Jewellery purchases in India have always been driven by weddings followed by self-purchases and gifting. For the last two or three years, there has been a huge demand shift towards destination bridal jewellery and pret collections. As the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed many weddings, jewellers are compelled to reassess everything from product inventory to sales and marketing strategies.
While the lockdown in India halted business operations, it also gave jewellers the time to reflect on their business projects and chart out a plan for the future.
Going by global trends, many from the industry feel that consumers will indulge in revenge buying once the lockdown eases, but it will be short-lived. The consensus is that the industry will take at least six months to a year to make pre-lockdown revenues.
Slow but a sure road to recovery
Biren Vaidya, Managing Director, The Rose Group of Companies points out that jewellers will take two to three months to get their systems in place – establishing social distancing at workplace, sanitization and dealing with operational issues to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Jewellery is not an essential commodity. Currently, companies dealing in essential goods are facing challenges. My elder son is in the Ayurveda space and he is facing issues in supply from vendors and managing staff. It will take 3 to 6 months for essential companies to get back into the thick of things. After they start getting money, they will take care of their teams and then look at spending elsewhere. In the jewellery space, we will start seeing real results post that.”
Yash Agarwal, Creative Director and Design Head of Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas Jewellers, Jaipur feels that there will be a dramatic change post lockdown. “One thing we are sure of is that we are not going to have many people walk into our stores for a couple of months once the lockdown eases. People might buy jewellery from an investment perspective, so there will be some demand for precious jewellery over costume jewellery.”
The mindset of consumers has changed due to the current scenario. It has made them more self-aware and this will perhaps make them more conscious about their purchases. They will choose quality over quantity.
In the last few months before the lockdown, gold prices had skyrocketed from 3900/gm in January to 4500/gm in March. People usually buy when prices increase, but they didn’t, says Tarang Arora, CEO of Amrapali.
“In the last 5-6 years, there has been a strong push towards mutual funds or investing in the share market. The government has been telling people through ads that mutual funds sahi hai,” adds Arora.
Gold as the best investment option
But post the coronavirus crisis, people will reconsider investing in gold, like they always did. He said that if a person had invested a certain amount in gold and the same amount in the market 10 years ago, the return on investment in gold would be the same as that in the market, if not more. “In the stock market, there are a lot of fluctuations. You have to make the right call every time to make it profitable eventually. On the other hand, gold does not need so much of monitoring,” says Arora.
He also feels that millennials who generally prefer renting a house or a car over owning these assets will want to buy these. “In the lockdown, gold is the only commodity that hasn’t depreciated. People are going to go out and buy, but consciously.”
Jewellers are already gearing up to deal with the new sanitisation and safety norms, right from at the manufacturing level to retail showrooms and even within their offices.
For the first few months, consumers will prefer the digital mode of communication. The trend of selling via WhatsApp has also penetrated into the jewellery sector. A brand’s loyal clients will opt for WhatsApp, whereas new potential buyers would like to visit the store. When it comes to jewellery, the “touch and feel” of certain products is important as well. “We will encourage consumers to take an appointment before visiting the store so as to limit the number of people inside. We will also focus on enhancing the digital experience with the use of augmented reality to gain customers’ attention, and the focus will be on indirect sales,” says Agarwal. Retailers are also looking at augmented reality apps to woo their customers.
Communication over Zoom and WhatsApp will be bolstered by try-at-home services, an age-old way of selling jewellery in the country. “In order to sustain, you have to diversify your portfolio, create more price-oriented products, give options and be open to customisations. You may have to use silver or combine the two. You have to do anything and everything to make sure that the sales happen, says Arora, adding that they are lucky to have a diversified inventory and a strong social media presence.
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The digital push
A survey by Hammerkopf Consumer Survey revealed that there was an 87 per cent increase in social media usage in the lockdown. People spend four hours a day on an average on Facebook and WhatsApp. During the lockdown itself, jewellers took to social media to fortify their presence. Those who have e-shops will benefit as lockdown restrictions ease, while others whose digital plans are in the pipeline will fast track it to stay on top of the game.
House of Rose has been monitoring the digital space for the last one and a half years to research new collections that will appeal to the millennials. They have also been actively promoting the brand on social media. Collections were planned with the younger generation in mind, and post the lockdown, they will expedite the plan. “We will launch 6 to 12 collections this year, depending on when the lockdown ends. The collections will have high flexibility and feasibility quotient and very interesting price points. These will start from Rs50,000 and go up to 5lakh,” informs Vaidya. As for the heavier jewellery, he feels that people will be comfortable buying pieces in the range of Rs15-25 lakh. While they will not launch an e-commerce shop, they are planning to recreate the in-store Rose experience online as well.
For high ticket items, the sale might be initiated through digital means but the final purchase will happen either in the store or through trials at home. Ajoy Chawla, CEO: Jewellery Division, Titan CO. Ltd feels that digitalisation in the case of luxury brands will now most likely be the new normal. “Our effort will be to keep the virtual experience as seamless and as tailored as it can get. Digitizing will also add to the convenience of our customers. However, because of the nature of the product, we still foresee that the final purchase will happen either at the boutique or customer’s home via home shopping.”
Brands will also have to spend on creating quality content for the digital space. “At Zoya, our constant effort is to engage our customers with strategic and engaging events and innovative PR that embodies luxury, tells brand stories and creates meaningful experiences. There are newer properties that are being developed for enhanced engagement and connection on digital platforms as well as new ways of creating personalised experiences that transition from offline to online seamlessly. We will continue to support this with unconventional advertising in print and on digital platforms,” informs Chawla.
The festive rush
What’s keeping jewellers motivated is the upcoming festive season and weddings. Even though the weddings will be scaled down due to social distancing norms and travel restrictions, jewellery will continue to play an important role, believes Arora.
Vaidya feels that the focus will shift to what the bride would like to carry in her trousseau rather than just focusing on the wedding day jewellery.
Agarwal, on the other hand, feels that as weddings will become smaller, families will have more disposable income to buy jewellery and other luxury goods.
Most of these luxury brands have a global clientele. While sales can take place over video calls, the challenge lies in delivering the goods to Non-Resident Indians and High Net-worth Individuals living abroad. Retailers who also have stores in foreign countries will have to keep track of all the rules and regulations of the respective countries and whether they are still in lockdown in the near future.
Rishabh Tongya, Creative Director, Diacolor
We are optimistic about the change in the jewellery retail landscape. Once the lockdown ends, people will start spending more on things that make them happy. We will see a shift in preference for fine quality products. Our business strategy has always been to give our customers a tailor-made experience of buying great quality products at competitive prices. While there will be a few tweaks in the marketing and promotional strategies, virtual platforms will become a part of our daily routine, and hygiene, safety and wellbeing, an integral part of every activity. People know about the superior quality and workmanship that we offer, and winning our customers back will not be a problem. However, certain special offers, continuous virtual and on-ground engagement and, above all, assurance of maintaining utmost hygiene and safety measures, will grab a consumer’s attention.
As people will have fewer wedding functions and fewer attendees, the average money spent on weddings will shrink. We had planned to launch new collections this year but have pushed them to early 2021. We are working on a pret range to cater to audiences across verticals. We will soon start selling jewellery online to make it easier for people to buy our jewellery. It is a work in progress.
Rohan Narang, Managing Director, Hazoorilal Legacy
The entire retail landscape, and not just for jewellery, is expected to change post the lockdown. COVID-19 has inevitably impacted our lives. We’re conservative in our immediate outlook pertaining to the economic scenario, customer sentiment and footfall in the stores.
Hazoorilal Legacy has 16 unique collections with different craftsmanship and price points, helping the audience to easily discern their requirements. Going forward, the focus will be on integrating technology with the existing channels to push and aid the customer’s digital buying behaviour. The use of augmented reality on our website for a virtual try-on experience, investment in creating quality video content for product presentation and marking our presence as an e-commerce platform are a few ideas which are in the works. The emphasis will remain on finding innovative ways to communicate with the customers amidst social distancing and providing a superlative experience
Any piece of jewellery, which has been handled by the staff or tried on by a customer will undoubtedly be cleaned and sanitized. Our staff will be equipped with face masks, gloves, sanitizers, and regularly undergo temperature checks. The idea is to instil confidence in the customer that it is safe to visit our stores or alternately make a luxury purchase via Hazoorilal Legacy’s promoted digital channels. We will also offer try-at-home services.
