Swarovski, the renowned Austrian crystal jeweler, has been in production for 125 years, yet still strives to remain ahead of the curve. In 2015, it was one of the first Western jewelers to open a store on Tmall, which help lay the groundwork for the brand’s increased market share in China’s lucrative crystal market. In fact, in 2017, China overtook the US as Swarovski’s largest market in the world. Now, Swarovski aims to be a leader in sustainable practices — but do China’s consumers care about responsibly made jewels?
In 2019, Joan Ng, Executive Vice-President of Global Marketing at Swarovski told Jing Daily that China is Swarovski’s biggest and most important market. Given this, it’s interesting that Swarovski is targeting young Chinese consumers with a sustainable product offering, pursuing the belief that creative design can be a driving force for cultural change.
In China, consumer demand for sustainability has been slow to develop; however, this desire is now quickly being aided by changes in government law and policy. The 13th Five-Year Plan put forward by the People’s National Assembly of China highlighted the importance of growing domestic consumption sustainability, and laws enforcing recycling in Shanghai came into force last year. So far, this seems to be working, and doing a good job at shaping public opinion.
Tmall’s report from its fashion forecasting division, Trend Center, at the end of 2019 predicted that Chinese consumers will be avidly searching out sustainable products when making purchasing decisions in 2020.
Swarovski’s latest Conscious Luxury collection maintains the label of 100% diamond but offer consumers a conscious choice. According to the brand, the diamonds are grown under laboratory conditions that echo the natural growth of a diamond. They have the same optical, chemical and physical attributes as mined stones, yet they cause far less environmental impact. In the words of Swarovski, “Swarovski Created Diamonds are identical to mined diamonds in the same way a greenhouse-grown orchid is identical to its wild counterpart.”
It remains to be seen as to whether this sustainable selling point will appeal to China’s new generation of jewelry consumers, and it will be the upcoming earnings reports that will truly spell out the level of consumer desire for sustainability. Whatever the case, China’s made it clear in the past that they’re big fans of the Swarovski legacy. Looking ahead on the year to come, Nadja Swarovski, a Member of the Swarovski Executive Board, spoke to Jing Daily on how they’ve garnered such a supportive Chinese following.
JD: In 2017, China overtook the US as Swarovski’s biggest market. What do you think has led to such huge success in China?
Nadja Swarovski: It is a very exciting time. China’s luxury goods market has shown fantastic growth in the past few years, and more Chinese consumers are making their luxury purchases in China than ever before. Younger customers in China also have a higher purchasing power and we continue to see the growth in importance of the millennial consumer.
Also, part of our success has been expanding the availability of our Atelier Swarovski collections in China, and we continue to create exclusive pieces for the region such as our Graceful Bloom delineations, alongside special APAC collections with design collaborators like Ye Mingzi.
How has Swarovski taken advantage of China’s unique e-commerce ecosystem?
Our Atelier Swarovski collections are available on Tmall, JD.com and JDLuxe. We also continue to see steady growth across the major e-commerce platforms in China, and our social presence on WeChat and Weibo is very important to help create a dialogue with our consumers and to share our latest collaborations, product launches, upcoming events, and exclusive content for China.
With the impressive evolution of your new Conscious Luxury initiative, have consumers in China responded positively to this?
Yes, absolutely. Sustainability starts at the design level and we encourage our collaborating designers to explore new methods of design and production that better protect people and the planet. Our partner designers in China have shown major interest in sustainability and are focused on understanding how they can put this at the forefront of their business, to cater to their customers in China and beyond.
We feel we have a vital role to play, by supporting these designers and encouraging the conversation to continue. It’s by encouraging a dialogue on sustainability and highlighting everyone’s obligations that we can effect change. Our focus today is on employing the best materials to give customers an informed choice and exploring exciting innovations within the industry. It is something we are seeing with the success of our Conscious Luxury fine jewelry collections for Atelier Swarovski, which feature a mix of Swarovski Created Diamonds, responsibly sourced gold and other responsibly sourced natural gemstones and created stones.
What are your plans for the Chinese market, in the coming months and further into the future?
As a brand we are delighted to be celebrating our 125th anniversary around the world this year, which gives us an opportunity to shine the spotlight on our colleagues, design collaborators, and customers in China.
We are continuing to work collaboratively with our e-commerce partners to deliver even more access to Swarovski’s product range, and we have opened new concept stores in Beijing and Shanghai in 2019 with more to come in 2020. We also have new Atelier Swarovski collections especially for our customers in Asia set to launch this year. We are very excited for the future!