Are you willing to share?
By Ellen Fruchtman, President
Like it or not, the “share economy” is here. In fashion, it started with online companies like Rent the Runway and Bag, Borrow and Steal. Now there is Tulerie, a rental company that allows people to borrow fashion and accessories from one another. Think about how we share everything from rides (Uber and Lyft) to rooms in our homes (Airbnb). Bird Electric Scooters are all the rage in larger cities. This phenomenon is nothing new. In my younger years, timeshares were all the rage and even now, there are multi-million dollar vacation homes that are selling fractional ownership. Sharing for the uber-rich.
According to Juniper Research, the share economy is estimated to hit $40.2 billion by 2022. Back in 2005, I recall a great story (which also led to a book) about 13 women who purchased and shared a diamond necklace. It appears they were on to something 14 years ago. You can read that fun story at https://people.com/archive/thirteen-women-one-diamond-necklace-and-a-new-path-to-friendship-vol-64-no-8/.
The trend is bigger than you think and has impacted everything from the hotel business to office space to even car sales. So, rather than wait for it to greatly impact fine jewelry, perhaps it’s something we can embrace as an industry. Embrace and offer in your own local market. Several years ago, we created and pitched this idea of a rental division to several of our clients to initiate in their own local markets. Of course, you can imagine the response. It involved ways to also utilize aging inventory. There was clever advertising creative to support the program. But, most retailers turned their head at the notion. Now knowing how big this industry is and how comfortable people are in renting luxury, it might be something you seriously want to consider for the near future.
We are primarily in the business of selling fine jewelry. But, maybe we would all get more people into fine jewelry if we looked for ways where it didn’t necessarily kill our bank account. Think about it. Many times, we’ve had a luxury car dealer tell us to take the car home for a couple of days. After a couple of days, who doesn’t fall in love with it? Instead of fighting the trend, perhaps you’ll provide opportunities for individuals who wouldn’t necessarily purchase that $1,000 necklace. As we all know, people are somewhat reticent to spend exorbitant sums of money and are making calculated decisions. The holiday report for 2018 was a recording. Here’s what we heard a lot of: People were buying, but they were spending considerably less money. The big, big buyers weren’t there. The rise of the rental industry could provide another opportunity. So rather than snicker at the idea, think about what the potential market may be. How many people wouldn’t love the opportunity to wear something fabulous to an event, pay a fraction of the price, ship it (or bring it) back, and not necessarily own it? Currently, we’re making the Millennial generation choose between jewelry, travel, or an experience. And, we’re losing. Why not take that choice out of the equation? Provide them the opportunity to do both? There’s a big market out there we’re simply ignoring.
Some brick and mortar retailers are starting to test the waters. Express, as an example, just created Express Style Trial, where shoppers can rent three items for $69.95 a month. Ann Taylor has a service called Infinite Style, where you can have unlimited access to clothes for $95 per month. Naturally, the fine jewelry model comes with some inherent issues, but for every roadblock, there is barrier waiting to be broken down.
Can a rental division help your business? Expose real, fine jewelry to a younger generation who might not otherwise purchase it? Provide an opportunity for that mother-of-the-bride to wear something exquisite for that one important event? A boomer who is done making large purchases, but might just want something extravagant for that black-tie event? I think so. And, I just wanted to share.
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