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Feature Stories, Bridal & Engagement Trends

Articles from RINGS - ENGAGEMENT (216 Articles), RINGS - WEDDING (198 Articles), RINGS - ANNIVERSARY (69 Articles)

The number of marriages in Australia is at an all-time high
The number of marriages in Australia is at an all-time high

Put a ring on it

Love is in the air and couples continue to flaunt it with a ring. Emily Mobbs discovers the best ways to appeal to this year’s flock of lovebirds.

If accolades are any indication, it would appear singer Beyoncé won the world over when she sang the words, “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it.”

Yes, the multi-award-winning song Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) has a catchy hook but it also endorses the long-held notion that a diamond engagement ring is the best way to seal a couple’s commitment to each other.

Pardon the pun but it’s music to a jeweller’s ears. In an era where traditions are regularly discarded or replaced, the ubiquitous nature of the diamond engagement ring continues to provide a stable market for retailers.

Couple this with the fact that the number of marriages in Australia is now at an all-time high – the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures recorded 123,244 registered marriages in 2012, the highest number of marriages in a single year to date – and it becomes obvious why the bridal category plays an essential role in many jewellery businesses.

Such demand makes the market sector one of the most competitive. Furthermore, as diamonds continue down the path of commoditisation, the challenge of achieving strong profit margins is confronting retailers everywhere.

To grab that all-important slice of the engagement-ring pie, retailers need to create valuable points of difference and offer product that keeps abreast of the latest market trends to attract lovebirds.

As a first port of call, it appears retailers would do well to monitor designs featured in magazines and on the hands of newly engaged celebrities as pop culture is having a strong influence on brides-to-be.

Bolton Gems
Bolton Gems
Worth & Douglas
Worth & Douglas
Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck

According to Bolton Gems buyer and designer Deidre Bolton, many consumers aspire to have their own version of the styles created by high-end international jewellers.

“You only have to pick up a Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue magazine to see what the international jewellers are doing. I think women want to have the opportunity to either duplicate or have exactly what these magazines are showing,” Bolton explains.

In addition, Worth & Douglas head of sales and marketing Chris Worth says, “Celebrities definitely influence new trends. We do often receive images from stores [retailers] of celebrity rings that their customers wish to replicate, and add their own personal touch.”

The demand for halo and split-shank style rings is still high but there seems to be an emerging shift back to classic solitaire designs.

Colin Morrison, owner of Leading Edge Jewellers in Albany, Western Australia, says he has noticed a move back to “more simple and elegant settings rather than fancy [settings]”, while Townsville-based Kim Bartlett Master Jewellers managing director Jay Bartlett attests, “Timeless styles that highlight and emphasise the diamond or gemstone, like simple four and six claw solitaires, are constantly in high demand and will always be fashionable.” Bartlett adds that his engagement and wedding ring sales account for almost 50 per cent of business.

A colourful option

While it was unanimous among suppliers and retailers that white diamonds were the most popular choice of stone for an engagement ring, some acknowledged an increased demand for coloured diamonds.

“There is strong interest in good-quality, well-cut fancy yellow diamonds, and we also make engagement rings with Argyle pink diamonds, both on their own and in combination with white diamonds,” Bartlett explains.

Morrison believes the greater interest is largely due to the fact that stores are now carrying and promoting coloured diamonds.

Speaking of colours, Bolton says that rose gold has made a vast impact in the engagement ring market over the past two years, with 35 per cent of the supplier’s current orders incorporating the metal.

Worth adds that rose and white gold combinations are highly sought after, something that Bartlett has also experienced. “We manufacture a lot of engagement rings in platinum, which has gained stronger interest since the increase in gold prices. Combinations of yellow or rose gold paired with white gold or platinum are also gaining popularity.”

When it comes to wedding rings, stocking a wide selection of alternative metals goes a long way to ensuring that consumers’ needs are met.

RJ Scanlan & Co marketing manager Chris Scanlan says customers are now more careful about how they’re shopping for wedding bands, particularly given the continued high price of gold. The supplier stocks European wedding ring brand Dora.

Worth & Douglas
Worth & Douglas
RJ Scanlan
RJ Scanlan

Scanlan explains consumers are showing “definitely more research [time spent online] and awareness of metal options”.

