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Articles from STAINLESS STEEL JEWELLERY (156 Articles)










Image courtesy: Kagi
Image courtesy: Kagi

Stainless steel jewellery comes up trumps

With an array of unique selling propositions, EMILY MOBBS finds it’s becoming harder for retailers to resist the appeal of stainless steel.

One would be hard-pressed to find a metal that has made more strides within the jewellery industry in recent years than stainless steel.

As Niven McArthur, merchandise and marketing director of Australia and New Zealand’s largest buying group Nationwide Jewellers, explains, “Despite ‘push-back’ from those jewellery retailers that consider themselves ‘fine jewellers’, stainless steel jewellery is now a resident category in our industry.”

General manager of Leading Edge Group Jewellers buying group Joshua Zarb has similar sentiments, stating that traditional jewellers who have only offered ‘fine jewellery’ products in the past are now opening their doors to non-precious metals such as stainless steel.

“I don’t have an exact number at present but I am sure stainless steel sales have grown at a similar, if not slightly higher, rate as what we have seen with silver,” Zarb says, noting that sterling silver jewellery has had “enormous” growth over the past five years.

Stainless steel gained approval amongst male consumers some time ago; however, McArthur states that the metal is also increasingly prominent and accepted in jewellery for women.

“Economic uncertainty has seen Australian consumers focus on the reduction of personal debt at levels unheard of 10 to 15 years ago,” he says. “Couple this with a Gen Y focus on technology and a resultant reduction in jewellery market share and retailers now face a significant drop in average sale – consumers still want to accessorise but with a lower spend.

Red Spice
Red Spice

“Logically stainless steel has started creeping into women’s jewellery. Generic [stainless steel] product was gradually accepted and with this retail acceptance, wholesalers have become confident to range branded product – Pastiche is a good example,” McArthur adds.

Pastiche entered the men’s stainless steel market more than 16 years ago but the supplier didn’t introduce women’s stainless steel jewellery until 2008. Today, Pastiche director Amy Bradley says demand for the brand’s stainless steel women’s offering is particularly strong.

“We have received a really positive response since launching our new collections in early March 2016,” Bradley states. “The Serendipity and Gravity collections each feature stand-out pieces in stainless steel, which we feel is one of our greatest strengths. Stainless steel allows us to design bold, contemporary pieces while remaining competitively priced and on-trend.”

Competitive streak

Miki Jewellery launched in mid-2014 and stainless steel is used in all of the business’ pieces. According to co-founder Nicola Blunden, price competitiveness was one of the driving factors behind this decision.

“The price of sterling silver fluctuates as it is subject to the world market price,” Blunden explains. “This can see production and sale price change significantly. For example, after the global financial crisis the price almost doubled and stayed this way for a couple of years. Stainless steel is not prone to this fluctuation.”

Blunden states that stainless steel provides other advantages as well. “We decided to go for stainless steel for the fact that it is hypoallergenic, doesn’t tarnish like silver does and is relatively inexpensive compared to silver and gold, thus being able to create a piece of jewellery that nearly everybody can afford.”

Pastiche
Pastiche
Pastiche
Pastiche

The majority of the supplier’s pieces incorporate freshwater or shell pearls also, which Blunden says contrasts nicely with stainless steel and has proven popular among women aged 30 and over.

Introduced in early 2015, Red Spice is another relative newcomer specialising in stainless steel.

Red Spice director Tony Celik says the metal offers a good, cost-effective option to supplement sales during quieter retail periods.

“With the current technology, there are some beautifully-made pieces that are quite durable and ion plating with rose and yellow gold is incredible,” he explains, adding, “As a test, an ion-plated jewellery piece had to be put onto the polishing buffer in order to remove the plating.”

Celik believes retailers need to better educate consumers – and sometimes themselves – on the benefits of stainless steel jewellery.

“I get asked by some retailers if it will tarnish. If a retailer is asking this question then what hope do you have with the general public?” he comments. For the record, stainless steel is not expected to tarnish.

