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Dhanteras 2021 marks the return of India’s jewellery shopping appetite

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On this important occasion, every category of jewellery did well, across markets. Postponed weddings, a stable gold rate and millennials’ newfound interest in serious investments drove sales figures to gratifying heights.

Indians stayed true to the tradition of auspicious purchases during Dhanteras 2021. From lightweight to heavyweight gold, platinum and diamond jewellery, every vertical was on people’s buying lists. This indicates how fast the economy is recovering from the hammer-blows of COVID-19. We spoke to leading retailers across the country to understand consumers’ buying behaviour this year.

Sales higher than 2019

For the gems and jewellery industry, 2019 was the benchmark year in revenue terms. Two years later, on Dhanteras 2021, markets across the country trumped the sales figures of the same occasion in 2019. To be sure, there were early signs of promise: business picked up in the third quarter of 2021, and jewellers already were confident of strong sales during the auspicious occasions of the festive season. Their expectations have been borne out.

According to Gopi Kishan Soni, director, Manikchand Jewellers, Kolkata, his company’s Dhanteras sales figures improved by 20–25 per cent on 2019. Ratnalaya Jewellers, Anmol Jewellers and Aisshpra Gems and Jewels all reported 20 per cent growth; Lala Jugal Kishore Jewellers and Waman Hari Pethe (WHP) Jewellers 15 per cent; and the boost was as much as 40 per cent for Gehna Jewellers, Gwalior, according to Ajay Mangal, director.

Tanya Rastogi, director, Lala Jugal Kishore Jewellers, Lucknow, attributes the growth to three major factors: the reduction in gold prices; mature consumers’ inclination towards safe investment in gold as opposed to gadgetry or other discretionary spends, as would have been normal in the pre-pandemic period; and the hike in wedding jewellery sales because of weddings postponed by the pandemic and now taking place.

“There were many more customers buying this Dhanteras as compared to last year,” says Ajoy Chawla, CEO, Jewellery Division, Titan Company Limited. “The tailwinds of the economy are positive, and consumer sentiment is upbeat, particularly in the jewellery category. Gold price has moderated as compared to last year. We are observing good traction in terms of buyer and volume growth.”

Demand strong in every category

Prominent jewellers agree that demand was strong in every category. “We are seeing strong footfalls across all our stores,” says Dr Saurabh Gadgil, CMD, PNG Jewellers. “There is good demand across gold, diamond, silver, kundan, polki and jadau.”

Anmol Jewellers, Mumbai, is seeing higher-than-expected demand in the high price-point and non-wedding categories. “Around 60–70 per cent of our jewellery sales is heavyweight items, and the rest is in the lightweight category this year,” says Ishu Datwani, director, adding that this is contrary to past buying patterns.

For Manikchand Jewellers, Dhanteras 2021 brought in good demand for daily wear and lightweight jewellery, besides the bridal ranges. At A Shankara Chetty and Sons, according to Adarsha Murthy, MD, 70 per cent of the brand’s jewellery sales this year were in the bridal category and the rest in casual wear. At Ratnalaya, says Saket Keshri, director, millennials thronged the store and fed the very strong demand for platinum jewellery.

“We have witnessed an all-round growth this festive season, across price brands and product categories,” says Chawla of Titan. “There is a good demand for lightweight, wearable jewellery, apart from wedding jewellery. Wedding purchases are likely to see more traction in the second half of the year. Tier-3 and -4 towns have done well, and there has been good demand for diamond jewellery.”

Bullion sustains demand

Bullion made up a small yet prominent share of overall Dhanteras sales this year, though jewellers’ experience of the trend was not uniform.

Aditya Pethe, director, WHP Jewellers, says that millennials bought bullion while expressing their desire for a safe investment. Keshri feels thatmillennials are buying gold coins and investing in the precious metal as a shock-absorber or hedge against market volatility. “Twenty per cent of sales happened in bullion for us,” says Ajay Talla, director, Talla Jewellers, Jammu.

“The sale of gold coins has been similar during the past few years,” says Chawla.

Dr Gadgil of PNG Jewellers, on the other hand, says that a strong move away from bullion happened this year. “There has been a clear 10 per cent shift of bullion-buyers to jewellery, which is a great sign for jewellers. We believe this is due to the pent-up demand and lack of major jewellery purchases by people in the last two years.” A Shankara Chetty & Sons, in Mysuru, similarly reports negligible sales of bullion.

Touch-and-feel still rules

No matter how impactful a brand’s online presence is today, buying behaviours on traditional occasions in India continue to be traditional. On Dhanteras, customers greatly preferred in-store touch-and-feel to browsing and scrolling on a website. Indeed, Soni of Manikchand notes a surprising increase of almost 20 per cent in in-store walk-ins by millennials during Dhanteras, this year, as compared with past years.

“Women have an emotional connection with gold jewellery, so they do want to see, touch, feel and wear before buying,” says Rishu Gupta, director, Kasturi Jewellers, Patna. “Digital platforms have had no effect on retail walk-in sales this year.”

Vaibhav Saraf, director, Aisshpra Gems and Jewels, makes a more nuanced point. “In Tier-2 cities and towns, customers still prefer the touch and feel factor over online purchases.”

And Keshri turns the comparison around, arguing that the virtual try-on features and WhatsApp conversation buttons on Ratnalaya’s website helped gain the consumers’ trust, and this is what eventually drove high-value customers to the store.

Wide spectrum of customers

This Dhanteras, Indians irrespective of age stepped up to invest in precious metal. Elders and heads of families were on the same wavelength as young adults, and multi-generational groups came in together to make jewellery purchases for Dhanteras.

Gadgil says the consumer age mix is supported by the price trend in gold. “We are seeing first-time buyers in large numbers. These millennials are trying to make a new beginning post-COVID and are investing carefully in gold.”

With many brands floating lucrative gold investment schemes, buying sentiment remains positive across India. The fact that younger consumers want to buy gold and bullion indicates that it’s not just the middle-aged and seniors with an appetite for serious investment.

“Overall, this festive season, there are multiple factors impacting positively for the category,” says Chawla. “There is a share-of-wallet gain, compared with travel, automobile purchases and other discretionary spends.”

Dhanteras 2021 has ticked all the right boxes. With the season now well and truly launched, jewellers are preparing for a very promising quarter.

Written by Manoj Chakraborty & Shubham Dasgupta

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