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Jewellery is not only the largest personal accessories category by value sales, but also the fastest growing. As such, events affecting the jewellery competitive landscape attract great attention from accessories manufacturers and retailers. Some financial results documented over January and February 2013 are set to influence the biggest jewellery brands worldwide.
On the evidence of several companies’ quarterly results for the period ending December 2012, Asia Pacific did not perform as well as expected. Buoyed by retail expansion and increasing brand recognition, both Richemont (owner of Cartier) and Chow Tai Fook saw their Asia Pacific revenues grow in excess of 40% over the calendar year 2010/2011, a feat which was unlikely to be repeated. One reason for this is simply a return to pragmatic growth rates as the companies in question pursue strategies to expand in second and third-tier cities in key markets such as Japan and China. In the last quarter of the 2012 calendar year, Chow Tai Fook reported regional sales growth of 4%, while Richemont’s revenues increased by 6%.
Another factor leading to the dramatic drop in growth rates in 2012 was weaker macroeconomic growth in China, Hong Kong and India. Exports suffered as a result of knock-on effects of the EuroZone crisis, while local consumers were reluctant to spend on big-ticket items such as jewellery. This type of consumer behaviour was particularly prevalent in Hong Kong as the well-marketed difference in luxury and jewellery product prices between China and Hong Kong declined in 2012 compared to 2011. It is worth noting that although value sales growth in 2012 was lower than in 2011, Asia Pacific was still one of the fastest growing regions. As it returns to its status as the leader in terms of growth rates in 2013, high-end jewellery manufacturers such as those mentioned above are likely to see some revival in revenue growth. Richemont has already affirmed its intent to continue the Asia Pacific push in early 2013 as its brand Baume & Mercier formed a new joint venture with jewellery retail chain Chow Tai Fook.
For a second consecutive calendar year, Danish jewellery brand Pandora’s reported value sales saw a nominal decline. The statistic which suffered most from appreciable changes in global strategy in 2012 was net profit, which declined by more than 40% from 2011 to 2012. This was primarily due to a focus on shifting its product portfolio towards the mid-priced segment rather than competing with diamond jewellery and luxury jewellery players.
Along with the refining of pricing strategy, offering to enhance the product range carried by its retail partners was expected to affect short-term results, and might well affect profits and revenues during the first half of 2013. However, a new competitive environment generated as a result will help its potential foray into relatively untapped regions such as Latin America and Asia Pacific.
In many quarterly results published for late 2012, the US represented encouraging growth. The ‘Americas’, where the US is the major contributor to value sales, was the fastest growing region for Richemont in the last quarter of 2012. Even for mid-priced brand Pandora, US sales grew faster than in key markets such as Germany and Asia Pacific. With most Western European markets still suffering from ailing economies, a recovery in consumer spending in the US has been met with an increased marketing focus from global accessories brands.
Another jewellery manufacturer looking to ride this trend in 2013 is Christian Bernard, the value sales leader in France. Combining diamonds, gold and materials borrowed from costume jewellery, the company intends to establish a distinct brand for the fashion-conscious. Roberto Coin, an Italian jewellery brand, has also customised its portfolio to suit American consumers. The US collection is focused on exploring silver jewellery rather than the signature lines focusing on rubies.
While the geographical focus of global strategies is bound to evolve, it is clear that manufacturers are willing to create short-term plans in order to sustain year-on-year growth. The focus on Asia Pacific is likely to return in 2013 and 2014 when companies will look to broaden their focus beyond China and Japan.