Aaah men. They account for roughly 50 percent of the population but hardly register on the minds, or at the tills, of most Australian jewellery retailers.
The question is why? Are today’s men really that reluctant to buy jewellery for themselves or is it simply the case that most men don’t buy jewellery because most jewellers aren’t ‘selling’ it.
Most marketers would argue the latter. After all most consumers don’t have a genuine want/need for most products they buy until the manufacturers, marketers and retailers join forces and create one – think of smart phones, tablets and Pandora beaded bracelets or even all the ‘stuff’ currently cluttering your wardrobe, cupboards and spare room.
Five years ago most Australians did not even know what any of the first three products were, let alone want them. Now smart phones and tablets are almost a ‘must-have’ ‘for an entire generation while Pandora beaded bracelets were until very recently equally desired by hordes of women.
Clever manufacturing, marketing and retailing were obviously critical to the success of all three – in fact logic dictates that clever manufacturing, marketing and retailing is key to the success of all products.
Even more fundamentally, logic dictates you can’t sell what you don’t have, so now might be the time to reconsider the amount of space your store dedicates to men’s jewellery.
After all the evidence strongly suggests that more men (possibly influenced by trend-setting celebrities and sport-stars like Brad Pitt and David Beckham) are wearing more jewellery – and they have to be buy it somewhere.
Neil McCammon from Cudworth Enterprises, which has been selling men’s cufflinks since 1918 and a full range of men’s jewellery for around nine years, says the company has seen “tremendous growth” in recent times due to men’s changing attitudes.
“Australian men’s attitude to jewellery is definitely changing: they are definitely buying more for themselves these days.
“For a long time women were buying for their husbands but men are now becoming more comfortable that they can walk into a jewellery shop and make a choice about what they want.
“This is noticeable across all ages. In fact, if anything, some of the older men are actually more comfortable than some younger males who are worried that their sexuality will be questioned if they buy a nice piece of jewellery for themselves.”
Cudworth Enterprises, which only sells men’s jewellery, stocks an extensive collection of stainless steel and sterling silver brands including Stahl, Savage, Cudworth, Smartset, Caseti, Lanvin and Hoxton.
According to McCammon, the collections are designed to appeal to Australian men in the 25+ age group.
“Most Australian men want a silver coloured piece in a fairly modern and simple design.
“We have never really stocked much gold jewellery because most men don’t really want it except for cufflinks and tie-bars.
“We try to design resilient jewellery that will put up with the way Australian men treat things and that’s why stainless steel has been so good for us.”
McCammon is also quick to point out that Australian men’s tastes are intrinsically conservative and that bold designs similar to those favoured “by black American musicians” are simply “too much” for them.
“Australian men would never wear a lot of the jewellery worn by such musicians but they are comfortable wearing something similar that has been toned down.”
‘Across the board’
RJ Scanlan & Co is another wholesaler with an extensive collection of jewellery targeting men.
The company sells four jewellery collections aimed primarily at men: Dora wedding rings, Soho men’s rings, Teno stainless steel jewellery and Trollbeads leather range.
According to general manager Stephen Brown, there is no doubt that the popularity of men’s jewellery is increasing.
“Men are certainly more comfortable wearing jewellery now. Even 10 years ago the idea of a man wearing jewellery was a little bit sissy or a little bit female as back then Australians still had a bit of in inferiority complex.
“Now that Australian men have become a lot more comfortable within themselves things like tattoos and piercings have become very mainstream, and so has jewellery.
“If you look at the rock stars 10-12 years ago they were all wearing tattoos, piercings and jewellery but it has taken a long time for ordinary men to emulate them. They are really just starting to look like performers did years ago.”
Brown believes this change in attitude is “across the board”.
“It is interesting to note that the driver for the changing attitudes of older men is younger men. They (the older men) look at what younger people are doing and copy it. You only have to look at things like surf culture to see how at first only the young people were running around in Rip Curl shirts but then older men followed and started wearing surf culture clothing as well.
“In some areas younger people emulate older people but in jewellery and fashion it is the other way around.”
Like McCammon and Brown, Steve Lindsay, the owner of Lindsays, which sells Morellato and Sector and men’s jewellery, agrees that men’s attitudes to jewellery is changing.
“Younger guys are definitely wearing more jewellery. If you go out to bars, clubs or wherever you’ll definitely see young fellas wearing jewellery.”
However, despite this visible change, Lindsay believes are women are still the primary purchasers of men’s jewellery as “they like to change men” and that a lot of men still regard watches as jewellery.
“Men are wearing a lot more bracelets, necklaces and rings but I still think the majority of them see watches as their primary piece of jewellery.”
“The men who do buy jewellery ten d to like stainless because they like it’s tough factor − they don’t have to clean it, it’s hard to scratch and it’s very durable,” he says, adding that this makes the metal ideal for local men who can be “very clumsy and damaging”.
Similarly Phil Edwards, the owner of Duraflex Group Australia which wholesales Thomas Sabo jewellery, says the popularity of men’s jewellery is rising.
