Roskin Gem News Report

the Summit: What do Consumers and Collectors Really Care About

Gary Roskin –
Roskin Gem News Report

The Jewelry Summit: Panel #1

“What do consumers and collectors really care about,
 and how can businesses give it to them?”

Broad industry-wide questions like this deserve global answers. This was apparent by the heavy industry hitters on stage with moderator David Ager, Senior Lecturer, and Managing Director at the Harvard Business School.

David Ager

The panel members are introduced here, and for those who are unfamiliar with these industry titans, what or who they represent is included.

Susan Jacques, President, and CEO of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and one of the Summit sponsors. GIA has 14 locations spread across 13 countries. With 10 campuses (located in Bangkok, Mumbai, Carlsbad, New York, Gaborone, Hong Kong, London, Dubai, Seoul, & Taipei), 9 grading and gem identification labs (located in Bangkok, Mumbai, Carlsbad, New York, Gaborone, Ramat Gan, Hong Kong, Tokyo, & Johannesburg), 5 lab take-in locations and 4 research centers, GIA has a presence in all of the major gem and jewelry centers around the world. GIA has trained more than 365,000 students since it was founded in 1931.

Melanie Grant, Executive Director of the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC), another one of the three Summit sponsors. Grant has been a journalist for over 20 years having worked at The Times, The FT, The Independent, The Guardian, The BBC and at The Economist where she spent 16 years overseeing luxury content and photography for 1843 Magazine, their lifestyle sister publication. She has become the authority on jewellery as art and commodity, writing articles and giving talks.

Grant joined RJC in January of this year. RJC is the world’s leading sustainability standard setting organization for the jewelry and watch industry. RJC is the global membership and standards body for responsible jewelry throughout the entire supply chain – from mine to retail. RJC’s ‘Code of Practice’ references key development frameworks, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ILO* Principles and UN Global Compact and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)*.

Colleen Rooney, Chief Communications and ESG Officer for Signet Jewelers. Signet, the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry, includes jewelry brands Jareds, Kay Jewelers, Banter by Piercing Pagoda, JamesAllen.com, Blue Nile, Zales, Diamonds Direct, Peoples Jewellers, H.Samuel, RocksBox, Earnest Jones, and regional brands.

And Pippa Small, jewelry designer and Ambassador for Survival International, an organization that partnerships with tribal peoples to campaign, lobby and protest for their land rights. Pippa Small is a well-respected ethical jewelry brand, known for working with Fairtrade, Fair Mined sourced materials, focusing on generating secure livelihoods in areas of conflict around the world (including Myanmar, and Afghanistan), and creating opportunities for a new generation of women to learn valuable workshop skills.

Let Us Begin!

Okay… Sitting through mind-numbing corporate catch phrases of “Traceability,” and “Sustainability,” along with the acronyms of the week, ESG,* and DE&I,* sprinkled generously throughout the 45 minute discussion was expected. However, the panelists, with the help of an impressive moderator, thankfully managed to stay on track, and offer up some down to earth responses.

Ager kicked things off asking GIA president Susan Jacques, “What is on the minds of consumers in the US right now? Do you see shifts of what consumers are caring about? Are there 2 or 3 trends?

Consumers in the U.S.

“Well, the good news,” says Jacques, “is that there is still great desirability for jewelry.” Jacques received applause from the audience, as summer always tends to be rather slow for business.

As for trends, “responsible sourcing, and lab grown diamonds are certainly on the minds of the consumer and those of us in the industry.”

And because they are on consumers’ minds, they come to retailers with questions. “Where did you get it?” “Where did it come from?” “Who made it?” “What’s it made of?”

Jewelry is an emotional purchase,” notes Jacques. “Sales associates in every store around the world need to answer those questions, tell the story to satisfy the emotional needs of the customer.”

She continued, “ ‘It sparkles beautifully because it’s cut beautifully,’ isn’t enough anymore. People want to know what’s behind that story. They want to know where it came from, and that the people along the supply chain were treated fairly.”

Jacques noted that while the industry has done much to clean up its act, there’s so much more that needs to be done, “and we need to do it collectively,” she noted.

“Sustainability, traceability, as well as transparency, is for one reason and one reason only,” stated Jacques. “Consumer confidence. That’s why GIA exists. That’s what we do for a living. Without consumer confidence we do not have an industry.”

Consumer Confidence. You give consumers the confidence they need, and want, to purchase jewelry from you.

Consumers Outside the U.S.

Ager moved on to Colleen Rooney, Chief Communications and ESG Officer Signet, to ask about consumers globally. “Outside the U.S., do you see the same?” asked Ager.

“We have 11 brands in our portfolio” noted Rooney. “We talk about ourselves as being a ‘purpose inspired’ organization.” Signet wants to inspire love around the world. “Those are words, but the actions to our words are ESG.” According to Rooney, Signet now has 41 corporate sustainability goals.

“The reason this matters is that consumers care about it! If you follow the great Jim Collins, companies, like ours, will out-perform 15:1… if you are ‘purpose inspired.’”

Who is Jim Collins?

https://www.jimcollins.com/about.html

Deloitte recently came out with a statement that says consumers will actually align with a company that aligns with their values,” says Rooney. “So globally, purpose really matters.” This can be business altering.

Rooney notes that their employees are now more on board with the company than in the past. “What we are finding is that 90% of our talent around the world now believe in our purpose.”

And customers do respond to their purpose. They buy the jewelry that has a story, but also share your same values, to be a part of the love, and to stop the hate and divisiveness. “It’s been a total cultural transformation,” says Rooney.

