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Surender Gnanaolivu

Crafting Fine Jewelry Shopping in India

Art- and culture-inspired store designs support fine jewelry retail in India

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The famous Kohinoor and Hope diamonds, both incredible gems, put 5000-year-old Indian jewelry craft on the world map. After being the sole supplier of gemstones to the world for 2000 years, India saw the craft evolve into an exquisite art form – from the days when jewelry was a statement of power, prosperity and prestige for rulers until today, when it stands for glamour, prestige and security for the modern Indian woman. Deeply rooted in cultural and religious traditions, the craft is passed down through generations.

More than 300,000 players (i.e., retailers and craftsmen) employ over 4.64 million workers, fulfilling a staggering demand of 4308.7 metric tons of jewelry in 2016, which is 29 percent of the world’s consumption. Worth $60 billion USD in 2017, the market is expected to reach $100-110 billion USD by 2021 or 2022, according to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation. According to research company MarketExcel, the top three purchasing occasions for jewelry in India are weddings (95 percent), the Akshya Tritiya festival (89 percent) and the Diwali festival of lights (82 percent).

In my many years of jewelry buying, I have experienced the exquisite art of crafting the complete jewelry shopping experience. This is physically manifested in its purest form in the product, place, and presentation.

PRODUCT

Though 53 percent of India’s consumers are below the age of 25 and spend their earnings on lifestyle items and personal gadgets, the demand for traditional jewelry is still strong. The eight traditional jewelry styles – Kundan, Meenakari, Jadau, Pachchikam, Polki, Thewa, Filigree and Temple – have become an integral part of the lives of different economic and demographic segments.

PLACE

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Retail design plays a critical role in crafting a shopping experience fit for kings and queens. A store’s architecture must rely on many art forms and jewelry crafting as inspiration in order to create opulent environments, which are favored by consumers. The following are outstanding examples of “successful” jewelry stores, each of which earn about $10 million USD annually.

Tanishq, named with the words “tan,” meaning “body,” and “nishk,” meaning “gold ornament,” is the largest jewelry chain in India with more than 200 stores. The design ethos of every location is inspired by the art and culture of the region in which it’s located. The flagship on Camac Street, Kolkata, spread over 8000 square feet, is inspired by the rich heritage of art, literature and culture from the state of Bengal. The highlight elements, many sourced from local bazaars, include a modified palanquin, and a terracotta wall installation of a Bengali wedding procession.

Crafting Fine Jewelry Shopping in India

Crafting Fine Jewelry Shopping in India

Anand (meaning “happiness”) Jewels is a large-format, luxury retailer located in a prominent shopping district in the city of Indore. At 7810 square feet, the location is designed with a lavish palette of materials inspired by local craft and the traditional culture of luxury. Intricate carvings in rich, solid stone block mass, an elaborate chandelier, marble inlays and metal filigree create a luxe experience for customers across all income levels.

Crafting Fine Jewelry Shopping in India

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Neelkanth Jewellers, a specialist in wedding jewelry, differentiates its brand by mixing contemporary culture and traditional Indian jewelry craftsmanship. The design was conceptualized and rendered in a Neoclassic, luxurious palette with inlaid Italian marble flooring, ornate ceiling coves embellished with a crystal chandelier and museum case counters “be-jeweled” with laser-cut backlit patterns and gold-plated brass trimmings.

Crafting Fine Jewelry Shopping in India

PRESENTATION

In jewelry retail, it’s true that “stories sell and not products.” A lot of attention has been given to visual merchandising which employs intricately crafted themes from Indian art, cultures and celebrations to inspire shoppers. Here are two of my favorite windows. The first, based on the game of chess, is inspired by the miniature painting of the Awadh region interpreted into miniature props.

Crafting Fine Jewelry Shopping in India

The second, is inspired by temple architecture interpreted in art paper props and graphics. 

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Crafting Fine Jewelry Shopping in India

These inspiring examples of fine jewelry shopping experiences testify to the important role that the jewelry retail industry has in preserving arts and craft in India – in the past, present and future to come.   

Surender has more than two decades of experience in the Indian retail industry in retail strategy, store design, planning and development, retail marketing, visual merchandising, writing and academia. He’s held senior positions at leading retailers like Shoppers Stop, Reliance Retail, Mahindra Retail and as a senior retail consultant working with leading retailers and brands in India. Reach him at [email protected]

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