“The percentage of men’s’ jewellery sales is increasing annually.”
Edwards, who introduced Thomas Sabo into the Australian market in 2006 and then launched the unisex ‘Rebel at Heart’ line in 2008, says men’s jewellery now represents between 10-15 percent of the brand’s sales and is on the increase.
“Thomas Sabo has helped to make it much more acceptable for men to wear jewellery,” he says, adding that the brand’s ‘Rebel at Heart’ line addresses the needs of a broad target group with a variety of designs that ensures the brand reaches a diverse range of individuals “seeking masculine, uncompromising and sporty style”.
“It’s about masculinity and the combination of complementing jewellery pieces and watches.
“With Thomas Sabo, all existing collections are harmoniously coordinated with each other and can be combined in a variety of ways which go beyond the limits of the individual collection lines.”
Melissa Gibson, general manager of Buckle, the distributor of Tuskc jewellery, is yet another wholesaler who is adamant that the popularity of men’s jewellery is on the upswing.
“I feel that it has got to do with changes in social values,” she explains.
“As little as 10 years ago, the only piece of jewellery that some men would own was a plain wedding band.”
She says this new acceptance of men purchasing products traditionally targeted at females was now also evident in other categories such as fashion accessories (bags and scarves) and cosmetics.
“Men are not becoming more feminine, it’s just they are caring more about their appearances.
“Times are changing, and if you stand still, you will miss out on opportunities in men’s jewellery sales.”
She says that men’s jewellery currently accounts for 30 percent of Tuskc sales but stressed the beauty of the Tuskc range is that “some of our more masculine pieces do cross gender borders”.
“Pieces such as our double dog tags are also purchased by women for themselves even though they are marketed at men.
“Our target market is very broad. Our primary target market is men and women aged 25-55 years old. They are fashion-forward, proud individuals and want to be noticed by their friends, family and even strangers.”
Similarly Pendants Australia is another jewellery wholesaler capitalising on the growing men’s market – albeit on a smaller scale.
The company, which didn’t begin selling its initial men’s collection of white bronze pendants until the 2011 Brisbane JAA Jewellery Fair, has since expanded its range to 30 pendants with another 30 designs in development.
Founder and owner Duncan Michaelis says the target market for the company’s jewellery is “affluent, fashion conscious men between 18 to 35”.
“Our clients are typically very social, outgoing people who desire unique, quality fashion accessories outside of the mainstream, mass produced market.”
Michaelis is convinced that the men’s jewellery market is growing and will continue to grow.
“There is a greater desire for quality men’s jewellery,” he says.
“We believe one of the contributing factors of this is the greater relaxation of work dress codes. More often than not these days, employers do not require male employees to wear ties and a growing number of companies allow their staff to wear smart casual clothes every day of the week.
“Young males are substituting a smart suit for stylish necklaces, watches and rings. Men are also more relaxed about wearing jewellery as there are more masculine designs being created for them.”
Nonetheless, Michaelis believes Australian men are not interested in “loud” jewellery.
“We don’t see large extremities in the men’s jewellery market occurring.
“Men are not interested in loud pieces making large or colour statements,” although “larger more heavy watches, rings and pendants carrying a good feel in weight” seems to be a key trend.
Irrespective of any difference in stock styles, prices and target markets, McCammon, Brown, Lindsay, Edwards, Gibson, and Michaelis are unanimous in their view that the key to selling men’s jewellery is stocking it – and the key to selling more of it is stocking more of it.
“Retailers need to actually give men’s jeweller a presence,” says Neil McCammon.
“There’s no point to buying one piece here and there. Retailers need to have a display in the front window with maybe a story to tie it all together so that it attracts the attention of men who might them say ‘that looks quite good, I might go in and see what else they’ve got’.”
Similarly Stephen Brown argues that retailers need to display a range rather than “one or two pieces”.
“Retailers sometimes try to reduce risk, and I understand that, but it’s like the ‘old red shoes black shoes’ argument − you need the red shoes to sell the black shoes so retailers need a reasonable range of men’s jewellery to sell any one piece.
“For example, if you put you a nice range of jewellery in the window with nice visuals to make it a bit of a story you might only sell two bracelets but if you only put the two bracelets in the window you probably wouldn’t sell either.”
Steve Lindsay concludes that a “proper range” of jewellery with merchandising material promoting it is critical for success.
“One mistake that a lot of retailers make is that they say ‘yeah I’ll try, give me three or four pieces” but even if they get 10 pieces it’s just not going to work – people need to see a range whether its jewellery or watches.”
“For example, if a customer comes into your store to buy a Seiko diver’s watch and you only have one or two models to show them it’s going to be really hard for them to make a decision because they want a choice so they can make comparisons.”
“Similarly if you have a range of jewellery you are likely to sell more because you’re offering a choice – and you’ve also got a greater chance of upselling because if people come in to see your $99 bracelet you can then show them your $200 bracelets as well…”
* Pictured above top to bottom is jewellery from Cudworth Enterprises, Trollbeads, Morellato and Thomas Sabo.