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You Ask, We Answer Part 1 of 3: Questions from Jewelry Brands About Coronavirus and the Jewelry Industry

I recently invited my clients and Instagram followers to submit their questions about running a jewelry business in the time of coronavirus. This post is part one of a (so far) three-part series, and I’ll be answering three questions at a time. If you’d still like to submit a question, you can always email me, and I’ll do my best to answer it.

In regard to how it affects the jewelry industry, how do you think this economic downturn will compare to the financial crisis of 2008?

According to a February 2009 article from JCK titled “Recession Impacts Jewelry Business“, “The deepening U.S. recession has affected more than half of the businesses in the North American jewelry industry” and nine out of 10 respondents to a JCK survey “expect the crisis to have ‘some’ or ‘great’ effect on U.S. retail jewelers in the next two years.” If you owned a jewelry business during that time, you probably experienced the effects firsthand.

So how will this year compare to 2008? I’m definitely not an economist, but I’ve done some research and have my own opinions. Even though 2008 was more than a decade ago, the people who lived through that economic crisis still remember it well; the anxieties they’re feeling now about our shaky economy mimic the same anxiety they felt then, when the United States experienced a systemic financial crisis.

However, a recent article from the World Economic Forum says we actually shouldn’t be comparing the coronavirus crisis to 2008. A shock to a financial system that comes as a surprise (like the one we’re experiencing now) isn’t necessarily as damaging as one that gathers momentum while financial conditions worsen and banks fail, like they did more than a decade ago.

All that being said, the future is still uncertain, since public health experts don’t exactly know how this virus will continue to affect us. According to another article from the World Economic Forum, “If the public health response, including social distancing and lockdown measures, is initially successful but fails to prevent a resurgence in the virus, the world will experience a ‘muted’ economic recovery” and would recover by Q3 2022. Data from McKinsey shows that the apparel/fashion/luxury industries will experience a global restart by late Q2/Q3 2020 and that online growth exists.

Should I be starting a new jewelry business or launching new products/collections at this time?

Now’s probably not the best time to start a new jewelry business, since carving out a space in the marketplace can involve the use of aggressive sales and marketing tactics that aren’t appropriate for our times. That being said, I don’t want to be negative. I think up-and-coming jewelry entrepreneurs can absolutely still make a lot of progress in a time of economic uncertainty.

In fact, I think these entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the beauty brand Glossier. In 2010, Emily Weiss launched Into the Gloss, a blog featuring interviews with women about their beauty and self-care regimens. By 2012, her site was attracting more than 200,000 unique visitors per month. In 2014, Weiss decided to pivot from blogger extraordinaire to beauty entrepreneur: she launched her own beauty company, Glossier, which was recently valued at $1.2 billion.

What does this story have to do with launching a new jewelry business? Well, the point is that Emily never set out to create a billion-dollar beauty empire. Instead, she started her site with a goal to create content and a sense of community. She shared her passion and her voice.

Instead of launching your products right now, you can focus exclusively on content, like Emily did. Build your brand around your unique content and amass a loyal following. Once you’re finally ready to launch your products in a more favorable socioeconomic climate, you’ll already have gained a massive group of primed customers who want to buy into your lifestyle.

If you’re an established jewelry brand, then you’ll need to decide on a case-by-case basis whether now’s the right time to launch new products or collections. This week, I saw Jennifer Meyer launch a new gold link jewelry collection, while Ana Khouri is supporting Doctors Without Borders by donating 100% of proceeds from the sale of a new special edition ring. On the other hand, Tiffany & Co. has postponed the retail rollout of their new T1 collection, which “the company hoped would drive its business forward into the second half of the year”, according to WWD.

Before you launch, you’ll want to ask yourself three questions: 1) Does this feel appropriate?; 2) How will launching now as opposed to later affect my bottom line?; and 3) Can I market this in a way that speaks to the times?

If my gold, silver, or gemstone supplier is closed, how can I source alternatives? What if I run out of supplies?

Not having access to supplies can be devastating for a jewelry brand, especially if you’re actively selling products at this time and plan to continue fulfilling orders. Unless you can find alternatives for your raw materials, you obviously won’t be able to move forward.

This might help: I recently noticed a post by GemAtlas on the Women’s Jewelry Association Forum, this company offers a platform that connects businesses within the diamond, gem, and jewelry industry. They’re currently offering a FREE one-month premium pack to help jewelry business owners with business continuity. I haven’t personally used GemAtlas, so I can’t vouch for it, but their website says that their platform will allow you to find suppliers for all your requirements and connect with the supply chain, from miners to retailers. Since it’s currently free, it may be worth a shot!

In addition, now may be a great time to consider diversifying your business model. I was recently thinking about Broken English, a jewelry retailer with boutiques in Santa Monica, New York City, and Newport Beach. They’re known for selling on-trend designer fine jewelry, but they also recently launched the BE Home Collection, which “is designed to inspire your living space, with clean, modern designs that are crafted to be chic and functional”, according to their website.

Can you potentially sell something that’s not jewelry but that still relates to your jewelry brand? If you don’t want to sell objects, then you can sell your expertise: create a course about styling jewelry or something similar. We all have unique talents and skills that we can monetize, and they don’t require you to depend on suppliers.