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World Federation Of Diamond Bourses

Interview with David Kellie, CEO of the Natural Diamond Council

David Kellie - Interview

Q. What are your current titles/functions in the diamond industry?

I’m the CEO of the Natural Diamond Council (NDC). The NDC (formerly the Diamond Producers Association) is the global industry body responsible for inspiring consumers and sharing the values of the natural diamond industry.

Q. Tell us about your professional journey, how you came to work for the diamond industry, and what you are doing now.

I’ve held marketing roles in the apparel and luxury sectors throughout my career. I spent 15 years working for Ralph Lauren in Geneva and New York, ultimately overseeing marketing and advertising across their global brand portfolio. I then went on to spend two years helping the Watches of Switzerland Group launch in the US. Landing this role at the NDC came a little out of the blue but, once the opportunity became a serious consideration, it felt like a perfect fit for my expertise and a great opportunity for me to help build the natural diamond dream.

Q. How are natural diamonds faring now in major markets?

With over 50% of the global market, the US is the largest market for diamonds and has seen remarkable growth over the last two years. We have seen significant changes in consumer and cultural behavior, more innovation in the industry (particularly in the areas of design and digital development), and this, combined with the work of the NDC, has created record growth. A younger, predominantly female, consumer is now being inspired by the diamond dream and we’re competing for a share of wallet alongside other luxury goods.

In China, the market conditions remain challenging. Retail store closures due to COVID lockdowns are impacting the market. Hong Kong has seen a good recovery since emerging from lockdowns which bodes well for China when the market is able to reopen fully.

In Europe and India, positive consumer sentiment appears to be following the cadence of the US market, albeit with a slight time lag. Europe’s performance, particularly at the high end, is particularly striking given the loss of the Chinese tourist consumer.

Q. What is the impact of LGD on sales of natural diamonds?

I don’t think that anybody really knows! With both the LGD and natural diamond markets performing well, it’s difficult to assess whether the growth of the LGD market is cannibalizing segments of the natural diamond market, or whether the combined attention is bringing prosperity to both.

As anticipated, we are seeing a greater divergence in the relative price positions which will inevitably lead to stronger differentiation between the product positions, retail distribution, and consumer profiles.

Q. What is the Natural Diamond Council doing to promote natural diamonds and what are your future plans?

We have just announced our latest advertising campaign featuring our new ambassador, Emmy-nominated actor Lily James. This campaign will be rolled out globally over the next month and will further enhance the values of natural diamonds as the only luxury whose authenticity and beauty hold meaning and value over time. We’ll also be working with Lily to promote the prosperity that natural diamonds bring to the parts of the world from where diamonds are recovered.

We will continue to expand our digital footprint through all the global social media platforms and continue to work on new technology that will give us future opportunities to share the narratives surrounding natural diamond jewelry.

Q. How have COVID and the war in Ukraine affected the natural diamond industry?

The human costs of both crises have been devastating for many and, even though the industry is in a much stronger position now than before these global events, we must not forget the cost that many in our society have paid. Both situations have forced retailers and the supply chain to review the way that they do business, and this has brought urgency to topics such as transparency and digital innovation. We have proved that our industry can adapt and maybe this makes us a more confident, positive industry.

Q. Looking forward, how will natural diamonds do over the next several months? In 2023?

After the huge global events that have impacted us all over the last two years, I’m not too sure that anybody should be trying to make predictions! However, I believe that our industry should define its own future and not be entirely beholden to external factors. There are some very positive trends that are happening in culture and amongst our consumers which, if we continue to market to them, will have a positive impact on our industry.

Female consumers influence and control most expenditure now. On top of this, by the end of the decade, women are forecasted to control over $30 trillion in wealth. How and where she shops, what she shops for, how she wants to represent herself – everything has changed radically in the last 10 years and it’s the role of the industry to understand and adapt to these changes.

And, of course, men’s jewelry. Whilst still a relatively small share of the market, what we’re seeing happening through sport, music, culture and men’s fashion, leads us to believe that the industry isn’t yet prepared for a very rapid development in this category.

Q. What are the challenges and opportunities facing the natural diamond market?

From our perspective, the biggest challenge that the market faces will be the underfunding of generic consumer marketing through the NDC. We have all seen the prosperity that has been brought to the industry by growth in consumer demand. This growth won’t continue without considerable investment in marketing, advertising and communication. This isn’t a prediction; it’s the hard truth. With Alrosa’s self-suspension from the NDC, we have lost almost half our financial resources, just at the moment that the industry should be looking to use the strong market conditions to invest in our future. I hope that we can come together as an industry to address this challenge / opportunity so that we can continue to do our best for the 10 million employees in our industry and the communities that depend upon us.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?

In my short tenure in the diamond industry (I took over my role in January 2020), it has been a pleasure to meet so many great people throughout the world. I believe that our industry is unique for the passion that we all share and for our desire to see the success of the industry continue. If I have one call out for the industry, it’s to appoint more women to positions of influence within the industry. Our consumer is “her” and our industry cannot grow without properly hearing and understanding the voices of those that best understand the consumer.

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