Starting next year, the De Beers Forevermark brand will take over distribution of its loose diamonds and require that its gemstones be sold only in its bridal designs—a change some retailers and suppliers are not too happy with.
Until now, “the retailer selected a [loose Forevermark] diamond and put it into some form of mounting and one of the choices was our mountings,” Forevermark USA president Charles Stanley tells JCK. “Now, we’re saying, the choice is going to be only our mountings, our designs.”
The new plan, which has a target date of Jan. 1, 2023, stems from the brand’s “desire to meet consumers where they are,” Stanley says, “and where we see them evolving, which is to much more branded offers.”
De Beers’ most recent market survey found that 65% of diamond jewelry buyers believed they bought a “branded” gemstone—and that number is even higher for millennials, he says.
“For us, to look and feel like a brand, it is important that we are able to manage all aspects of our brand, including the distribution of both finished and loose Forevermark diamonds.”
The new plan will enable Forevermark “to deliver a consistency of brand across all touch points,” Stanley continues. “It allows us to align the product that we promote in our marketing with what is available in stores…. [It] is no different than how any other full diamond jewelry brand does it. That’s how De Beers Diamond Jewelers does it, Tiffany, and others.”
The new Forevermark “fully branded offer” will help its retailers “defend [their] margin,” Stanley says. “It offers them consistent pricing for themselves and, importantly, for their clients. It’s efficient, as it allows the partner to have a curated selection and rely on us to back stock inventory of loose and designs.”
The brand’s retailers weren’t necessarily buying that, arguing that this fundamentally changes how the brand is run.
“Forevermark was always about the [loose] diamond,” says one, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Finished jewelry is not what retailers signed up for.”
The jeweler described Forevermark’s design collection as “limited” and not suitable for all tastes.
Stanley responds that “our bridal offer is curated, but it’s a customizable finished bridal solution. It does not overwhelm clients with an abundance of choice—and all our research shows that consumers don’t want to be overwhelmed.”
Forevermark’s current offerings “cover 99% of people’s known desire for designs,” he adds. “We are not going to meet everybody’s needs, which is important. As a brand, it’s important that you know what you’re not going to do, in addition to what you are going to do.
“Clearly, De Beers Forevermark’s DNA is rooted in diamonds, and our designs lean toward uplifting the diamond with the design, and that will always be central to the design ethic of both of the De Beers brands. [We are also] cognizant that consumers do want to feel they have selected a diamond and a ring that is unique and special to themselves.”
The retailer also worries that jewelers will get better deals with suppliers they have long-standing relationships with.
Stanley says that, under the new arrangement, “the commercial conversation [will be had] with De Beers Forevermark in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. However, when one looks in the context of full value, [our offer is] fair and it’s competitive to the market, and that should be the reference point.”
But the jeweler quoted above believes this change could be the last straw for some retailers, noting how many times Forevermark has tweaked its business model, including changes in its name and personnel. (Most recently, Kristyn Beausoleil, Forevermark’s vice president of sales, left the brand after 10 years.)
Another retailer, who also insisted on anonymity, says, “I think they have shot themselves in the foot. Everyone I talked to in Vegas was upset about it.
“This new arrangement adds a level of a complexity that wasn’t there before,” the retailer adds. “They have many challenges ahead of them. What are the odds of someone in Connecticut being more proficient at selling a diamond or selling a mounting than established suppliers? They just don’t have the skill set to do it effectively.”
Regarding the retailer reaction, Stanley says: “Once we have had a chance to properly explain to retailers what we’re doing, and the rationale, they understand [it]. Naturally, like anyone, they want to absorb that and then determine how this best fits into their business going forward. We look to them to make the final decision about where they feel De Beers Forevermark should fit into their ongoing business.
“Change takes time for people to understand. We are giving our partners that time. No change is being made until the end of the year, and so they have that time to understand where they want to land and how it fits within their current offering.”
Suppliers, who have been selling polished to retailers—and will now sell it to Forevermark—also seemed displeased, though most said they were still figuring out how everything will work.
“They’re getting in the middle of [our relationships with the retailers],” one says. “I don’t know why they’d want to be there.”
Another says the plan “didn’t make sense” but was waiting to hear more details.
In a June 14 email to customers, Stanley seemed to acknowledge that Forevermark may lose customers over this.
“We fully respect whatever decision you may choose to make regarding your partnership with De Beers,” the email said. “I understand that emotion can run high during change, which is a good thing as it shows that you care.… Whatever decision you choose to make, I want you all to know that I personally enjoy all the relationships I have, and I hope our friendships can continue.”
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