For Indians, jewellery is a lot more than just a luxury product, it’s our investment with which we have an emotional connect. Hence, the jewellery sector has always been among the first few to recover after a financial crisis in the past. Even though the current Coronavirus crisis is nothing like anyone has experienced in the past, but Sachin Jain, Managing Director, Forevermark, India, believes that the Indian jewellery sector will definitely tide through these difficult times soon, and to speed up the recovery he suggests that jewellery retailers invest in digital up-gradation, data science and be cognizant of consumers’ feelings and embrace the new normal.
Jain elaborates his point of view:-
What does the future of jewellery look like post COVID? India’s relationship with jewellery is deep, it goes back generations. Hence, our experiences in the past has taught us that the jewellery sector should revive faster than other luxury sectors. We should be back on track by mid-2021.
The next two or three months will be about figuring out revival strategies. But in the last quarter, during our season time, is when recovery will begin.
What is the situation right now? We are a heavily retail-led business and that is completely closed and so is manufacturing and our mines. Everything has been brought to a standstill. In our world, mining is a very different discussion and so is manufacturing and retail. Unlike during any event in the past, this time around everything is closed. Hence, all the different units will take its own time to get back to normal, as there will be a different reset button for each of these.
When the lockdown was announced, more than a month ago, people in the industry were talking about a minimal loss, but nobody is talking about that estimate right now, as no one knows when will the lockdown end. To give you a number, one has to be a superhuman. But I can tell you that in the business of retail, every day of business counts. So, every day you are shut, it’s a loss. At Forevermark, our business is different and so is the consumption pattern of our products. We may not incur a big loss for being shut for two months. But no one is completely clear.
What can jewellers do right now to prepare for the future? 1) This is the start of the pandemic, and certainly not the end, so, every marketer should be cognizant of what a consumer is going through. Any kind of blatant advertising asking people to buy jewellery will be erroneous. It will not be received well by consumers. Most jewellery brands in India have a long history and with that huge a credibility, you can’t tell people right now that buy my diamond at a 20 per cent discount.
2) After we open up, consumers are not going to immediately flock to our shops. We have to ensure that our retail environments are sanitized, that everyone is wearing a mask and following social distancing. We will also have to follow a strict protocol to disinfect the jewellery pieces. These measures will instil confidence among the consumers that it is safe to go to a jewellery store.
3) Jewellers will have to do a lot of work to meaningfully engage with the consumer. Chances are that smaller items might sell better than large, flamboyant pieces. And if that means that you have to change your strategy, please do so.
4) Lastly, keep the long-term vision in mind. Our category is a happy category. All my customers come to my store to share happiness. There is a lot of emotion attached to the industry and we shouldn’t lose sight of that in our business plans, communication and marketing strategies.
What role does technology play in the jewellery business, especially now? In the retail industry there is a lot of science – merchandising, return-investment, etc. We as an industry, deal with a lot of data. But only a handful of people are looking at their businesses scientifically. This is a wake-up call for all of us. Retailers must think objectively, study the amount of capital deployed and what sort of a product is giving one what kind of return. We have a lot to do in this basic space and I appeal to the retailers to make the necessary changes and deploy the required technology. Tomorrow the competition is not going to be among jewellers but with other retailers and experiences.
What does the future of the jewellery business look like? E-Commerce will be important, but may not facilitate immediate growth in sales. Nevertheless, I would like to urge our jewellers to not look at it from a transactional point of view. Online storytelling and putting your brand out there is extremely important. Go back to your website and build on it.
Sustainability and meaningfulness will matter to consumers more than ever. So, brands must strive hard to adopt sustainable practices to survive in the long-run.
How is Forevermark engaging with its business partners and employees in the lockdown? Just two days after the lockdown was announced, we initiated 12 training programmes for our partners – manufacturers and retailers – on finance, technology, consumer relations, etc. We have also been training more than 3,000 sales ambassador.