Among the less studied and (and less occupied) niches of the Chinese economy there is undoubtedly the jewelry market, a segment of the much more discussed and well-known luxury market that features internationally renowned brands but above all local and regional ones.
Of course, also Chinese like jewels, with a predilection for products made in China but with special attention to brands with long history and enormous opportunities for consumption development mainly due to the web.
The trends of the expanding market between China and the world
The most important European and American jewelry houses have currently just barely scratched the Chinese market, where they account for less than 15% of the sector’s sales, which between 2020 and 2021 exceeded US$80 billion split between physical and digital channels.
And while the global pandemic has reduced purchases of luxury goods in the country of the Great Wall, the first quarter of 2021 has given new breath to the jewelry market, in particular in the gold and silver segment, whose transactions – according to the National Statistics Bureau – exceeded US$15 billion, up by 80% on the previous year.
This remarkable growth opens up new scenarios for those wanting to break into the largest global market and carve out a niche for themselves: so far only Cartier has succeeded in achieving a 1.1% share of total sales and it is the only international jewelry player in the top five, while Tiffany stops at 1%, in seventh place.
This confirms the competitiveness and strong presence of local brands, such as lead player Chow Tai Fook, which occupies 7.6% of the market sales with revenues up 23.6% to US$8.52 billion, and Lao Feng Xiang, which comes in at 7.5%. Other main players are Lao Miao with a 3.5% share, and Chow Sang Sang at 1.3%.
Gold, jade bracelets and bargain prices: the industry trends
Among the jewelry products preferred by Chinese consumers there are undoubtedly bracelets, rings and all those precious items that adorn the hands, followed by necklaces and earrings. All strictly (or almost strictly) in gold and jade, present respectively in 25% and 50% of the jewelry sold.
Looking at the data, tradition seems to win over innovation, both from the point of view of the type of favourite products and as regards their composition: the perceived luxury value is directly proportional to the visible gold, while jade recalls ancient local stories; a gemstone among the most popular throughout China.
Another interesting trend is that of small, low-cost jewelry, especially popular among the young and very young: brooches, ornaments and trinkets with an average value of a few dollars are purchased in large quantities, especially thanks to the flexibility offered by online stores, such as Tmall, Taobao and Alibaba.
Brand strategies intersect online
And it is precisely the web the new access touchpoint of choice and the new driver for the growth of the Chinese jewelry market. Between spring 2020 and spring 2021, Taobao and Tmall recorded over 1.55 billion pieces of jewelry sold, for a total value of over US$9 billion.
Cartier, which as we have seen is the only foreign brand among the top 5 in the sector, has developed its online presence in China with an ecosystem that includes a dedicated showcase on Tmall, one on JD.com, an account on Little Red Book and one on Weibo, but also an e-commerce site on Miniprogram and a constant dialogue with consumers through WeChat. In short, a brand identity that multiplies through social networks, online shops, blogs and spaces designed for the continuous narrative of the business and products with celebrity spokespersons.
Jewelry, digital presence and knowledge of the Chinese context
The digital presence is therefore a crucial aspect for anyone who wants to try to break into a hyper-competitive market in which local players dominate and where three aspects that are difficult to balance seem to make the difference: a strong image linked to the concept of luxury, original design, and low prices.
The web certainly helps to build an effective brand image and contribute to the popularity of the brand and products, as well as shorten the purchase path with constant communication and promotion activities, which peak during local and international holidays, such as Singles’ Day, Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year and others.
The biggest challenge is to wisely build a strategy that aligns online and offline activities and which combines the flexibility and liveliness of platforms such as WeChat and Tmall with a product and price policy that meets the desires of the Chinese public, positioning the brand and its jewelry at its best by using the influence of social media, local KOLs, but also effective logistics and exclusive materials.
Do you want to get involved in the jewelry market in China? Retex can help you to identify the right path for you and structure yourself to seize the great opportunities of an expanding market.