Signet’s purpose wasn’t far off from where it is now. “Celebrate life and express love” was always their mission. But something was missing. “What’s missing from that?” asked Rooney. “The word ‘all!’ We ALL need to celebrate life and express love. We needed to be bold. We were too safe in our marketing. We didn’t really represent D, E, & I [diversity, equity, and inclusion]. What would make us proud to come in to work every day? We were so sick of the divisiveness. We said, ‘let’s stand for love’ – it’s as simple as that.”

The Numbers are Impressive

Since modifying their purpose, Signet has gone from 60% engagement to over 90%. “We’re attracting more new customers,” says Rooney. “They sell a piece of jewelry backed by the notion of love.”

People in Community – Part of “the Story”

Pippa Small looks at the story, and has made it her goal to bring the client a jewelry journey from places you would never think of – through the workforce in places like Colombia and Afghanistan. She wants to bring the story of the women who are talented and looking for work, in communities that have little connection with the outside world but who have a craft and a heritage to share.

In 2008, she found herself in Afghanistan, and saw an opportunity, a way for people who have been in conflict to hold onto their craft, their heritage, their identity. There was a need for jobs. And being a small business, she could say, “we are going to work here.”

“When people need a job, and people want to stay home with their families, there’s not much opportunity,” says Small. She loves the fact that she can support “the idea that people can have a job in a creative, safe environment, and produce things that instill a sense of pride.”

It is not easy, says Small. But it is heartwarming. “They work together, form incredible support, and cope within a very difficult situation.”

And the story she can bring is what consumers are hungry for. “These things are made by hand,” says Small. “And it gives more people the opportunity to work.” The more she can sell, the more people she can bring on board. In the 15 years or so that she has been supporting these communities, there’s been “a bit more respect,” notes Small, “and for them, it is so important to be able to show pride, and beauty, and a sense of achievement.”

Inspiring

Bringing the conversation back to the story, Ager notes that Small brings “these beautiful loving pieces to the global market to now tell the story, about where they were created and about the artisans.”

“The techniques are very old,” notes Small, being passed down by the families, and continue to be preserved. “They’re also a source of inspiration for other artists working in the jewelry industry.”

Having visited enough times, Small noted that she can have conversations with the men and women in the workshops now on ZOOM. It is gratifying when you see one of the women showing their struggles into beautiful jewelry, envisioning that the sun will shine once again hopefully soon. “I’ve made this. I’ve created this.” And that image is huge.

Collectors, Auctions, and On-Line Sales

“Let’s talk about collectors and the arts,” Ager pushes the conversation along to Melanie Grant, wearing her luxury lifestyle journalist hat. “What trends do you see emerging and how are businesses responding? Are there trends in art and collecting?”

“There has been a shift in the auction business,” notes Grant, “especially for the artistic jewelry pieces, the limited pieces, one-off pieces, or maybe 10 – 20 pieces per year from an important designer.” For example, Grant notes, “Sotheby’s has shifted to include watches, jewelry, bags, and shoes all in one auction.” Typically, you would have jewelry on its own.

“Jewelry, as a category, is third for Sotheby’s, behind contemporary art and impressionism modern art.” This is a trend as jewelry sales grew 42% last year, globally to $440.5 million dollars in sales. That’s huge!

Besides listing the most important houses, Grant observed that independents are climbing. So that’s a nod for designer creativity.

Why This is so Important!

But the real eye-opener was the shift to a different age group. “Online sales are being fueled by younger buyers,” says Grant. “Covid pushed that through the roof. Today, 30% of collectors are under 40 years old, which, as a business, is phenomenal. Traditional businesses are not speaking to this group, thinking they are too young to have money.” This could be a fatal error.

Basically, this means that everyone has to beef up online sales, because it is what is coming. “And that means selling your best stuff online!” says Grant.

“10 years ago, Graff would not even consider selling jewelry online. And now they do – their most expensive pieces – and people are buying, sight unseen!”

That is a HUGE shift in terms of business. Most people were not ready for covid. And those who did not manage it were swept aside. That’s your warning. “So, get your best things online,” shouted Grant.

Social Media too

You need to communicate with the younger generation through social media, and not just a half-hearted attempt. “You need everyday engagement,” says Grant. “DM every query. Engage with the consumer every day. Right now, the biggest selling online network for jewelry is Instagram. If you do not take this seriously, you will lose lots of business. You have to do it, and do it every day.”

Suggestion: People under 40 are living in the “metaverse.” If you want to sell to them, you have to get into that world. Get some younger people on your team to help.

Thrifting, Swapping, & Recycling

People with lots of money buy ‘new.’ But within jewelry, Vintage, Antique, and Estate jewelry is all about having heritage. And we sell heritage.

“And with jewelry, the more important things are often old!” It’s all about heirlooms, says Grant.

We also like stories of recycling, finding another use for something that has history. And then there’s upcycling. You take something with little value, and create art. When you reuse it, it has a higher value.

Next up, ESG Demystified

Glossary

ESG

Environmental, Social, and Governance

“Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) refers to a collection of corporate performance evaluation criteria that assess the robustness of a company’s governance mechanisms and its ability to effectively manage its environmental and social impacts.”

Environmental criteria consider how a company safeguards the environment, including corporate policies addressing climate change, for example.

Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates.

Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.

DE&I

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.

ILO

International Labor Organization

The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. Child labor practices are a key focus of the ILO.

SDG

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations has 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

SMO

Social Media Optimization

Social media optimization (SMO) is the use of social media sites to manage and enhance an organization’s message and online presence. As a digital marketing strategy, social media optimization can be used to increase awareness of new products and services, connect with customers, and mitigate potentially damaging news. follow for more Roskingemnewsreport

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