As “demi-fine” brands, changing trends and more accessible price points shift the jewellery landscape, Drapers discovers how retailers can best make use of its lucrative potential.
The jewellery market was historically polarised: at one end of the spectrum was cheap, high street, trend-led product and at the other fine jewellery “investment” pieces, often featuring dazzling gems with dizzying price tags. But today an “affordable luxury” category of jewellery is growing rapidly, as consumers hunt for unique brands and timeless items to invest in.
And this represents an opportunity for fashion retailers to expand their offer. If retailers, particularly independents, can be smart with their buying and merchandising, they can offer shoppers the unique brands and quality they crave, and benefit from additional sales in the process.
Typical mark-up ranges from 2.3 to 3 on fashion jewellery, and can be higher on fine jewellery, so independents can make a healthy return.
While uncertainty persists across retail market, jewellery sales are growing. Research agency Mintel predicts the market will grow by 3% this year, up from 2.5% growth in 2018.
Chana Baram, retail analyst at Mintel, explains that much of the growth in the sector has been driven by this rise of “demi-fine” jewellery, which represents a new pricing sweet spot.
“It is in between luxury and the high street,” she explains, and cites brands such as Monica Vinader and Maria Tash, whose retail prices range from around £100 to £1,000. “They are catering to people who want nice jewellery, but don’t want to spend thousands on it.”
She continues: “People are still getting something good quality, something that will last. They are saving up for these pieces. It’s not a small amount, but it’s easier to reach.”
Another brand serving this market is Carrie Elizabeth, which was founded four years ago by former high street jewellery buyer Carrie Dennahy, who spotted a gap in the market for mid-priced items: “It was so obvious to me that there was a massive gap between high street, throwaway fashion and really expensive, stunning fine jewellery.
“I wanted to find something in the middle – that made me and my friends feel excited, and fabulous when buying and wearing it, but was still attainable.”
Retail prices at Carrie Elizabeth range from £55 for a 14-carat gold vermeil (coated) initial necklace to £1,000 for a diamond and moonstone ring in the premium solid gold line.
Reflecting shifts in the fashion industry, the desire for affordable luxury marks a move away from “trends” towards timeless, investment worthy designs.
“Over the last four years, [the jewellery market] has definitely become less about trend and more about reinventing style,” explains Ruth Bewsey, director of Daisy London, who has worked at the jewellery brand for 10 years. “As with fashion, we’re seeing trends come full circle. It’s less about finding the next big thing and more about creating styles that are a nod to another time.”
These smaller brands offer an opportunity to independent retailers.
Baram notes that they are taking attention – and sales – away from established jewellery brands such as Pandora or Thomas Sabo: “People are stepping away from big retailers and brands, and are looking for something more niche.”
“Our customers are really shopping up,” concurs Deryane Tadd, owner of The Dressing Room boutique in St Albans. “They are not as price conscious [with jewellery], and they’re ready to spend a little bit more: they want something special, something unique.”
Anna Beck, Rachel Jackson and Kirstin Ash are some of the store’s bestsellers. Their retail price points range from £50 to £500.
As consumers hunt for unique jewellery, trends are shifting towards products that can be mixed, matched and made individual.
Layering necklaces – for example, minimalist pendants and simple chain necklaces, particularly in gold – are hugely popular, and Tadd says this trend allows shoppers to create their own “bespoke” look.
Additionally, the “curated ear” craze – whereby customers mix and match small hoop earrings, cuffs and studs across multiple piercings – is leading these styles to gain popularity. This trend has also led to the statement earring, which is sold as an individual item rather than a pair. Mid-priced brands such as Astrid & Miyu and Dinny Hall – both of whose retail prices start at £35 for single earrings – are particularly popular in this segment.
Tadd explains that a strong jewellery category completes the store’s offer to customers – and enables The Dressing Room to become a one-stop shop: “We are the equivalent of a mini-department store. People are able to buy the whole outfit, and jewellery is all about being able to finish the whole look.”
She also notes that staff in the store can up-sell easily with jewellery and provide more options to the shopper: “All our staff are trained stylists, and they use jewellery to finish a look for customers. They’ll introduce it at the cash desk or in the fitting room.”
Rachel Hunt, director of Winchester-based independent Sass & Edge, which stocks six jewellery brands, including Anna Beck, Cabbage White England and Orelia, agrees that jewellery is an integral addition to the store: “We are all about putting the complete look together – it’s not about just buying a jumper or a dress. It seemed a no-brainer to do the add-on of jewellery, because it is part of the outfit.”