Red Spice
Red Spice
Kagi
Kagi

“The ones who do well with our products treat the stainless steel jewellery as if it were a piece of handmade jewellery; they give it great displays, for example. Then you get retailers who just spread it on a shelf and wonder why it doesn’t sell.”

For Kagi, the use of stainless steel has a lot to do with the metal’s durability.

Kagi creative director Kat Gee says that stainless steel represents about 50 per cent of the supplier’s total metal use, alongside a combination of sterling silver, gold plating and base metal.

“Kagi jewellery is all about mix-and-match, changing your look every day, so it requires closing and opening clasps and ‘O’ links that allow wearers to add any pendants to their necklaces,” Gee explains. “Stainless steel is the perfect metal for this as we need strong and durable products and our stockists understand this well.”

Gee notes, however, that the fact that a piece is made from stainless steel isn’t necessarily highlighted to the end-consumer.

“Stainless steel alone is not really a selling point for Kagi. It is more of an added benefit,” Gee continues. “For us, it is about being smart with our metal selection and using the right metal for the job, and it often is steel.”

Cudworth Enterprises
Cudworth Enterprises
Miki Jewellery
Miki Jewellery

Promotion of material doesn’t appear to be a major focus for retailers of Pastiche stainless steel jewellery either.

“In our experience, our stand-out stockists are presenting the Pastiche brand as a whole, focusing on the design itself and connecting with the consumer through emotive product names, marketing and product knowledge over material,” Bradley states.

Blunden provides more evidence that emphasising the benefits of stainless steel is perhaps best incorporated further along into the sales conversation.

“People often ask if it is sterling silver and when you tell them it’s stainless steel they raise their eyebrows, not in a way that is disapproving but in a way that they are intrigued,” she says. “If a customer has already decided they like the look of a certain piece of jewellery and then you explain to them that it’s hypoallergenic, does not tarnish, requires very little cleaning and can be worn everywhere, then nine times out of 10, that customer will happily purchase the piece they have been admiring.”

Providing an update on the male market is Darren Roberts, director of men’s jewellery supplier Cudworth Enterprises. Roberts says stainless steel sales have been steady in 2016 and retailers are generally replenishing stock as it sells.

When comparing demand for Cudworth’s stainless steel and sterling silver jewellery, Roberts states that sales in the former category are about 80 per cent higher. He also points to leather and steel bracelets as popular choices with men.

Finger on the pulse

Carson Webb is general manager of buying group Showcase Jewellers. He says stainless steel plays an important role within any multi-branded jewellery store and raises several points to support this, including attractive price-points and ability to keep up with current fashion trends at a low investment.

Webb does warn that success with stainless steel requires retailers who are able to manage the sector accordingly.

Cudworth Enterprises
Cudworth Enterprises
Kagi
Kagi

“I’d be recommending [store] managers to be really on the ball with this category,” Webb says. “The trends move fast, which means you need to keep stock fresh at all times. Maintaining newness of product may require an exit strategy for old stock, which is where margins can take a bit of a hit. However, with smart purchasing you can really do well in this category.

“Generally, for us, it’s just less than 2 per cent of total sales as a category. This varies from store to store so, while it’s an important category that can lead to sales in other areas, it needs to be managed accordingly and not overcomplicated.”

McArthur offers similar thoughts, adding that the category would represent approximately 3 to 4 per cent of sales for Nationwide retail store members.

“Are jewellery retailers getting fat on stainless steel? I don’t think anyone is going to retire on it,” he says. “The category does, however, present a durable, on-trend, low-cost option for the price-sensitive consumer and, as such, presents a niche that most retailers should range.”

It may be a smaller category but it seems that stainless steel has broken down barriers and carved out a permanent spot for itself within the jewellery industry. The metal sure is living up to its resilient reputation and it doesn’t look to be flailing anytime soon.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily Mobbs • Former Editor

Emily Mobbs is editor of Jeweller. She has more than 8 years' experience in trade publishing and reports on various aspects of the jewellery industry.

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