LONDON — The demi-fine jewelry race is becoming ever more competitive with brands behaving like their higher-priced competitors, and outdoing one another with service — and circular — propositions.
Monica Vinader, one of the biggest names in demi-fine, is sprinting ahead with plans to open more standalone stores in the U.K. and three additional concessions with Nordstrom, its longtime partner.
Last month the London-based company added a welding service to its offer, offering custom-fit bracelets that can be sealed directly onto the wrist. Monica Vinader already offers piercing and complimentary engraving and embossing to satisfy customers’ ongoing demand for personalized merchandise.
On Dec. 9 the brand will open its first store in Leeds, England, adding to a roster of 20 directly operated stores and concessions across the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The store is located at 1 Queen Victoria Street, within the Victoria Quarter, and will also offer customers the chance to swap their gold or silver jewelry in exchange for a voucher toward their next purchase.
The store will also offer repair and exchange services as part of the brand’s five-year warranty and lifetime repairs guarantee.
“In the U.K., we know from our digital business that we have a strong and loyal community inside and outside London,” said Vinader, who started the business in 2005 and built it with support from angel and private equity investors.
“We want to bring the in-store experience to as many of our customers across the U.K. as possible, so we’re very excited to be opening full-service boutiques in Leeds and Bath. We’re already in the midst of planning further locations,” she said, adding the the Bath store will open in February.
The brand also has a longstanding relationship with Nordstrom and has been expanding its presence, by way of concessions, at the department store.
It opened at Mission Viejo, Calif., last month; Costa Mesa, Calif., earlier this month, and plans to open at Bellevue, Wash., on March 24.
Vinader said the brand decided to open in southern California due to the “excellent digital market” it has been seeing there.
She said the stand-alone stores are all “full-service” with jewelry styling, engraving, monogramming, piercing and permanent welded bracelets. “We’re excited to continue building our national coverage in the coming months,” she said.
China, already a key market for the brand, is the next retail frontier. The China business, Vinader said, is currently all online, “but we definitely see physical stores as part of our longer-term plans.”
In terms of product, Vinader said the company has been seeing strong growth across all categories. Yellow gold, including the new 14-karat solid gold collection, and bold statement styles remain the bestsellers.
Vinader added that silver made a “huge comeback” this year, while lab-grown diamonds are also hugely popular, especially in the U.S.
Sustainability, she said, is embedded in the brand. “Quality jewelry can be designed and made with both integrity and responsibility,” said Vinader, adding that her materials are responsibly sourced and the brand’s goal is to have its designs “last forever.”
The brand was named Positive Luxury’s Responsible Business of the Year in 2022 and 2023, and won The Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development last year.
The demi-fine jewelry space is a ferociously competitive one.
Pandora, which is publicly listed, also specializes in demi-fine jewelry. It offers personalization, cleaning and repair services, and has been touting its lab-grown diamond collection with a splashy ad campaign starring Pamela Anderson.
As part of an international push, the Danish brand is also the headline sponsor of the 2023 Fashion Awards, which take place in London on Dec. 4.
One of Vinader’s London-based competitors, Missoma, opened its first permanent standalone store on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden earlier this month. Missoma has long focused on collaborations — famously with the designer Harris Reed — and takes it sustainability commitments seriously.
Last year the brand won a Queen’s Award for International Trade. Specifically, the award recognized Missoma’s short-term growth in overseas sales over the previous three years.
Around 50 percent of Missoma’s business comes from the U.K., while 25 percent is from the U.S. China accounts for 12 percent while the rest of the world makes up the balance of sales.