Hunt emphasises the importance of strong displays. Sass & Edge puts its lower-priced collections throughout the store, while higher-priced styles are displayed in cases close to the till.
Penny Rawson, founder of north-west-based independent The Edit, which offers its own range of jewellery from £12.99 for a bracelet, says a strong display of jewellery can draw customers in – acting as an entry point for new shoppers.
“We put jewellery front and centre of our store offer on a round, self-service table,” she says. “It’s a really important entry price point for customers, which means there’s always something they can dip into. I would highly advise stores to make it self-service, as glass cabinets are a real barrier to sales.”
She continues: “Jewellery is an add-on, but is also valuable for that gifting customer who might not be confident to buy fashion for someone else. It doesn’t take up much space or budget.”
Unlike fashion, jewellery buying allows retailers greater flexibility as more is bought in season, so clothing ranges can be topped off with on-trend, popular items. Retailers can also purchase more during peak gifting seasons, such as Christmas.
“We find it’s best to buy [jewellery] as we sell,” says Rawson. “Buying in season means we can pick up the latest trends and also have ‘open to buy’ tools [that allow replenishment of bestselling pieces] to back bestsellers.”
Tadd agrees. “Generally, the buying is done closer to the season and you don’t have to commit six months in advance. We can also re-order and repeat quite heavily in season. There is less risk attached to the stock holding because you can top up in season.”
As jewellery trends shift, smart retailers can capitalise on the burgeoning market by using small, high-quality brands to appeal to shoppers on the hunt for affordable luxury investments, or drawing in new customers and gifting purchases with eye-catching displays.
As a category, jewellery is the ideal finishing touch for a retail offer and has the potential to turn stores into destinations for shoppers to curate their entire looks.
Brands to know
Founded in 2010, Daisy London focuses on creating timeless, high-quality designs. It rose to prominence in its early days with its wellness-focused “chakra” necklaces and the brand has a knack for tapping into burgeoning consumer movements with its collections.
Last month, it launched its second collection in collaboration with London-based Canadian influencer Estée Lalonde, which has been a huge success – many styles sold out. Key pieces in the collection include gold pendent necklaces (from £99) and signet rings (from £70).
Wholesale prices range from £15 for a single earring to £149 for a gold necklace. 020 3214 3175 daisyjewellery.com
Founded by Rosh Mahtani in 2014, Alighieri is based in London’s historic Hatton Garden jewellery quarter.
Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”, the collection focuses on gold, pendant styles and bestsellers include the Storm Earrings (£350) – gold earrings with a large, freshwater pearl drop – and the Il Leone Medallion necklace (£210) – which features a venetian coin bronze pendant coated in 24 carat gold.
The spring 20 collection is inspired by ideas of displacement – with influences from the designer’s Zambian, London, and Indian heritage to create what Mahtani calls a “patchwork of cultures, memories and rituals”
Wholesale prices range from £50 for simple necklaces to £150 for complex necklaces. email@example.com alighieri.co.uk
Founded in 2010 with a focus on silver earrings, Maria Black has since expanded to encompass all categories of jewellery in gold and silver.
Black describes the brand as fashion focused, and ear cuffs and 1980s-inspired items, such as earrings that thread through the ear with a chain, are the brand’s bestselling styles.
It has two standalone shops: in Copenhagen and Oslo, and also has a concession in Selfridges’ London flagship. In addition, the brand works with 600 retailers worldwide, 40 of which are in the UK.
Retail prices range from £30 for a single earring to £700 for solid silver. +45 40480789 maria-black.com;
Wald fw 2019 10
German brand Wald Berlin creates quirky and playful demi-fine jewellery with designs often revolving around childhood concepts.
The brand is particularly known for its shell and pearl styles, including the “smiley dude” necklace (RRP €169/£149), which is a short necklace alternating sweetwater pearls with glass “smiley” beads, and the “bootylicious” shell earring (RRP €179/£158) – a single, large cowrie shell adorned with Swarovski crystals on a gold hoop. The brand works with a collective of grandmothers in Germany to handmake all its products.
The brand has 80 stockists, with six in the UK, including Harvey Nichols and online retailer Studio B. It also has its own store in Berlin.
Wholesale prices range from €55 (£48) for earrings to €129 (£114) for a necklace. firstname.lastname@example.org wald-berlin.de