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Timesupply
Timesupply

2018 Stainless Steel Jewellery Report

Once considered the ugly duckling of white metals, stainless steel’s popularity continues to strengthen with both men and women. TALIA PAZ reports.

A few years ago stainless steel turned a proverbial corner; it had become popular enough with both sexes to carve out its own stand-alone category, shrugging off long-time perceptions that it was a male-only metal.

Stainless steel’s popularity isn’t expected to fade away any time soon. The metal’s high resistance to corrosion, affordability and low-maintenance qualities have helped improve its stature as a preferred jewellery material and an influx of trendy design options for both sexes has further boosted steel’s popularity, much to the benefit of retailers and suppliers alike.

“Stainless steel is looking like the new sterling silver,” Mary Elizabeth Glosup, CEO of jewellery business All About Accessories, wrote in a March 2018 blog post for Proud Pearls. “If you want something that is durable, where you don’t have to worry about polishing, you can wear in the garden or in the shower if you forget, that is affordable, that looks like sterling silver but at least half the price, stainless steel is your new metal.”

Fresh interest, fresh styles
Pastiche
Pastiche

Rewind a few decades to the beginning of stainless steel’s popularity, where pieces such as bracelets and rings were emerging, predominately to satisfy the interest of male consumers who appreciated the metal’s hardwearing, rigid properties.

Those early sales were slow and steel’s use was limited mostly to costume jewellery, particularly in the surf category. Over time, economic, technological and design factors helped the metal to move into fine jewellery where it has most recently found favour with females. To bolster demand, designers now openly incorporate the metal with feminine elements – think gemstones and mixed metals – and interest in stainless steel jewellery is expected to be maintained throughout the second half of 2018.

Amy Bradley, owner and director of Pastiche, is one supplier who notes that the steadfast category “continues to grow”.

“The market is full of savvy shoppers looking for sharp price points and products that offer something unique,” Bradley says. “Stainless steel allows us to design bold, contemporary pieces while remaining competitively-priced and on-trend.”

Pastiche
Pastiche

Ken Abbott, managing director of supplier Timesupply, agrees. “We are seeing strong sales in stainless steel,” he says. “It is now a well-accepted material amongst all consumers, with many customers shopping by the style and design rather than focusing on the material used.”

When asked what styles are currently selling well, Bradley notes a current affection for trendy, statement pieces. “We are seeing an increase in sales of statement earrings – tassels, hoops and long earrings are topping our best-sellers list,” Bradley says. “We are also noticing a renewed interest in designs with natural stones, especially blue howlite for a pop of colour while white and black howlite add style and interest with their marble look.”

Other stainless styles trending this year? Darren Roberts, director of men’s jewellery supplier Cudworth Enterprises, points towards the continued penchant for ‘mix and match’ looks.

“IP plating has given steel more variety in colours, as well as mixing it with leather and stones such as agate, tiger eye and lapis,” Roberts adds.

Timesupply
Timesupply

Keeping with the category’s male corner, old-time favourites such as pendants, bracelets and cufflinks are expected to perform well for the remainder of the year.

Also making the rounds are necklaces wrapped around jewels, as well as pieces crafted with an alternative finish or different colour. Retailers and suppliers should expect these styles to be sought by men and women alike.

Sales are a go

There is no shortage of suppliers who believe the metal’s positive perception amongst female consumers will continue improving. What does this mean for retailers wanting to capitalise on sales?

“Stainless steel is and has been an accepted staple in men’s jewellery for a long time now,” Bradley says. “The same level has more recently been achieved in women’s jewellery, though this has been a slower progression. Promoting the benefits of steel, together with developing beautiful products is the key to establishing a shift in perception towards stainless steel [and gaining additional sales].”

Pastiche
Pastiche

The price point of steel allows jewellers to offer a larger range than they might offer for precious metals. According to Abbott, such variety helps improve sales.

“Offer consumers a more eye-catching, interesting and varied range of jewellery at more attractive price points,” he says. “This leads consumers into a store and offers a one-stop shop for all things jewellery.”

After all, males and females alike base their purchasing decisions on the styles on hand more than the material that is being used.

“I believe that customers are much savvier when selecting items based on design, rather than purely on what gold or silver content an item contains,” Abbott adds. “[Retailers should] promote the strength and individuality of the design and the popularity and credentials of the brand.”

