Diamond panel discussion addresses high-end jewelers’ concerns

A panel discussion and press conference held at the Jewelers of America Show on Sunday addressed pressing issues, such as shrinking margins on diamond jewelry, for luxury jewelers. Hosted by the Couture Jewellery Collection & Conference, panelists—including retailers and wholesalers—offered suggestions on how to operate profitably in the diamond business today. Some of the suggestions included:

* Sell exclusive product. “Cutters must differentiate their diamonds,” said Jim Rosenheim, Co-CEO, The Tiny Jewel Box, Washington, D.C., with the 100-facet Cento Diamond brand in mind.

* Offer outstanding service. Sean Cohen, president, Codiam/Rand, advised the audience to be more concerned with how they treat customers than with the products they are carrying. “If you want to buy a Mercedes, you’ll go buy one from the place with good service,” he explained.

* Instill trust in customers. “Jewelry is a goofy thing—you don’t have to have it,” said Chuck Lein, Ph.D., president and COO of Stuller. But he reminded listeners about the “little piece of emotion” attached to every sale that helped jewelers better sell their trust and, ultimately, their merchandise.

Other panelists included Russell Cohen, chairman and CEO, Carlyle Jewelers, and Anna Martin, senior VP and regional manager, North America, ABN AMRO Bank.

Steve Forbes, head of Forbes magazine, with a circulation of more than 900,000, also spoke during the hour-long presentation. Forbes offered some insight into 2004 economics in the U.S., citing strong productivity, tax cuts, lean company inventories, and capital spending poised for a comeback—all signs, he said, of a prosperous year ahead for the luxury sector, including jewelry.

“These economic recoveries [post recessions] have long legs,” said Forbes. “The last two—in the 1980s and 1990s—were more than seven years in length. Barring anything bad happening, this recovery should last a long time.”

Couture global brand director Nancy Robey also announced plans for a new seminar-only venue slated for Oct. 13-14, 2004, just after the GIA’s League of Honor Dinner, in which luxury-level diamond players would be able to discuss in “effective and targeted ways” how “to maintain the diamond’s desirability” and fight eroding profits from Internet competition.