A Very Good Year: 10 Trends, Topics & Innovations Rocking Retail in 2017



Feminine Wearables

Fitbit may be the world’s best-selling wearable brand, but women wanting to break out of the sporty-rubber-strap rut now have more feminine-feeling devices to choose from. Ringly recently debuted a smart notifier bracelet that echoes the design of its original ring (the gemstone-covered device sits on a thin bangle), while Huami’s pretty new Amazfit tracker was inspired by shapely Chinese jade pendants. The Fossil Group, which holds licenses on smart tech for a bevy of major brands, has blazed an impressive trail when it comes to marrying feminine fashion with tech. Among its 2016 releases is the Michael Kors Access watch, featuring a digital face that displays the time in diamondlike dots, and Kate Spade New York’s first wearable collection, which includes a smartwatch marked by a cute graphic of a bubbling champagne bottle. —Emili Vesilind

 

Future Malls
 

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Contrary to reports, the traditional mall isn’t dying—but it is transforming from an all-retail environment to a space that also sells experiences. Mall operators including Westfield Corp. and Pyramid Management Group are leasing to companies that specialize in consumer experiences like skydiving simulations, laser tag, kids’ science centers, and driving ranges. According to CoStar Group Inc., food and entertainment accounted for 22.1 percent of space leased in malls in August 2016, compared with 19.2 percent in 2012. The shift speaks to a larger trend in retail: Tomorrow’s mall shoppers will expect meaningful interactions with every brand they do business with—jewelers, too. —EV

 

Modern Enamel

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Although enameling in jewelry has a history dating back to 1500 B.C., contemporary designers are using the ancient craft to punctuate modern silhouettes with pops of color. Avoiding highly detailed portraiture, florals, or difficult plique-à-jour applications, the look for 2017 centers on brightly colored accents that serve as finishing touches for everyday heirlooms. Learning how to explain the technique is a must: Each piece is “painted” with crushed glass and heated to create a permanent bond. Stock up on cool-girl brands like Sarah Hendler, Andrea Fohrman, and Dezso by Sara Beltrán to get the look. —Randi Molofsky

Shirley earrings in 18k yellow gold with hand-painted turquoise enamel details; $4,200; Sarah Hendler, Los Angeles; meaghan@forfuturereference.com; sarahhendler.com 

 

Virtual Reality

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Believe the hype: Virtual reality is shaping up to be the biggest thing in retail since e-commerce. The experiential technology, which is poised to transform how people shop—and communicate, learn, and see the world—has found a few early adopters in the jewelry industry (here’s looking at you, Gabriel & Co.). Of course, for independent retailers, creating a VR experience may not be realistic until costs come down. But there is an alternative: 360-degree video. “For a couple hundred bucks, you can get a great-quality 360 camera,” says Matt Johnson, executive vice president of innovation at Bottle Rocket in Addison, Texas. “Is that VR? For independents it probably is, if you can tell a good story. What makes you unique? The technical capabilities are there; then it becomes more about what story do you want to tell?” —Victoria Gomelsky

 

Pink

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Of course the spring 2017 runways were awash in cheerful colors (we’re still reeling from Christian Siriano’s sunny clementine- and cyan-splashed Capri-themed collection!). But who expected so many pops—and so many shades—of pink? There was the saturated honeysuckle at Michael Kors and Jason Wu; bubblegum at J.Crew; fuchsia at Naeem Khan and Oscar de la Renta; petal pink at Monique Lhuillier (pictured); and barely-there blush—which mirrors Pantone’s timely top-10 seasonal pick, Pale Dogwood—seen at Erin Fetherston. Fortunately, the hotter-than-hot hue couldn’t go better with the metal of the moment, yellow gold, and it gets even warmer when set against rose gold. If you want to play it cool, accessorize with sleek silver, or get edgy by pairing pink with blackened pieces. —Melissa Rose Bernardo

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Limited-run Effigy ring with 13.75 ct. tricolor tourmaline and 0.28 ct. t.w. diamonds in 14k rose gold; $9,950; Sirciam Jewelry, Los Angeles; 310-482-9602; sirciam.com

 

Stand-alone Smartwatches

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Until recently, smartwatches had one serious limitation: For the wearer to enjoy their full features—and sometimes, to enjoy any features at all—the watches needed to work with a smartphone, in most cases one located very close by. But now we are increasingly seeing smartwatches that work as stand-alone gadgets. The Samsung Gear S3 has cellular connectivity that allows users to browse Twitter, stream music, and send and receive messages, all without a phone. None of this comes cheap, of course: The devices require, among other things, a new data plan. Still, observers say becoming “untethered” is crucial if smartwatches are going to make the leap from a niche product to a widely adopted item. —Rob Bates

The Samsung Gear S3 frontier; starting at $349.99

 

Instagram Stories
 

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With the holidays fast approaching, you might be excited to share pics of all your newest jewels. But post too many and you risk being branded an overposter—eek! That’s why Instagram Stories is a blessing. Snap shots or videos of your day at the store (new jewelry arrivals, holiday displays, customer happy hours), and add them to your story, which lives in your profile for 24 hours. Sound a lot like Snapchat? That’s because it is. But one advantage: Your audience is probably already on Instagram—the app reportedly boasts 300 million daily active users compared with Snapchat’s 100 million. So go ahead, get snap happy! —Brittany Siminitz

Retailer (and popular Instagram Storyteller) Broken English

 

Traceable Diamonds
 

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Move over, Canadian diamonds—you’re no longer the only tracked gems in town. In September, Rio Tinto introduced tracked-and-traced Australian diamonds from its Argyle mine (pictured), plus plans to introduce a new program for Canadian stones. De Beers has long certified the origin of its “responsibly sourced” Forevermark diamonds. Russian producer Alrosa is considering a provenance program. And the Responsible Jewellery Council may revisit its once-shelved program for a diamond chain of custody. Advocates say these programs are needed to assuage the concerns of today’s consumers—and to guarantee that undisclosed synthetics don’t slip into the supply chain. —RB

 

Omnichannel Retailing 
 

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Omnichannel retailing—the concept of providing consumers with a seamless shopping experience across all virtual and physical retail channels—has become a baseline expectation for the majority of U.S. shoppers. Milton Pedraza, CEO of the New York City–based Luxury Institute, says retailers who don’t develop robust omnichannel processes soon will lose footing. “Seamless integration—if you don’t have that, you’ve probably lost 10 percent of your sales,” he cautions. And data back up his assertion. According to a recent study by International Data Corp., shoppers who buy on multiple channels have a 30 percent higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. And MasterCard’s latest Omnishopper Report reveals that what frustrates omnishoppers the most (beyond shipping processes and even pricing) is inventory issues—not being able to find and purchase what they want, when they want it. —EV

Stone & Strand, in New York City’s Tribeca and at stoneandstrand.com

 

Yellow Gold Engagement Rings 

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Yellow gold’s dominance in fine fashion jewelry now extends to engagement rings. But don’t confuse the current trend with the dated designs of the 1980s. (Remember those marquise-cut diamonds in swirl-motif rings with channel-set stones?) Modern wedding rings feature rich gold settings with bezel-set center diamonds, vintage-inspired two-tone combinations, and playful multi-stone looks in 14k gold. That’s one form of global warming we can stand behind. —Jennifer Heebner

Birds of Paradise ring in 18k yellow gold with 0.31 ct. t.w. diamonds; $1,590Ron Hami, Los Angeles; 213-327-0998; ronhami.com

 

Top: photograph by Greg Sorensen, styling by Catherine Peridis

Forward-facing hoop earrings in 14k and 18k gold with diamonds, $4,840, Fern Freeman, NYC, 917-217-1727, fernfreemanjewelry.com; Leaf Urban Silver Edition wearable in water-resistant composite wood and stainless steel on leather bracelet, $139, Leaf activity tracker, Bellabeat, San Francisco, hi@bellabeat.com, bellabeat.com; smart bracelet in 24k gold–plated stainless steel with quartz, $195, Ela Fine Tech, NYC, 212-886-6236, elajewelry.com; Aries bracelet in 14k gold–plated stainless steel with tourmalated quartz, $245, Ringly, NYC, sales@ringly.com, ringly.com

Market editor: Jennifer Heebner. Makeup by Alexis Williams for the Brooks Agency. Hair by Gusléne Bubak. Manicure by Angela Marinescu. Jumpsuit by Re:Named.

(Mall: Victor Korchenko/Alamy; headset: Aleksey Boldin/Alamy; runway: Edward James/VogueRunway.com)