Events & Awards

At JCK, 5 Panelists Give Their Outlook on the State of the Industry

Events & AwardsAug 30, 2021

At JCK, 5 Panelists Give Their Outlook on the State of the Industry

Sarin Bachmann, David Bonaparte, Detria Courtalis, Tirath Kamdar, and Miya Owens talk about the last 18 months and what lies ahead.

Las Vegas—Jewelry sales were strong in 2020, driven by consumers’ desire for meaningful gifts and the funneling of money to fine jewelry from other categories.

And the Roaring ’20s have continued into this year as the industry has quickly adapted to the new normal created by COVID-19, the guests at a JCK Las Vegas keynote talk said Saturday morning.

Sarin Bachmann, David Bonaparte, Pandora’s Detria Courtalis, eBay’s Tirath Kamdar, and Miya Owens sat down with Mary McGinty, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of communication and public affairs, for a discussion that centered on the last 18 months in retail and what lies ahead.

According to data shared during the discussion, U.S. jewelry store sales dropped 72 percent in March and April of 2020, as COVID-19 forced physical stores to close and consumers, in general, were uncertain and scared.

As of February 2021, jewelry store sales are up 25 percent year-over-year—meaning people are spending more on jewelry than they were pre-pandemic in the U.S.—with money that normally would have been spent on dining out, going out, and travel funneled to fine jewelry last year.

Kamdar, who noted eBay recorded a significant jump in sales, put it like this: “People were not spending on experiences anymore. They were at home, but they thought, ‘I still want to get my luxury experience.’”

The good times have continued to roll into the middle of 2021. A recent MasterCard SpendingPulse survey showed jewelry sales jumped 83 percent year-over-year in July and are up 54 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

And the NRF’s forecast calls for a great holiday ahead, with McGinty noting during the keynote that household wealth is at an all-time high.

In June, the NRF increased its outlook for retail sales in 2021. Spurred by the resiliency of consumer spending, the organization is now forecasting 10.5 percent to 13.5 percent year-over-year growth, up from its previous prediction of 6.5 percent to 8.2 percent growth.   

Courtalis, who is Pandora’s vice president of wholesale sales, said while it is unknown exactly what the second half of 2021 will hold, Pandora knows it needs to meet the consumer where they want to shop, whether that’s online, in stores safely, or some combination of both. 

She said Pandora does expect to have a strong holiday season.

“We have to be very smart, though,” she noted, “and we have to have a plan.” 

Courtalis also mentioned the importance of getting the brand in front of Gen Z consumers, noting twice during the discussion how key TikTok is for reaching this generation. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Saturday morning’s keynote also included conversations on the other big issue of 2020—the push for racial justice and equity that arose after the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020.
Among the changes the racial reckoning brought about in the jewelry industry was the creation of the Black in Jewelry Coalition, an organization created for the advancement of Black professionals in the jewelry and watch industry. 

Owens, a BIJC co-founder who is also the Jewelers Vigilance Committee’s associate counsel and director of mediation, said the industry needs to continue to foster the launch of Black-owned companies and provide mentorship to Black business owners so existing businesses can grow. 

Mentorship is also needed in high schools so young Black people know there are fulfilling careers available in jewelry, which is something she did not realize when she was in school. 

When panelists were asked for their biggest takeaways from the past year-and-a-half, Owens said people need to not be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations about race and they need to act in order to make change.

“Do better; just don’t talk about it. Operationalize these discussions,” she said. 
For Bonaparte, the president and CEO of Jewelers of America, the biggest takeaway was the way the industry came together to support each other during COVID-19, while Pandora’s Courtalis emphasized the importance of listening to your team and over-communicating. 

Both Bachmann, the group vice president of RX Jewelry Group, and Kamdar, the senior director and general manager of luxury at eBay, said their biggest takeaway was the importance of being open to change. 

“Things are going to be different for a while,” Bachmann noted.

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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