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Published on: Feb. 22, 2021, 10:55 a.m.
Platinum makes a pretty comeback
  • Platinum jewellery is quite popular with men, and the Men of Platinum range has quite a following

By Suman Tarafdar

In a year when life has been topsy-turvy, the myriad measures of its impact are gradually emerging. Understanding 2020 and how it changed human lives is now key and multiple sectors are trying to plot the best path forward – by trying to understand where future hopes and fears lie.

Among the studies in the luxury space was one by the Platinum Guild International (PGI), which conducted a quantitative research across its key markets to study the impact of the pandemic on the attitudes, behaviour and expectations of precious jewellery buyers. “We did an extensive survey across all our key markets to understand where our consumers stand,” says Vaishali Banerjee, MD, Platinum Guild International (PGI) India, a marketing organisation with the vision to develop the global platinum jewellery market and the largest such organisation in India for platinum.

One trend during the pandemic was that people went back to examine what mattered most in their lives, says Banerjee. “Relationships and love soared, with 80 per cent of the people saying they would go back to buying jewellery. Customers are looking at meaning, authenticity and transparency, which has to be delivered.”

After getting hammered during the lockdown, the market is recovering, informs Banerjee. “If I look at platinum recovery, it started in August as the markets started reopening. Overall recovery is about 60 per cent, for our key partners it is about 80-85 per cent. We are now looking at how to bring it to 100 per cent recovery and then growth. Year 2020 was a difficult year. Our strategies are looking at bringing back growth in 2021. However, we expect full recovery from 2021-22 onwards – back to double-digit growth. The opportunity is immense. The task for us as an industry body as well as our industry partners is to bring it back to its high growth level and also look at new opportunities.”

“We invest a lot in consumer understanding,” points out Banerjee. A major consumer segment for this precious metal is younger Indians (aged 20-40, both men and women in almost equal numbers, unlike gold).  “We positioned platinum in a branded form, rather than the more commoditised gold, which stands for safety, security, investment while, with our young audience in mind, we had brands, which stand for quality, emotion, a sense of self. The affinity towards brands was very high within this audience.”

The younger consumer is more resilient and optimistic, Banerjee stresses. Concurs Suvankar Sen, executive director, Senco Gold & Diamonds, who says the younger buyer is more experimental. Arun Narayan, VP, retailing & marketing, Tanishq, which sells platinum jewellery by itself and also in combinations with gold and diamonds, points out that “even though it’s a small part of our portfolio, we see younger customers gravitate towards platinum. Post-Covid also, we expect growth as it’s a category that has come of age,” says Narayan.

“The base of platinum is small, therefore the upside to growth is large. As younger customers are coming into the category, it’s also building towards the future, so we expect the growth in platinum to be higher than that of gold. The platinum customer is different, and has a very different need, and wears the metal to underline who he or she is.”

Pure platinum’s premium preference

As evidenced from the weddings of Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor to the recent Varun Dhawan wedding, Indian celebrities flaunting their platinum wedding bands is now almost de rigueur. In a gold-obsessed nation like none other, the story of platinum’s growth is remarkable, indeed. Of course, platinum has certain advantages – its purity is about 95 per cent, while the gold is at 58.5-75 per cent. It’s silver coloured, and contrasts well as a setting for diamonds and other precious gemstones.

Compared to gold, platinum a much rarer metal, and it does have a resale value, a concern for some buyers, stress industry insiders. Sen says a common concern about the ability to resell platinum means retailers provide exchange offers and “there is a monetary value to reselling platinum as well”. Buyback programmes exist, though selling off platinum jewellery seems to be infrequent, say retailers. 

Retailers indeed remain bullish

 “In the last three years, we have seen a good ramp up of this category,” points out Narayan. “We expect a healthy double digit growth post Covid. All categories are impacted at about the same rate, scotching the impression that gold, often bought by Indians more for its investment value, is less impacted in sales.”

Concurring, Dipu Mehta, MD, Orra, says while it has been a tough year, the retailers have had a decent festive season. “Acceptability and demand are there and the potential will increase as India’s GDP grows. People will want to express themselves in different ways and there will be a market for platinum for sure. Platinum is for the more evolved and affluent customer, who wants to stand out. It’s a perfect accompaniment to diamonds, he adds. For Sen, April and May were tough months. “This year we expect to do 80 to 100 per cent of last year’s sales if we have a good season. The year-on-year growth for the last three years has ranged 30 to 60 per cent, though the base remains low. As gold prices have shot up, platinum’s value seems more reasonable.”

Sen too points out that the growing demand for platinum, though he points to the need for more education and exposure to grow the market. There is so much learning as the consumer evolution is so fast that it’s a constant learning to stay relevant to the consumer in terms of design and product, asserts Banerjee. “The biggest milestone is that today we have a vibrant market, when we had no category in existence in India just a few years ago. To have a high preference number – which for platinum is in the high 70s in India – is remarkable. A decade ago, they did not even know how to pronounce it. There were no platinum cards or memberships, everything was gold. Today all the leading jewellery players are looking at platinum.” An indication of the ever faster growth, perhaps?

Maintaining value

Highlights of the study by PGI in its key markets to study the impact of the pandemic:

# Jewellery has a distinct advantage among all discretionary categories as 66 per cent of consumers ‘want to purchase something that maintains its value’ and 64 per cent want to buy something ’personally meaningful’.

# The percentage of those willing to spend more or same was higher among consumer segments with high affinity for platinum at 75-90 per cent.

# While 69 per cent consumers preferred spend more or the same as before on jewellery purchased for self, while 60 per cent preferred to spend more or the same as before on jewellery purchased for the purpose of gifting.

 Consumers who are willing to look at e-commerce as a shopping option grew from 8 per cent (pre-Covid) to 14 per cent (during /post Covid). More than half of the consumers are still looking at jewellery stores as their preferred place to shop as 58 per cent said they would consider going to a store if the store took ‘special safety measures’.

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