s more everyday-wear. It needs to last (and not leave a green stain on your neck), yet you don’t want to spend a fortune. Until recently, this market position had been occupied with largely unattractive options for younger consumers in the US. They weren’t particularly compelled to shop an old-fashioned Zales, yet couldn't quite reach a Tiffany’s or Bulgari. In fact if you check major department stores inventories in the US, you will find price points on opposing ends of the spectrum, will very little in the middle.
We found that only 17-20% of department store inventories were priced between $150-500.
Allow me take you on a tangent for a moment here: I was struck, when traveling overseas to Japan more than ten years ago, that their local market was rife with jewelry that was exquisitely designed, yet didn’t necessitate indentured servitude to a SO in order to make it mine. (If you haven’t heard of them, I'd highly recommend checking out Kataoka, agete, e.m., and Siena.) The morale of this story is that a hyper-competitive market catering to incredibly discriminating local consumers resulted in an abundance of high quality and affordable options. I didn't tell you that story just to show off my passport stamps, I promise. While you might not be able to book a ticket to Tokyo, retailers and designers stateside have started picking up on this upwardly-mobile and digitally-savvy market opportunity. And boy, are we glad they did. Leading the charge is Catbird, a Brooklyn boutique opened in 2004, that has since surpassed $10M in sales and is credited with starting that whole ring stacking trend. But their strategy isn’t just about affordability, it's about options; their house brand starts at $12 and goes up to $6,000 for wedding and engagement styles. And their partner brands also provide a wide variety of price points to cater to the budget and occasion at hand.
But it’s the aesthetic that really resonates with their shoppers; the designs are modern, sweet, edgy, unique and all of the other contradictions that so embody their millennial customer base.
You can read more about their success story on Bloomberg.
Stuck in the middle? Nah, we'd say that the middle is where the major opportunities for 21st century jewelry brands lie.
Ear + Eye Candy
I'd be remiss if I didn't leave you with some fun visual examples of the latest trends we've seen cropping up on our Trends Dashboard.