“This is reflected in Dora sales for alternative metals such as palladium, platinum, platinum 600 and titanium.” In March, almost 60 per cent of Dora wedding ring sales involved a metal other than gold.

“Retailers need options in the various metal groups because they represent different price points and choice,” Scanlan adds.

Victor Donovic, managing director for Twin Plaza Metals, also notes a peaked interest for non-traditional metal options.

“We are noticing that customers are looking for something a bit different in the way of materials. We are getting lots of interest in our new platinum 600 [600 parts platinum and a balance of ruthenium and other trace elements] and palladium 500 [500 parts palladium and 345 parts silver with a balance of ruthenium and other trace elements] alloys,” he says, adding, “It gives people the choice of having a platinum alloy at an economical price point. Along the lines of 9-carat gold versus 18-carat gold.”

New market trends

onovic explains that enquiries are also being made regarding ring designs using carbon fibre, which gives the piece a black-coloured hue. It’s a trend seen in the United States and Europe, and the supplier is currently working on designs that incorporate the material to add to its existing range.

According to Peter W Beck marketing manager Laura Sawade, the white metal trend has continued to increase in the past year.

“We are seeing increased demand for platinum and palladium rings and also mixes [combinations] of metals. Mixes of gold colours has always been a popular design choice from our range; however we are seeing a lot more pink and white gold mixes for both men and women,” she says.

When it comes to wedding ring design, TWM Co chief operating officer Roberto Ulas says it’s “all about the diamond”.

He explains that while the demand for diamonds has been high among women for some time, men are also becoming more comfortable with incorporating them into their own bands.

“For men, if it’s not traditional designs then it’s just all out complicated designs with diamonds and full customisation,” Ulas says.

Providing couples with the opportunity to customise their rings is another option that can help retailers gain a competitive edge.

“This [customisation] is something that we have been urging our customers to encourage as it can generate a unique ring as well as preserve profit margin as it is harder to comparison shop,” Donovic explains. “A new enhancement that is gaining popularity is engraved fingerprints on the inside (and sometimes on the outside) of rings. The actual fingerprint of the person is applied through the laser process and really makes the ring extra special in its meaning and commitment.”

Bolton Gems
Bolton Gems
Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck
Twin Plaza
Twin Plaza

TWM Co is one more supplier that has a retailer’s profit margin top of mind. It recently introduced a price guarantee for all Australian-made wedding rings – an offer that Ulas attests is the first of its kind in the Australian wedding ring manufacturing sector. Under the guarantee, the supplier will beat by 10 per cent any lower price that a retailer finds on plain wedding bands in all metal types.

There’s no doubt the bridal market is evolving in line with changing consumer-shopping patterns, and it’s important to reflect this in marketing collateral. Peter W Beck launched its largest consumer campaign last September, directly aimed at driving its core demographic – Generation Y – into bricks-and-mortar stores.

The initiative includes new tag line “We make love” that is used in an online digital campaign and four print advertisements.

Same-sex marriages

One of these ads has been developed specifically for the homosexual community.

According to Sawade, the message has been well received especially given the highly-topical issue of legalising same-sex marriages.

“We have been thrilled with the response from the gay community and have seen success because of the campaign, particularly in New Zealand where gay marriage is legalised,” she says.

Gay marriage seems to be a growing market for other suppliers too. Worth, whose business is based in New Zealand, explains that he has experienced greater interest from same-sex couples purchasing wedding or engagement rings, while Bolton notes an increase in matching diamond set bands.

Khay Amani Wahaab is managing director of Auckland-based retail store K Amani Fine Jeweller, and a “good portion” of her business’ bridal sales come from consumers in same-sex unions. She says that while bridal jewellery demands are quite similar for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, there are a few key differences that jewellers should be aware of in order to leverage sale opportunities.

Among these includes the fact that there is currently no consensus on how gay couples go about getting “engaged”. “It really is unique to each couple and retailers need to be sensitive to this and not assume anything. In fact assumptions are an easy way to lose a sale here,” she says.

With this influx of new consumers, the bridal market is undoubtedly evolving. Fortunately, suppliers are doing their part to help retailers stay ahead of the pack with a range of product and marketing options all aimed at people who do like it and do want to “put a ring on it”.

Thanks, Beyoncé.

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Saturday, 14 December, 2019 06:20pm
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