Conflict and Consumer Marketing Dominate Diamond News at JCK Show

May 31, 2001

Conflict and Consumer Marketing Dominate Diamond News at JCK Show

In an update session on diamonds during The JCK Show Conference Program, two subjects trumped all others: Conflict diamonds and the De Beers-fueled explosion of interest in diamond marketing to consumers.

Conflict Diamonds
With two bills in Congress and a third one coming, conflict diamond legislation formed the basis of panelist Jeffrey Fischer's comments. Fischer, president of the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association and a leader in the World Diamond Council, says the quest to pass legislation has become a battle over procedure and public perception, since the competing bills are so similar in their aims. Supporters of U.S. Rep. Tony Hall's bill in the House, including a large coalition of human rights groups, are angry at the industry "because we won't just obediently sign on to the Hall bill," he says. "Hall has made it clear to us that he believes it's his way or the highway." But the diamond industry has its own views on the right approach to legislation and is choosing to support U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg's Senate bill, Fischer says.

Despite its support for one bill over the other, Fischer says the industry's main goal is to simply see a bill passed that meets the aims of all stakeholders in the issue: to ban conflict diamonds in the U.S. and to suppport an international certification program that will end the trade in these stones. "Nothing will give us more pleasure than to stand with Rep. Hall and the NGOs [human rights groups] on a final bill," he says.

On the branding front, many jewelers perceive the De Beers' push towards diamond marketing as simply a dictate that diamond manufacturers develop brands, says panelist Hertz Hasenfeld, Hasenfeld-Stein, New York City. But De Beers' larger aim is to stimulate more marketing and advertising of the diamond category, from all levels of the industry. To Hasenfeld, that means supplying great diamonds to his jeweler-customers and helping them promote their brand names rather than his. "Diamond manufacturers have to become more focused on their retailers, asking 'what can we do for you, what's selling that you need,'" he says. Hasenfeld says jewelers should focus on marketing and divining what customers want and let the diamond manufacturers supply the needed merchandise.

Some manufacturers are concentrating on developing virtual inventories online, for example, which jewelers can access to broaden their appeal to consumers, Hasenfeld says. Others simply take what they've learned from De Beers and pass on ideas to retailers. Hasenfeld cautions the greatest manufacturer support will go to retailers who choose a few diamond suppliers and concentrate on using them exclusively.

On the issue of the new De Beers brand being developed by a De Beers/LVMH partnership, Minnesota retailer and panelist Mark Moeller tells fellow jewelers not to worry so much about it. He reminds them mass merchandisers, TV home shopping and the Internet worried jewelers similarly over the past three decades, but jewelers ended up surviving all and would do so with a De Beers brand. Moeller, who says rumors have De Beers renting retail space on Fifth Ave. in New York City, says he is emphasizing his store name over any brand he carries. "Work on your own brand first" as a way to survive any branding threat from the outside. he advises.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue