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A ‘gem-studded’ future? Malabar group bats for stone-encrusted jewellery in breath-taking designs



KP Abdul Salam, group executive director of the Malabar group, speaks to The Retail Jeweller World about the brave new world post pandemic, and how his company plans to go ahead with it. His trump card for the future— coloured gemstone jewellery that heroes design

How has the last quarter of 2020 been in the Middle East? Have you seen improvements?

The last quarter of 2020 began on a great note. We had great Diwali and Dhanteras sales. The second and third quarters were not too bright, but October and November did very well. November, especially, was a boon because a lot of deferred purchases happened. People had been kept out of the market and they wanted to come back and buy things. December started well but the news of a possible second wave came right after. That is when sales crippled down a bit. But I hope we bounce back strong.

In the last edition of IIJS, your troop participated in a huge way. How has your experience been?

I should congratulate the GJEPC for the great thrust that it has given to our industry at such a bad time. We were all at crossroads about how to go about business and they came out like a saviour. That being said, I believe nothing replaces the physical fairs. They involve a lot of networking and I often call them pilgrimages for jewellers. The vibes are always positive. While the virtual editions of fairs have helped us connect to vendors and place orders for Diwali and the festive season thereafter, we saw a lot of hesitance among manufacturers.

What trendshave you noticed in the Middle East in the last three months?

After the pandemic and lockdown, a great change has been ushered in. Design has become king. Gold, for most people, is an investment but now, they are also looking at the fashion quotient. Customers are willing to spend well on great designs. We are innovating and looking for manufacturers who can get us products of that level. A healthy pool of customers has come up and they have disposable income, now that there are no travel or vacations happening. This chunk is coming into jewellery. Gifting has seen a leap because family bonding has become very strong because of Covid. People are cherishing their loved ones and pampering themselves too. We need innovation. It is the need of the hour. Lightweight, daily-wear pieces are flying off the shelves, since the number of occasions has come down

Do you feel there is a change in product category, in terms of studded jewellery?

There has been a great shift towards studded jewellery. Our own share has increased when compared to gold jewellery. Diamonds and uncut diamonds and coloured gemstones are doing well, especially rubies and emerald. Arab and Chinese customers love them. They are available at malls here. Since it is slowly becoming popular, we can always innovate and come up with exquisite designs here. It is a category that is opening up to the world and finding due appreciation. We should try to incorporate the ethos of different ethnicities in the designs. The Dubai Shopping Festival is drawing a lot of tourists as Dubai is one of the few destinations that have opened up and is safe.

Are you seeing youngsters in Middle East spending on jewellery?

We have seen this all last year and were preparing accordingly. There are many jewellery brands that actually went ahead and started making products that appeal to youngsters. Marketing also plays a role. I can think of Mia by Tanishq, an excellent venture. At Malabar, we have collections for millennials that we are marketing aggressively. They are accepting jewellery as an investment option as well because gold prices have gone up. Millennials today draw good salaries, are independent and take their own decisions. This aspect is becoming very clear in their shopping choices as well. This is a good shift and we should try to hold on to them.

When will we come back to 100% sales levels in the markets? Where do you see Dubai now?

We are in a good spot. We should hit the target in 2021. The government of Dubai has brought in favourable changes and we are opening up to the world. Other middle eastern countries are also putting in money in the market. Vaccines are here now and hopefully we will get back 50% of the market in three months. The first quarter of 2021 has been good. We are running at about 20% less than pre-pandemic times. By the second quarter, we should hit the ground running as the Covidscare will dissipate further.

Courtesy: Retail Jeweller World News Service