What does it take to launch a label and make it last? Designers and business consultants from the industry step in.
The jewelry industry is growing rapidly. A recent McKinsey & Company report predicted annual growth of 8% to 12% through 2025. Meanwhile, annual sales total over $200 billion, but only about 20% of those sales are in branded jewelry. . In a market with relatively few brand players, there is plenty of room for creative minds to create their own brands. But untapped opportunity doesn’t mean easy, and it helps to have a roadmap for launching your business.
Identity, budget and logistics
If you’ve ever wondered if your jewelry brand is necessary in this oversaturated market and come to a positive conclusion, it’s still good to keep questioning yourself, advises George Root, founder of jeweler Milamore. “Who am I? What values do I stand for? What do I want to bring through my work? These are questions I still ask myself every day,” says Root, who launched his Kintsugi collection – inspired by the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with lacquer and gold – just before the Covid-19 epidemic.
If a clear identity is the first element you need before even considering a launch, budget and organization are the second and third. A brand needs to allocate a solid, long-term budget to every part of the business – from production to marketing, security, public relations, to attract the right industry professionals, says Rafael Azzi, consultant in luxury business based in New York.
Taking care of all legal requirements and setting up a transparent logistics platform to cover production through to delivery are essential organizational steps a jeweler must follow before hitting the start button. “It’s harder to try and fix things afterwards, so I think it’s important to use the time before launch wisely, to make sure everything is planned,” says the Italian designer. . Bea Bongiascawho orchestrated with military precision the successful launch of his eponymous brand in the United States.
Still, it’s important to reevaluate as your business grows. Structural changes may be needed, such as hiring more staff and redistributing the workload. Remember that a business does not operate in the same way in its infancy as once it has grown in size and scope.
less is more
For a brand just taking off, a solid first impression is paramount – hence the importance of viewing your product as an ambassador for your vision.
“Focus on a very strong collection that identifies your brand,” recommends Root. “Editing up to a cohesive and solid collection isn’t always easy, but it’s crucial.”
Trying to pander to popular taste by adding pieces for quick business gains can strangle a brand, as it dilutes the message and confuses audiences. A small but visually strong collection often means business returns will take time, so be extra patient.
“Things don’t happen overnight,” says Bongiasca. “Slow and steady is the way, in my opinion, because it takes time to grow.”
The big question
A common debate is whether to sell direct to consumer or wholesale, but it’s not a matter of choice; the two business models can and often should co-exist.
According to Francesca Simons, a New York-based jewelry consultant, direct-to-consumer selling is a better financial proposition for emerging brands because it allows for better margins, more detailed consumer insights and more predictable cash flow. It also avoids the common wholesale practice of consignment, in which the brand sends goods to retail customers and only gets paid once they have sold.
Nevertheless, selling through a retailer has its advantages. “When you say that your brand is represented in Bergdorf [Goodman] or Moda Operandi, you don’t need to say much more,” observes Azzi.
As such, wholesale deserves to be considered not only as a sales channel, but also as an advertising channel, as it can expose a brand to a large audience. “Retailers already have a large, established customer base that a young brand doesn’t have,” says Bongiasca. “Especially with online stores that have a wide reach, your designs will be seen by people around the world who otherwise wouldn’t know about your work.”
Plus, adds Azzi, partnering with a retailer can pave the way for exciting collaborations and innovations, which can multiply opportunities for growth.
Through the channels
A multi-channel model is also essential for marketing. “All marketing channels are needed in the beginning, from social media – [such as] Instagram, including reels, [and] ICT Tac – [to other online channels]print coverage and celebrity product placement,” says Simons.
For the launch of the Bongiasca brand in the United States, publicist Simons took the unorthodox initiative of starting with celebrity placements, which resulted in exposure through digital and print media. Once Bongiasca’s colorful doodle rings started adorning the hands of pop star Dua Lipa and other high-profile celebrities and influencers, it was easier to grab everyone’s attention.
But even in an age when an Instagram account is more powerful than a website, “followers don’t always create customers,” Root notes. He advises placing the jewelry in front of people’s eyes and in their hands physically so that “they connect with the designs and the meanings”, and from there, become customers.
“I’ve always said the hardest part of the process isn’t launching a brand, it’s maintaining momentum,” Azzi remarks.
Communication and consistency are to a brand what water and sunshine are to a plant. New products add chapters to a brand’s story. Old-school PR and modern communication channels are key to conveying a brand’s message, which must be consistent across all launches, drops, and collaborations.
Perhaps most important to that message is cultural relevance, suggests a recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and fashion media agency Highsnobiety. “The cultural credibility of the new luxury consumer is driven by stories, traditions, belonging and community,” the report states. In other words, if you’re up to the challenge of tapping into the saturated jewelry market, you can’t be superficial; your brand will do better if it can create a sense of shared cultural values among consumers who seek out your product.
Image: Bea Bongiasca
Article from Rapaport Magazine – August 2022. To subscribe click here.