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The recent report ‘Platinum Jewellery Business Review (PJBR) Q1 2021’ released by Platinum Guild International (PGI) indicates that platinum jewellery retailers and manufacturers reported a sustained recovery across three of four key markets, despite the ongoing pandemic’s challenges in the jewellery industry.

Huw Daniel, Chief Executive Officer of PGI said: “The jewellery industry has seen precious jewellery demand return in the first quarter of 2021, but the recovery could slow in some markets as subsequent waves of COVID cloud the outlook. Other than accelerated trends within the industry, what we’ve seen in the last year is a renewed enthusiasm for platinum. Jewellers are increasingly engaging with this precious metal, which has been effectively marketed as a metal of meaning and become important as consumers look for ways to symbolise and mark occasions in restricted and unprecedented times.”

The report also said that a recent consumer survey highlights a continued positive consumer sentiment and a strong appetite for precious jewellery during these difficult times in different consuming markets.

The study shows sustainable growth in 3 out of the 4 markets as follows:

China:

China, a large market for platinum jewellery shows that Chinese consumers’ confidence has picked up as the pandemic has been brought under control. This upward sentiment in China has created a good foundation for the consumption recovery of precious jewellery. PGI has seen the jewellery category increase sharply in Q1 2021, against a low base in the same period affected by COVID-19 last year, with platinum fabrication increasing by 65% year-on-year.

Several platinum collections were launched or refreshed in Q1 to attract younger consumers. PGI rallied 33 retailers with 325 doors during Chinese New Year to host promotional activities, which resulted in a strong boost in sales volume and value.

The retail partners of PGI are said to have reported a 52% growth compared to the same period of 2020, driven by newly launched or refreshed platinum collections, coupled with promotional activities. For instance, PGI collaborated on the addition of futuristically styled sub-collections for Chow Tai Fook’s refreshed “G&W” collection, resulting in 103 SKUs of products through 3,500+ stores targeting tier two and three cities. Luk Fook in mainland China also increased sharply at 140% YoY in Q1. Self-operated stores and franchise stores in mainland China rose by 93% YoY and 70% YoY in the same period. Its eCommerce business in mainland China grew by 43% YoY in the small-to-medium retailers.

Reportedly PGI not only supplied customised promotional mechanisms and sales incentives, but retailers were also encouraged to stock up on their platinum inventory. Also, good crowd turnout at malls and tremendous efforts from retailers resulted in significant increases, both in sales volume and value amongst the participating stores.

The report emphasises the fact that China’s economy registered 18.3% YoY growth with expanded demand and enhanced market vitality despite multiple uncertainties. The jewellery industry underwent substantial growth in all categories. PGI retail partners achieved 52% YoY growth in platinum jewellery sales in Q1, against a low base in the same period a year ago. The report adds that promotion campaigns will feature various physical events, online sales and promotions particularly on new channels such as live-stream e-commerce.

In addition, plain fabrication of platinum jewellery increased by 62% YoY in Q1. In the first two months of Q1, platinum fabrication was overshadowed by strong gold demand from retailers during the Chinese New Year. From March, platinum sell-in improved slightly as many new platinum products were introduced by retailers for the spring/summer season.

Jewellery sales increased sharply in Q1 2021 against a low base in the same period last year. Although still below 2019 levels, China’s platinum fabrication volume soared by 65% YoY in Q1, while PGI retail partner sales achieved 52%YoY growth.

Several platinum collections were launched or refreshed in Q1 to attract younger consumers. PGI collaborated with local retailers to boost platinum sales during Chinese New Year via promotional activities.

USA:

Another large and important market for platinum jewellery is the USA, which has continued its strong rebound since Q3 2020. This attributed to various reasons like the decline in COVID cases, vaccination rollouts and government subsidies. The success has been further attributed to retail partners’ engagement with platinum and PGI’s efforts at enhancing platinum’s position with diamond jewellery, which has always been a dominant category in the US market.

According to the report, platinum jewellery sales of PGI USA’s strategic partners experienced robust year-on-year growth of 11%. This increase is mainly attributed to growth in gemstone fashion jewellery and strong demand for bridal jewellery due to postponed weddings and engagements.

To support partners that are committed to make platinum a strategic focus of their business, PGI USA recently announced a new initiative “Platinum Business Development Grant,” to target future growth.

GDP grew by an annualised rate of 6.4% in the US in Q1 from the previous quarter, reflecting the continued economic recovery and government response to COVID-19. Platinum jewellery continued its robust growth, and the industry’ enthusiasm for platinum is high.

Japan:

Regarding Japan, the third market is historically the strongest market for platinum jewellery, which experienced a 5.5% year-on-year decline in platinum jewellery retail sales in Q1. However, still, platinum is regarded as the best performing white metal used for precious jewellery, which can be attributed to sales of bridal and asset-based jewellery, especially via non-store sales channels.

