Mar 08, 2019

Stephen Lussier: “2018 Has Been the Sixth Consecutive Year of Over 50% Growth for Forevermark in India”

While 2018 will go down as one of the most challenging years that players in the diamond industry in India have seen in a long time, one brand that successfully bucked the trend was Forevermark. For the sixth consecutive year, the diamond brand from the De Beers Group, registered what it describes as “a growth of over 50%”.

“India is now the foremost market for Forevermark and the last year has really been an excellent one,” says Stephen Lussier, Executive Vice-President, Marketing, De Beers Group and Chief Executive, Forevermark. “While the country accounts for approximately 10% of our total number of retail partners having about 250 of 2,400 doors where we are present worldwide, it brings in over 25% of our global sales.”

While rapid growth has been recorded year after year since 2013, Lussier points out that 2018 has been extra special because it has been a difficult year for the diamond and jewellery industry worldwide as well as in India. “There was a sharp slowdown in the second half for most of the industry due to a variety of reasons, but, along with strong efforts from our local partners, Forevermark’s performance has continued to be good,” he states.

Much of the growth in the last couple of years has come from smaller towns and cities, Lussier says, explaining that consumers there today share the same aspirations as their counterparts in the bigger metros. “The Forevermark consumer is one who values quality – in the diamond, in the jewellery and in the retail experience,” he elaborates. “Though most of the diamonds we sell are in the 10-20 pointers category, they are at the higher end of this segment. About 60% of our sales, in both value and volume, are at the upper end in terms of colours and clarities – DEF colours and VVS clarity.”

The brand has historically had a stronger presence in the South, where consumers have traditionally opted for higher quality diamonds, but recent expansion has also been driven by a growing network in the East, Lussier says, naming smaller cities like Durgapur and Asansol as being among the centres across the country with high growth rates in recent years.

In addition to the smaller sized diamonds, 2018 also saw a positive response from consumers to the new category of Half Carat diamond jewellery introduced into the Indian market. “The jewellery was positioned for the self-purchase segment and has been well received,” according to him.

What have been the key factors of Forevermark’s success in India? Lussier believes that the brand has won the trust of consumers across the country due to its right mix – the guarantee of a quality product, innovative design and execution, creative marketing and communication and highly respected local partners offering a satisfying retail experience.

“Forervermark has made the luxury of diamonds accessible to the Indian woman,” Lussier says. “Our feedback indicates a very high level of consumer confidence in diamond jewellery from Forevermark, and this is because we are never uni-dimensional in our interaction with them.

“We offer classic designs, but give them a contemporary twist; we offer different collections to reach out to the needs of varied consumer segments; we have multiple communication touchpoints to get our message across, and we make sure the retail experience is fulfilling as well,” says Lussier.

The generic diamond promotion campaigns undertaken under the banner of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) have helped create some excitement for the category, Lussier opines, adding however, that this does not automatically translate into growth for every individual brand.

“Forevermark has been among the top few diamond jewellery brands when it comes to advertising spends in India, though not the largest, and yet the returns on our investment in this activity may be higher than some others,” he says. “Not only is our messaging innovative and appropriate to the Indian market, but we also highlight the diamond story, keeping the focus on the product rather than on expensive celebrity linked promotions. And we have also been making effective use of the digital media.”

One final aspect of the success story is the transformation in jewellery retail, with Forevermark’s partners being among the leading players who have been spearheading the transformation. “Indian jewellers lagged behind when the retail revolution first swept through India over a decade ago, but many of them are catching up rapidly,” avers Sachin Jain, President Forevermark India. “The retail outlet may be in a large or small city, it may be big or small, but like our partners, those that are able to offer consumers the right product with a matching buying experience, are all doing well.”

Lussier is also quietly confident about the year ahead. “No, it is not likely that this pace can be sustained,” he says, but adds with a smile, “However, if you had told me six years ago that we would grow at 50% each year, I would have found it difficult to believe. But we certainly are confident that we would be able to achieve strong double digit growth in the Indian market in 2019 as well.”

The major challenge? “Across the world it is unpredictability, despite positive signs on the economic front in most markets,” he states without hesitation. “For India the main thing we will be watching is what impact the results of the forthcoming elections will have on consumer confidence and their willingness to spend!”`