Imagine buying your wedding jewellery from the comfort of your home through a video call! You could select your preferred design and get the sales executive at the store to wear and display it to you virtually. Thereafter, you could either close the deal at home or take an appointment to visit the store to try out the jewellery yourself and then make the payment. Tanishq, the jewellery arm of The Titan Company, is looking at digital route as an important engine of growth in the COVID era, as consumers are increasingly opting for online shopping due to safety concerns. The jewellery major has serviced over 2,000 customers in the last five weeks through video calls. Its live chats with consumers have been averaging 10,000 per month. It gets close to 90-100 requests everyday for store appointments either on its website or through Google My Business. While a 'digital first' strategy was on the cards even prior to the lockdown, Ajoy Chawla, CEO, Jewellery Division, The Titan Company, says that COVID has forced them to accelerate their digital plans. "Digital from now on will be an important engine of growth along with other engines such as Golden Harvest, wedding jewellery, gold exchange and growing our share in low market share markets, among others."
The branded jewellery retail market has suffered a de-growth of over 70 per cent during the lockdown and jewellery brands have little choice but to capitalise on the digital medium for growth. Apart from video calls and giving appointments virtually, Tanishq has also rolled out the 'endless aisle' concept which will show consumers the inventory it has across the country. "So, if an Odia family living in Bangalore, wants to buy typical Odia jewellery, they can view the inventory of our Bhubaneswar store virtually," explains Chawla. The video calling and endless aisle facility have already been rolled out in 230 of its 335 stores.
Chawla finds the concept of endless aisles to contribute significantly in improving its merchandising efficiency in addition to offering a huge inventory to consumers. He cites the example of a Bengaluru-based consumer who bought traditional Bengali jewellery from the Tanishq store in Kolkata for his wife who was stuck in Jaipur because of the lockdown. The jewellery was transported to Jaipur by the Kolkata store.
Though bulk of online jewellery sales comprise low-ticket SKUs priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000, Chawla claims that the last few months have seen the average ticket price going up to Rs 70,000-Rs 80,000. "Some billings have been in the range of Rs 2-8 lakh. In fact, a family in Bangalore did a video call for four hours and bought wedding jewellery worth Rs 8 lakh."
While the current spurt in online jewellery sales is clearly due to the wedding season, one wonders if this demand would sustain. One can't negate the fact that job losses and pay cuts will impact consumer's spending appetite. Chawla claims that there is lot of interest in gold jewellery despite gold prices hitting the roof. "People are buying gold to de-risk. In fact, there is not much difference in buyer recovery of diamond and gold jewellery, but with gold prices being much higher, the value of recovery of gold is also higher." During the lockdown, Tanishq had rolled out its gold coin initiative, wherein it told consumers they could exchange the gold coin for jewellery during Diwali and the value of the coin would be set off with the making charge of the jewellery they buy, which according to Chawla, has done quite well. However, with gold prices going up the hill, Chawla says that the effort would be to grow the core and offer more options at the sub-Rs 2 lakh price point.
Jewellery sales of Tanishq, claims Chawla, are almost 70 per cent of pre-COVID levels. "Week on week, we have been seeing a recovery." Chawla expects some kind of normalcy to return by Q3FY21 on the back of festive sales, but he is also weary about the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. "In June, the tier 2-3-4 markets did well, but that may not remain the same as the pandemic is spreading to smaller towns too. I think by the time normalcy returns, it will be Q4FY21."
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