The fine jewelry industry is undergoing rapid change. The last two years have seen heritage jewelers, who have traditionally shied away from digital commerce, inking deals with retail players such as Net-a-Porter and Farfetch to sell their collections online and connect with a younger audience.
Jewelers are now also rethinking the shopping experience in their brick-and-mortar locations, in a bid to keep customers interested and ensure they’re still coming through the door.
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Tiffany & Co’s new store concept in London’s Covent Garden area – a much more relaxed shopping hub that tends to attract a mix of beauty brands, fashion boutiques and high-street labels – is a prime example of how fine jewelry companies are steering in a new, far more inclusive and interactive direction.
The company said that its new space, dubbed Style Studio, aims to offer a more laid-back, relaxing shopping environment for customers and a new take on the notion of luxury.
A global first for Tiffany, the space features vending machines selling the brand’s fragrance, big neon signs and gigantic blue boxes, playfully stacked behind the cash desks, while staff are dressed less formally in all-black looks that can be finished with sneakers.
It also offers on-the-spot engraving and seeks to incorporate technology into the mix too. There are flat screens dotted around, on which customers can draw and then transfer their designs on pendants or other objects.
The store is a response to the new trends in jewelry shopping that have been dictated by a younger, more modern audience including the appetite to create personalized pieces, purchase for oneself and connect with a brand through more experiential spaces – hence why Tiffany has a program full of events up to Christmas, ranging from exhibitions to parties and customer events. According to the brand’s U.K. managing director Barratt West, luxury is moving into a less formal, more energetic direction and Tiffany wants to be at the forefront of the change with its new retail spaces.
Tiffany is not the only jeweler looking to step into the future.
Cartier has been at the forefront of the online fine jewelry market, having launched highly successful partnerships with Net-a-Porter and Mr. Porter - a Panthere watch was said to be sold via WhatsApp within 3 minutes of its launch on Net-a-Porter.
The brand has also been luring a young, trendy audience of musicians, actors and designers to its seasonal events – such as the Queen’s Polo held in Windsor, Englad - which are helping revitalize its image. It’s also planning to revamp its London flagship on Bond Street and host an event during London Fashion Week to mark its presence among the city’s key fashion players.
Bulgari has adopted a slightly different approach. While the Roman label is yet to revamp its physical store spaces, it has been significantly growing its popularity among the highly sought-after millennial audience by further diversifying its offer to include entry-level products, promoted via widespread social media campaigns featuring a wide range of influencers and brand ambassador Bella Hadid – the ultimate millennial influencer some would argue. Its signature “Serpenti” bags and the newly launched “Serpenteyes” sunglasses are some of the most popular products that helped revitalize the historic brand and create more interest in younger shoppers, both in its entry-level accessories and core jewelry business.
It’s worth noting that these historic brands are now also having to compete with new players in the jewelry market, who tend to adopt a more modern approach from the get-go, putting sustainability, customer experience and price consciousness, at the forefront of their strategies.
The U.S.-based label Aurate is one of the key competitors. The brainchild of Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, the brand sells direct-to-consumer via its website and brick-and-mortar stores, in order to ensure they can provide ethically sourced materials at fair prices and democratize gold.
Its rapid success – online sales multiplied by 10 last year and the duo went on to secure a $2.6 million investment – was due to their willingness to educate the customer about the provenance of gold, their modern designs and ease of service.
It was also quick to reject the snobbery and aura of exclusivity that often surrounds fine jewelry by creating fun, laid-back retail spaces where the jewels are not enclosed in glass cases and customers can freely pick them up and try them on.
“The store is very democratic and appeals to a wide audience because it’s just about providing honest pricing, real gold, real quality, a handmade product. It has all the things that people care about regardless of age or demographic,” said the designers. “At the stores, our pieces are displayed in a very accessible way. Everything looks beautiful and high end, but the display is open, so that a customer can go and try a piece of gold without anyone on their back. We want to emphasize that part of the experience because it’s something no one is doing.”
Cover image credit: Tiffany & Co.