Retailers are using new diamond brand strategies to grab a bigger slice of the shrinking pie.
Do recessions mean hard times for brands? And even worse times for new ideas? Don’t tell that to GE, begun in the panic of 1873. Or Disney, founded in the 1923 recession, or Hewlett-Packard, in the Great Depression. Or Microsoft, launched into the recession of 1975.
Or Day’s Jewelers, a six-door independent in Waterville, Maine, that introduced “Made in Botswana” diamonds during the fall 2008 bank bailout. Granted, the stones are beautiful, of good value, from a leading sightholder, and come with Source Veritas authentication from GCAL. But a provenance-based branded diamond, at the shakiest moment in domestic financial history since 1929?
“In October, Moti Ganz came to us to represent the first 200 diamonds from their Botswana factory,” says Day’s president Jeff Corey. “Our first reaction was, it’s a terrible time to go to the bank and borrow money. But,” adds Corey, a Jewelers of America’s executive committee member who was among the first retailers to lobby for the 2003 U.S. Clean Diamond Trade Act, “it was the right thing to do.”
He was heartened that his customers felt the same way. Despite a difficult season, the diamonds, all sourced in Botswana and 97 percent cut by the people of that country, accounted for 8 percent of sales. Where Corey had forecast first quarter store growth would be down 9 percent, he had 3.8 percent growth instead, thanks to the new brand.
“When we debuted the brand,” says Corey, “I asked my customers a direct question: What do you think of diamonds? Over and over, men aged 25 to 35 said diamonds left a bad taste—
because of conflict, or perceptions of overpricing, or something they’d heard about De Beers. That spoke to me about the minds of my clients, and solidified my resolve to take on Made in Botswana—just as my first trip to Africa strengthened my resolve to make a difference.”
“People see that this product enables a viable life for someone who had no shot at it a year ago. I’m seeing something very different. I’m seeing women wearing their diamonds with pride, and men with a story to tell, and a good story too. Give a man a fish and he’ll eat that day; teach him to fish and he has food for a lifetime. Americans get that, because we’re caring people. That care, at the end of the day, is the value-add of this brand. It is the light at the end of the tunnel.”
THE VALUE EQUATION
When Corey asked his designers to dream up a signature piece for the brand, that tunnel guided their vision: Days’ “Hope” pendant is a simple vertical tube of 14k white or yellow gold or palladium with a quarter to full-carat Made in Botswana diamond at the end, the word hope embossed on the back of the pendant. Priced as low as $300 for pendant and chain, and with a variety of 50 points or below diamonds well under $1,000 to choose from, it presents the exact mix of luxury, value, and message Corey envisioned.
Michael Firth of Niagara Fall’s Firth Jewelers found similar success when he took on the RoyalStar diamond. The stone, a brilliant round with 28 extra facets from M.K. Diamonds, which also created the Natalie K. brand, helped marry two brand value-adds often in conflict in the minds of customers: value and luxury.
Diamond necklace courtesy of HEARTS ON FIRE, (800) 343-1224, www.heartsonfire.com.
Designer clout: RoyalStar diamond jewelry, featuring a new 85 facet round diamond, from M.K. DIAMONDS, (800) 624-2634, www.mkdandj.com.
DAY’S JEWELERS’ “Hope” pendant features a Made in Botswana diamond and the word hope embossed on the back of the pendant.
Diamond earrings from HEARTS ON FIRE, (800) 343-1224, www.heartsonfire.com.
Canadian origin: Cushion cut diamond ring and diamond necklace from AMADENA, (800) 260-9600, www.amadena.com.