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Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (983 Articles), RINGS - ENGAGEMENT (220 Articles)

Doing it together

Once upon a time purchasing an engagement ring was an activity reserved for gentlemen, but that time has gone, heralding the arrival of a new bride who cries, “If I’m gonna wear it, I’m gonna choose it.” Aaron Weinman reports.

Traditionally, buying an engagement ring involved a pocketful of cash, a stomach full of butterflies and a very large degree of trust in the jeweller. These days, many retailers argue that couples are turning what was once the last great act of chivalry into a group purchase in a bid to get exactly what they want.

A survey conducted by XO Group Inc, and polled more than 10,000 brides and 1,000 grooms of different cultures and income levels across the United States. The final research found that more brides are selecting their engagement rings along with input from the groom, a trend that seems to be happening right here.

Graham Jackson, managing director of Queensland-based Loloma Jewellers believes brides-to-be are more particular about their adorned engagement ring. “Buying an engagement ring is probably the third most expensive purchase (after a house and car) you’ll make in life so, naturally, this becomes a joint decision,” he says.

Conservative consumers are naturally wary when purchasing significant items, and engagement rings are no exception. Jackson says retailers are constantly inundated with repairs and re-sizes where diamond rings are concerned, so rather than risk buying the wrong ring, couples are opting to make the purchase together.

Jackson laments that the element of surprise ceases to exist, but he can understand the logic behind this, saying, “Even though there is no traditional proposal as such, the joy of couples purchasing their ring is still the same.”

Michael Zavodja, jewellery designer from Parramatta-based Underwood Jewellers, believes the benefits are far greater in having the bride-to-be present when buying her engagement ring because it allows her to contribute to the final decision.

Zavodja suggests that grooms are more comfortable when their brides are present as it gives couples the opportunity to share the occasion and consult with each other about the look and feel of the engagement ring.

Couples today are more open with communication and have easy access to a wealth of information, which has altered the way they think about their purchases. The internet provides access for research, allowing today’s price-conscious consumer the ability to easily divulge information at their own leisure.

Technology has educated consumers with a knowledge of diamonds, ring styles and current trends. In fact, young fiancés often perform extensive web-based research prior to visiting a store. “Years ago, you would go to a jeweller because of their trusted work, but consumers are now more savvy when it comes to diamonds and know exactly what they want,” says Melissa Purrazzo, marketing manager of Sydney-based Cerrone Jewellers.

Knowing what the consumer wants is an important factor for significant purchases such as engagement rings, which has led to an increase in bespoke jewellery purchases. Technology not only educates the consumer on diamonds and rings; it also enables them to research and effectively create a ring, tailored to their individual specifications.

Recent research conducted by Queensland-based Retail Edge Consultants found that many brides-to-be are not only armed with information, but they come into stores with design ideas for their rings.

Retail Edge sales manager Mike Dyer believes both parties are gaining something from this type of purchase, noting, “The jeweller understands what the customer is trying to achieve, and customers feel bespoke jewellery is a timeless design and value for their money.”
According to Dyer, the demand for bespoke jewellery has grown amongst independent jewellers, allowing them to secure strength in the market place against the popular chain stores, which don’t often sell custom-made rings.

Independent retailers are experiencing consistent growth through custom-made purchases, and Dyer believes that engagement rings are the catalyst for this change.

“Independent jewellers are achieving more sales from diamond jewellery and feel that if they lean this way, they can change the look, feel and advertising of the store to separate themselves from a general jewellery retailer,” he says.

Many retailers are buoyant about the increased popularity of bespoke engagement rings because of the higher profit margins they can provide – Dyer’s research has found that the average cost for a piece of bespoke jewellery is in excess of $5,000.

Matthew Ely, an award-winning designer from Penrith-based York Jewellers says that sales of custom-made jewellery and engagement rings is thriving, noting that he has approximately “30 different orders on the go between now and Christmas”.

While bespoke rings have become popular, some couples prefer to purchase elements of their engagement ring online. Retailers note that many customers merely seek ring bands to go with diamonds they have already purchased online.

Greg Macintyre, owner of Fremantle-based Creations Jewellers believes web-based purchases come with too much risk involved, which leads to revisions of the diamond or the need to re-size and re-shape ring bands. Macintyre says that many customers come to his store after purchasing a diamond online, only to find the diamond wasn’t the same one they were shown on the internet.

While Macintyre may not support web-based sales, he believes selling loose diamonds in store is a viable option that ties in with today’s prudent consumer.

“Customers need to see the diamond they want on their ring,” he says. “Offering them loose diamonds they can physically touch and view can potentially limit [online] mistakes. We can then craft a ring band based on what the customer wants.”

Zavodja is another advocate for bespoke diamond engagement rings because of the convenience and benefit it provides the jeweller. Zavodja believes that consumers who want specific designs have a clear idea of their perfect engagement ring: “Most of the pieces I make are custom-made and this is much easier to cater for because customers know what styles are in right now and they know what they want, so it’s easier to specify these designs.”

But where does this leave the retailer? The evolution of technology has essentially changed the consumer and the availability of information has opened their eyes to the myriad of choice in the market.

The market of diamond engagement rings (and any significant purchase for that matter) has been split into two segments, which has left retailers with a promising financial opportunity. On the one hand, retailers have the price-conscious buyer who will frequent many different independent jewellers and chain stores seemingly nonplussed with matters of design and uniqueness, their behaviour is dictated by price. The second segment seeks something special, they conduct research beforehand and generally involve their bride-to-be in all aspects of the purchase. The challenge for independent retailers lies in convincing prospective clients that there isn’t a significant increase in price for something unique and custom designed. Encouraging background research and utilising the benefits of evolved technology, coupled with strong selling ability, may just convert even the most prudent ring buyer.

While the state of retail may be dire, it’s highly unlikely that couples will stop getting married, and with bridal jewellery being financially lucrative, this area of jewellery retail should always be a high priority.

Despite US grooms spending less on their engagement ring purchases, this trend clearly hasn’t rubbed off on local bucks. The engagement ring remains an emotional purchase.

If retailers wish to serve the high-end jewellery market with top quality diamond engagement rings, then their business needs to be tailored the bridal market. After all, custom made jewellery is the traditional driver of the industry and is the most financially viable, so it’s important to not lose sight of what this element of jewellery brings to business.

Today’s young buck may still want to get his partner the ring of her dreams, but the thought process is much deeper than simply rolling into your local jeweller and letting them handle everything. While the notion of a traditional purchase isn’t lost on grooms today, there has been an obvious shift in their mentality as a conscientious consumer.

Wanting to eliminate any chance of making an unsatisfactory purchase, conducting in-depth research as a couple and paying attention to the burdening notion of cost are just some of the evolving reasons behind why couples are now buying together, rather than grooms alone.

Ikecho Australia

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