Charm and bead bracelets have had a firm footing in the local market for years but there’s a new challenger in town.
Combining the popular ‘mix and match’ concept of charms with stackable appeal, charm bangles are the latest trend to jostle for position on the international stage.
Not to be mistaken for the traditional charm bracelets of yesteryear, this product combines the act of customising and collecting not only charms but also the bangles themselves.
Charm bangles are breathing new life into a sector that some had thought to be in decline by catering to the insatiable desire for customisation among consumers, all the while providing retailers with an opportunity to tap into the repeat sales that are practically guaranteed once customers start their journey into charms and beads. Within the trend’s brief history, charm bangles have already expanded across international markets – including Australia – and suppliers are reporting impressive sales.
Charm bangles leverage aspects of various different jewellery trends that have proved successful for retailers. Similar to the way in which charm and beaded jewellery wearers are encouraged to ‘build’ on a single bracelet by purchasing individual items to add to it, charm bangles are designed to be worn in multiples as a stack, promoting the products as collectible items.
According to Phil Edwards, managing director of Duraflex Group Australia, stacking bangles in this way is a “key trend and can now be personalised more than ever before”.
Duraflex is the local distributor for Dutch brand Nikki Lissoni, which provides a bangle range as part of its wider jewellery offering. These bangles can be customised with clip-on charms, some of which feature short phrases like “Dream big” or inspirational messages such as “Do something today for a better tomorrow”.
The idea that each charm bangle is representative of a milestone or imbued with meaning is another successful concept adopted from charm and beaded bracelets. Caspar Assmann, one of the founders of Nikki Lissoni, notes the importance of the personalised aspect of the bangles.
“Most people don’t want to wear the same charm bangle as everyone else,” he explains. “People have different personalities and styles that they want to reflect.”
Andrea and David Maine, who founded UK business Chrysalis in 2004 and appointed Georgini as the local distributor in July 2014, claim this concept of personalisation is what drove their decision to specialise in charm bangles.
“The bangles are designed to help you share the memories of those special moments and people in your life,” Andrea Maine says.
Justin Veil adds that charm bangles have become “more than just a jewellery piece”.
Veil is the general manager of Designa Accessories, the local distributor for another UK brand, Hot Diamonds, which offers the Emozioni wristwear line of charm bangles.
He says charm bangles “tell a story” about the wearer through the addition and customisation of charms.
“Due to this, the value of collectible charm bangles far surpasses their monetary value, providing a historical and sentimental value that cannot be rivalled by any other accessory,” he explains.
Landing a solid hit
Edwards states the buildable nature of collectible charm bangles translates to repeat sales that, in turn, generate customer loyalty. For this reason, he and other suppliers believe retailers should be paying attention.
Given sales and demand for charm bangles are steadily increasing in fashion-forward markets such as Europe, Veil adds that Australian retailers can capitalise on the trend by moving early.
“The price range of [Emozioni] bangles has also been strategically set to incorporate a wide share of the market,” he comments.
Georgini director Gina Kougias says Chrysalis also offers a broad price range, including both plain bangles and higher-end varieties that incorporate semi-precious gemstones. She suggests that the affordability of individual bangles means they can be effectively marketed to customers as gifts for loved ones in addition to personal keepsakes.
To further boost a charm bangle marketing pitch, Kougias recommends retail staff make use of the meaning cards that accompany each Chrysalis product: “It is important for the retailer to explain the meanings behind each bangle and help the customers choose bangles that are personal to them.”
It could also be useful to encourage in-store staff to wear the charm bangles themselves. In Edwards’ experience, Duraflex retail stockists that have showcased products in this way have successfully generated strong customer interest.
Veil says displays are another great way to inspire customers and suggests positioning the charms and bangles side by side, changing them every so often to demonstrate how the pieces can be customised.
“This process is exciting and engaging for the customer, providing them with a unique experience and a greater amount of involvement,” he explains. “Ultimately, this will lead to increased satisfaction.”
The knock-out punch
If international markets are any indicator of how well charm bangles will perform in Australia, local retailers may want to start making room for a new product category.
When Jeweller spoke with Maine last November, she said that Chrysalis had experienced a significant surge in demand over the past year.
“Our business has already grown 300 per cent on last year,” she stated at the time. “Over the past few months, we have opened over 1,000 accounts in the US and the UK while our distributor in Germany has opened 165 in the last six weeks. Italy, France and the Netherlands have opened over 300 accounts in the same period with the best jewellery stores.”
US-based Alex and Ani, a brand that describes charm bangles as the “cornerstone” of its business, has recorded similarly impressive statistics in recent times.
“Alex and Ani’s total sales have increased over 11,000 per cent between 2010 to 2014,” founder, creative director and CEO Carolyn Rafaelian states of the brand that was finalising a distribution partnership for Australia at the time of publication. “Internationally, Alex and Ani has seen significant sales growth with a compound annual growth rate of 5,221 per cent from 2011 to 2014.”
Edwards says it is “very likely” that charm bangles will be established as a new category as there has already been evidence of strong growth and demand in the local market.
Kougias believes the trend is “definitely here for the long haul” as it strikes “the perfect balance between mass-market appeal and individualism”.
Veil goes one step further, stating that charm bangles could “rival the bead bracelet trend” as they possess an appealing simplicity that he believes bead bracelets lack.
“Most customers enjoy simplicity since simple accessories are able to easily complement any type of clothing,” he reasons.
A new champion
When it comes to forecasting how successful charm bangles might be in Australia, Paola De Luca, creative director of Italian jewellery research and forecasting service TrendVision, is measured in her response.
“My experience suggests that charm bangles are not a product category but rather a concept – collectible and stackable products as storytelling body decor that helps consumers express their individuality and emotions,” she says, adding that each geographic region interprets trends differently.
“Collectibles are already a category but bangles will not necessarily be universally popular throughout the world. Functionality is also a strong element that may shorten a trend. Nowadays, it is not just about a look but also wearability.”
Sydney-based image consultant Annalisa Armitage remains confident charm bangles have great potential in the local market as their versatility means that they can appeal to a vast array of consumers by offering a large assortment of styles.
“What suits one person may not suit another so this is a great way to combine different bangles in different colours in order to achieve the exact look an individual is after,” she says. “People will only buy what works for them.”
With multiple international brands offering charm bangles in varying materials, colours and designs, retailers who can make this trend work for them should enjoy not only a surge of new interest but also a greater chance of repeat purchases as collectors come back for more.