Roberts isn’t sure if there has been a significant change in perception amongst female consumers recently; however, he believes the metal’s credence with male consumers continues to offer retailers serious sales opportunities.

“Men have embraced stainless steel jewellery for over 10 years now,” Roberts says. “It’s the perfect material for men’s jewellery as it is more durable and affordable.”

Cudworth
Cudworth

Helen Thompson-Carter, director of supplier Fabuleux Vous, offers additional thoughts on the matter.

“I don’t think the perception has changed too much for customers but more for the retailer and much of that has been price driven,” she says. “Stainless steel entered and excelled in a market when gold and silver prices were very high; however, the silver price has come down and the space has become very competitive.”

The metal’s standing is very much tied to price but Bradley says retailers should spruik steel’s unique properties also.

“Stainless steel is a more affordable alternative to silver but it also offers unique properties that make it a desirable material in its own right,” Bradley says.

“Stainless steel is durable, hypoallergenic, tarnish resistant and radiant with incredibly long-lasting plating. All of these properties also mean that stock will look great in store displays and windows as it needs less polishing and maintenance.”

Bradley emphasises design as a key factor in giving steel pieces more femininity.

“Having the right product mix has been incredibly important,” she says. “Our larger steel pieces make an impact without being heavy, offering beautifully intricate designs that give a lighter look and feel.”

Sell that steel

Here are some additional ideas on ways retailers can boost sales within this enduring category.

  • Offer pieces that fall within the personalised jewellery category as this provides a bridge to younger consumers.

  • Keep stock fresh at all times and employ an ‘exit strategy’ for pieces that don’t sell as well.

  • Ensure consumers are educated on the benefits of stainless steel. Make sure they understand the metal is hypoallergenic, will not tarnish, requires very little cleaning and can be worn everywhere.

  • Ensure that 316L is the only grade stocked in-store as 304 is cheaper and inferior in quality.


Category evolution

Suppliers remain energetic on the metal’s long-term prospects, expecting that demand will persevere as the metal’s reputation is bolstered.

Cudworth
Cudworth

“Now that the stainless steel category has established a firm foothold in the jewellery market, we know it will keep growing,” Bradley says. “We work closely with our manufacturers and, with their advice and updates on technical advances, we are able to create new designs that push the envelope. We aim to give our loyal consumers unique designs and grow brand awareness as an innovative fashion brand throughout Australia.”

For Thompson-Carter, one of the keys that will lead to stainless steel’s continued success is an abundance of styles.

“Our retailers are innovative so they will be actively looking for anything new and exciting regardless of the metal and components,” Thompson-Carter notes. “Providing [stainless steel jewellery] has consumer appeal, is well marketed and priced right, it will stand a chance.”

The fact that the metal is still revered by men should also ensure the category keeps moving forward. Male consumers have become much more confident and bold in their fashion choices in the last few years and now wear more jewellery than eras past. As Roberts attests, this bodes well for stainless steel: “It will only keep evolving as more men are wearing jewellery, especially stainless steel.”

Stainless steel might have been long considered a niche market within jewellery stores but its resilient reputation has meant the metal has firmly carved out a permanent spot for itself within today’s jewellery industry. Retailers can benefit by offering sturdy, budget-friendly and on-trend pieces that will ultimately boost sales anytime of the year.

Steeling hearts
Suppliers divulge their final thoughts on the category that continues to be a hit with consumers.
“Retailers and consumers now have so much choice! Retailers should focus on marketing all products both via their bricks-and-mortar space and in the digital space.”
- Helen Thompson-Carter, Fabuleux Vous
“In terms of what’s currently trending, Coeur de Lion’s acclaimed Geo Cubes and Qudo’s interchangeable ring tops are our best-selling items as customers are looking for a way to individualise their jewellery.”
- Ken Abbott, Timesupply
“Stock leather and stainless steel bracelets as these will continue to sell very well.”
- Darren Roberts, Cudworth
“Promote the benefits of stainless steel to customers – education is key. Remind customers that it is a durable, high-quality product and is nickel-free and suitable for almost all skin types. With a range of gorgeous designs on display, all that’s left will be for them to choose their favourite piece.”
- Amy Bradley, Pastiche

 












ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Talia Paz • Staff Journalist

Talia Paz is a staff journalist for Jeweller, and has more than three years' experience as a freelance journalist for national and international publications, covering a wide range of industries.









Wednesday, 26 September, 2018 03:56am
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