As social distancing will be practised, personalized social media content that invites consumer or expert collaborations, live interactions with the brand’s spokespersons and virtual showroom tours will take precedence.
Sitanshi Talati-Parikh, Creative Head, Her Story
Post an unprecedented situation like a lockdown, evidence shows an emergence of revenge shopping, whereby people have gravitated towards feel-good products and services. Thoughtful brands and purchases will continue to hold meaning. We will be launching very exciting collections this year. One such upcoming collection is called Warrior Song, which is about a gracefully resilient woman.
As soon as we reach a point when it is safe to interact and shop, consumers will expect and respect retail spaces that are mindful of hygiene and practice social distancing. We have an outdoor area at the Her Story boutique in Altamount Road in Mumbai and will explore engaging with clients outside as well as inside the boutique.
The digital medium has truly become an important touch point for building brand awareness. That being said, it is unlikely to rapidly replace retail space for the precious jewellery industry in India. Consumers would not want to let go of the joy of seeing a jewel on themselves before making a purchase, as jewels by nature come alive when worn. Those consumers that are familiar with the brand and its jewels would find it easy to purchase online or via social media and WhatsApp. Being available to clients digitally and through social networks will continue to be extremely important as would be the option of home buying.
Abhishek Raniwala, Director, Raniwala 1881
Jewellery retail will be very sensitive. Primary fascia, people will start taking care of life essentials and utilities. I foresee that for the next two-three months or at least till Diwali, jewellery retail will be need or investment-based. We have many pending orders, so we have a lot of work that needs to be finished. Post COVID-19, the consumer sentiment will change. We will start working on more niche segments, catering to consumers’ requirements.
Gold as an asset will be a very promising option. A jewellery brand can sustain if it promises to offer investment, great value and, of course, a solution. Currently, we are not sure about investing funds into a new collection. We will plan and execute it based on the market sentiments and movement of finances. People will opt for plain gold jewellery. Many may require cash, so, they may even come to us to sell their old jewellery.
Digitalization has become the only bridge to reach, connect and interact with our staff as well as with consumers. We are working on creating newer digital avenues to connect with people and give them the best experience possible through dedicated video calls, augmented reality portals, social media, etc. We will also enhance our one-on-one experience at our store.
Pratiksha Prashant, CEO, Kishandas & Co
People will be very careful about stepping out once the lockdown ends, so walk-in clients will be fewer. Having any kind of public events such as hosting exhibitions will have to be skipped. We will make our presence felt on social media until this phase ends.
I’m expecting people to start coming to us in July- August. In a way, it is good for us because it will give us time to relook at our stocks and complete our old orders. The virus can stay on metallic surfaces for a longer period. Hence, we are making sure that our staff and karigars are equipped with masks and proper sanitation kits.
I don’t think luxury jewellery is something that people would like to buy online. We will connect with our customers through WhatsApp and request them to shortlist the pieces and then visit their homes for a trial.
People will be a little conservative about what they buy. A lot of focus was given to experiential marketing in jewellery retail last year, but I think people are going to hold on to the old traditions and methods, not just in business but in every walk of life.
Anup Shah, Founder, DNA Jewels
Last year, we transformed from an offline to an online business and hope that this strategy should pay off. We have been creating awareness about our brand even during this lockdown as most people are on the internet during this quarantine. As most weddings have been postponed, we will have to strategize our marketing calendar once things settle down.
We have new collections in the pipeline but will take a call as to when to launch them based on the demand from our customers. Getting customers back to the shops will take a long time. For gifts and impulsive purchases, people will turn to online stores, but for heavier bridal sets, I think people would like to visit the store.
When it comes to offline interactions, we have a strict policy of one client at a time. We will offer disposable gloves and hand sanitizers to them and plan to increase our promotions on Facebook and Instagram. When it comes to our employees, we stand by them and continue to support them monetarily, so that they can manage their households.