A lot more people than I expected told me they agreed with yesterday’s blog about how the diamond industry needs to reach out to younger consumers. Among the emails I received came from Jeff Corey, head of Day’s Jewelers, an eight-store chain based in Waterville, Maine:
Great article today regarding the jewelry industry’s position with youth. I believe it is the most significant challenge facing the jewelry business …
One of the primary difficulties facing the jewelry industry in America is a steep decline in the number of young people (under 25) who visit jewelry stores. Our stores used to be packed with young people. We’ve noticed a very significant decline, especially over the past 5 years. Purchases from this demo were never a large part of our business, but when they did visit our stores, it gave us an opportunity to educate them regarding quality and style. Most importantly we had the opportunity to establish trust, confidence and develop a relationship. When these young folks were looking to purchase a diamond engagement ring later in life, we were their jeweler of choice.
I am noticing that more and more young men (20-35) have adverse feelings about diamonds…far more so than in the past. I believe the primary reason for this is they have no relationship with a jeweler and have little or no knowledge about diamonds. They mistrust our trade, believe our products are overpriced, and are resentful that they are forced to purchase a diamond. The conflict diamond issue serves to reinforce their negative attitudes toward diamonds.
I’ll add that the continuing controversies over diamonds—whether it’s the Kimberley Process and Zimbabwe, Global Witness’ defection from the KP, or the argument over expanding the KP definition—reinforce all those negative perceptions. And while these issues surrounding the KP don’t get tons of play, they have appeared in the popular commercial media: see here, here, here, and here. (And there’s a lot more where that came from.) In fact, just last night, the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation opened with the lead character cooing that her diamond was non-conflict. (She mentioned this before she even called it pretty.) So if the industry thinks these issues don’t have an affect, it’s deluding itself.
Now, none of the trade’s problems can be solved overnight. But Jeff’s letter demonstrates the need for our business to attract new customers, broadcast positive messages, correct the misconceptions still out there, make sure we deal forthrightly with any issues that spring up, and work to head off controversies before they occur and our image is further damaged. At this point, our industry’s future may depend on it.