Platinum jewellery sales from non-store channels rose by 15% year-on-year in Q1, with both E-commerce and TV shopping expanding the target audience during the home-bound year of COVID-19. According to PGI, all three retail partners of “Platinum Woman” will continue the programme during two peak promotion periods in summer and winter 2021. New SKUs were developed and PGI has started to approach additional partner candidates for recruitment.

Japan’s GDP for Q1 had the first contraction in three quarters, amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and slow vaccine rollouts. Q1 came to a standstill with the second state of emergency. Platinum jewellery sales saw a modest decline while non-store sales jumped by double-digits.

Platinum jewellery sales declined although online and TV shopping continued to grow. Retail sales in Japan rose by 5.2% YoY in March 2021, following three months of consecutive year-on-year decline. This was the steepest pace in five months, as consumption recovered in the wake of COVID-19 disruption.

The second state of emergency in Q1 weakened a recovery and jewellery demand. Polarisation of jewellery sales between low-end and high-end asset jewellery continued. Total platinum jewellery sales had a modest decline while non-store sales jumped in Q1, with bridal jewellery performing best within the platinum category.

Platinum jewellery unit sales dropped 5.5% YoY in Q1, despite being the best performing white metal used for precious jewellery. By channel, platinum jewellery sales grew very strongly among non-store sales at 15% YoY. The E-commerce channel was the main contributor, while TV shopping also expanded its target audience by integrating e-commerce channels. Unit sales for all purity levels of platinum jewellery also continued to improve, with a smaller decline of 5% to 7% YoY in Q1. By price points, platinum jewellery priced at JPY 200K to 299K, performed the best, followed by pieces priced at JPY 50K up to 99K.

By product type of platinum jewellery, bridal jewellery continued as the best performer thanks to money divested from delayed wedding ceremonies, followed by earrings/ear studs.

India:

The Indian market, following a five-month decline in the number of new COVID cases, began the year on a positive note. It is reported that PGI retail partners saw success with a “Platinum Days of Love” campaign alongside an in-store activation programme, “Month of Love”. The campaigns also drove conversions to platinum from gold and diamonds, leveraging on festivals and the wedding season.

PGI strategic retail Indian partners with 642 stores reported 17% year-on-year growth in platinum sales in Q1. However, towards the end of March, the pandemic regained momentum resulting in the outlook for Q2 looking uncertain.

The report notes that India’s economy sustained recovery in Q1 while a second wave of the pandemic clouded the economic outlook. The jewellery industry’s recovery in recent quarters caused a bullish sentiment. Strategic retail partners reported a strong sales rebound of 17% YoY in platinum in Q1 thanks to improved demand and targeted recovery programmes led by PGI.

The jewellery industry sustained recovery during the festival and wedding season. Jewellery industry sentiment was boosted on the back of encouraging sales, and jewellers focused on improving rotation of capital and inventory. Platinum jewellery sales achieved significant growth, led by strong marketing initiatives and trade programmes.

India’s jewellery industry received a boost from the union budget with reduced custom duties on gold and silver to 7.5%, from the existing 12.5%. The customs duty on platinum has been reduced to 10% from 12.5%, which is expected to boost sentiment for platinum. This is expected to boost demand as well as exports providing relief to the jewellery industry and its consumers.

In Q1 2021, PGI’s strategic partners registered a 75- 80% recovery in gold jewellery sales by volume.

PGI’s strategic retail partners reported an 88- 90% recovery in diamond jewellery sales as compared to last year. However, retailers continued to report a drop in high-value diamond jewellery sales with price points above $2,680, as they see a drop in walk-ins by their high-value clientele. Hence, they have started the process of correcting the stock of their high-value diamond jewellery by lowering price points. Retailers have seen an increase in demand for bridal jewellery with the presence of wedding dates in the March – June period, but they have seen a drop in self-purchase.

PGI’s 33 strategic retail partners with 642 stores reported 17% YoY growth in platinum sales in Q1, on the back of effective marketing efforts by PGI and partners. PGI’s strong marketing initiatives in Q1 started with a Platinum Days of Love campaign alongside an in-store activation programme, “Month of Love”, which helped build positive buzz about platinum among consumers and trade. PGI’s marketing initiatives were amplified by retail partners’ communication about all platinum brands through their social media platforms.

The majority of platinum jewellery manufacturers based out of Maharashtra are working with 25% of their usual workforce due to state restrictions, as against the 50% allowed earlier, which will adversely impact the production in Q2.

Finally, it could be deemed that the sustained recovery indicated in the PJBR Q1 report for platinum/platinum jewellery reflects an overall positive momentum across key markets, buoyed by the pickup of consumer interest and trade confidence. However, future growth could be hampered by surging coronavirus cases in some markets and the returned competition of spending on other categories.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor in Chief of the Asian Bureau, Rough&Polished