As the global economy suffers due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, industries are facing the herculean task of rebuilding and pivoting to adjust to dwindling markets. In response, luxury industry leaders are in constant discourse, working alongside each other like never before in the hopes of reconstructing their businesses. As with many other walks of life, there has been significant change in the realm of jewellery, as brands and jewellers have adapted to “new normal” strategies and practices. In response to the pandemic, many boutiques and jewellery designers have had to close their stores, while industry events such as trade shows have rescinded their invitations or postponed them to a later date. As the number of Covid-19 cases has decreased in Europe and Asia and countries begin to open up, businesses are following suit. How China is reshaping luxury shopping post-Covid-19 Van Cleef & Arpels has reopened all of their branches in Japan, with safety measures in place, limiting the number of customers in the stores and suspending their repair workshops in the meantime, while Cartier and De Beers have recorded “encouraging activity” in their China outlets. Yancy Weinrich, chief operating officer of trade show organiser Reed Exhibitions and a veteran in mounting luxury trade shows predicts that jewellery has the chance to bounce back before other industries since diamonds and precious stones are taking the luxury spender’s budget originally intended for travel. Looking across the world, many have put their bet on recovery coming first in China. The nation is in a unique position being “first in and first out” when it came to the Covid-19 lockdown. Now that it is recovering, customers are returning to stores and business is on the up. How China’s luxury sector is engaging with customers from a social distance In Morgan Stanley’s report “Consumers and China’s Stay-Home Economy”, analysts revealed that “Luxury demand in China has recovered strongly in the last couple of months. Most established brands (LV, Gucci, Cartier, Chanel, Dior etc) saw sales increase by 40-90 per cent in early June”. According to the first quarter sales report from Richemont, the watch and jewellery conglomerate saw a decline of 47.7 per cent in global sales, but a 49 per cent growth (61 per cent for the jewellery sector) in China. The boost is largely thanks to its expanded online presence – its flagship brand Cartier opened the first digital boutique on Tmall in January this year. LVMH-owned Chaumet also launched a WeChat-integrated cloud outlet in China offering all collections from timepieces to diamond rings. Companies like Platinum Guild International (PGI) also took advantage of the market’s unique promotional opportunities such as the Chinese “520 love holiday” (May 20 sounds like I love you in Mandarin) to ease its comeback into that market. “We’re not seeing the ‘revenge shopping’ that some people predicted, especially outside of the top luxury branded items, but business is back,” says Huw Daniel, CEO PGI. Auction house Christie’s has reported record numbers in e-commerce as well, with more than 150 countries and new registrants taking part in its Jewels Online sale and a sell-through rate of 89-99 per cent. Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewellery at Christie’s, notes: “We have seen a rapid adoption of these digital tools and an increasing comfort level among our clients and the trade with remote means of doing business.” What can the West learn from China’s luxury e-commerce revolution? What strengthens Kadakia’s confidence in this virtual strategy is the influx of inquiries the business has received about higher value property through Christie’s newly launched virtual Private Sales Viewing Room. Although the switch to e-commerce was necessarily immediate, there’s still uncertainty surrounding the platform’s future in a post-Covid-19 world. Whether e-commerce will become a mainstay or share the stage with high-touch transactions is something we will only come to know in time. Will the fashion industry survive the global pandemic? Meanwhile, trade shows are also moving toward a virtual space, says Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs at Informa Markets. There are ongoing plans to build a digital community and of educating jewellery exhibitors who are interested in boosting their online productivity. But while there’s a growing comfort with digital trade shows, the institution is expected to complement rather than replace physical trade shows, which will likely resume once the health crisis subsides. “Since there’s a shift in comfort in digital trade shows, there will be a focus on how to attract fairgoers to physical shows.” says Weinrich. She also believes in pending “virtual fatigue” with all the Zoom meetings, conferences, and online events depriving their participants of much-needed face-to-face interaction. Historically, it’s been proven that an economic crisis such as this one reinforces a person’s desire to make lasting commitments, such as marriage. This is exactly what data at De Beers Group shows. Stephen Lussier, executive vice-president of marketing reveals, “Looking at the data during difficult economic periods, bridal and milestone events rise and take a share of the diamond market and more discretionary, self-purchased, design-oriented jewellery tends to decline in acquisition.” One thing about this lockdown, it’s made us reflect on what’s important and most of the time, when we say what’s important – it’s about relationships with family and friends, it’s about connecting with people and that’s what diamonds do Stephen Lussier – De Beers Lussier said during a webinar that there is an opportunity for the diamond market to tweak their communications strategy and refocus on the role of diamonds as symbols of love, commitment, and appreciation, rather than as status symbols. He maintains that there must be a sensitive evolution to the communication efforts surrounding jewellery: “One thing about this lockdown, it’s made us reflect on what’s important and most of the time, when we say what’s important – it’s about relationships with family and friends, it’s about connecting with people and that’s what diamonds do.” Meanwhile, Emmanuel Piat of Maison Piat predicts an increase of rings or jewellery typically gifted to mothers as a form of congratulation after giving birth. This may be evident in the upcoming baby boom. An insight that can be applied across markets is that the situation has left consumers with heightened emotions, plus it has been a time to reflect. This will also affect the decision-making process, with consumers spending sparingly on luxuries and only investing in items that are essential or with which they have an emotional connection. How Cartier, Chanel and others keep their most iconic motifs alive Finally, sustainable practices may be key to the long-term survival of jewellery retailers. Companies wise enough to take a step back and account for flaws in their supply chain, then proceed with more structured future planning – responsible sourcing of stones and metals, highlighting social inclusivity and creating an environmentally conscious strategy overall – may find themselves in a better position to handle the next crisis. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .