The holiday season is a bustling time for Swarovski, as gift shoppers and home decor enthusiasts, especially those in the U.S., splurge on the Austrian crystal maker’s dazzling Christmas tree ornaments, glitzy jewelry and adorable figurines.
“People are really coming back and decorating their homes,” Kolja Kiofsky, Swarovski’s general manager of North America, told Observer earlier this month at the newly opened Swarovski flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
The Fifth Avenue store, Swarovski’s largest in the world so far, represents a fresh start for the 128-year-old family business under its new CEO, Alexis Nasard, and creative director Giovanna Engelbert. The two-floor retail space, previously occupied by Gap, is an exuberance of pastel pinks, greens, yellows and creams, and texture—marble, chrome, quilted velvet and silk—all intended to provide customers with “the feeling of being inside a luxurious jewelry box,” Engelbert, who designed the space, said in a press release.
Home products, including figurines, decorations, and glass and tableware, comprise about 15 percent of Swarovski’s consumer business. And the U.S. is a primary market. Seeing a growing appetite for home decor products across demographics, Swarovski in recent years, collaborated with iconic pop culture brands, including Disney, Marvel and DC Comics to launch movie-themed ornaments and figurines, ranging from $95 (a palm-sized Aladdin magic lamp ornament) all the way up to $33,000 (a large limited-edition, head-to-toe crystal-clad Superman).
“Our home collection has grown, and we have seen customers appreciating more selections from us,” Kiofsky, who manages Swarovski’s approximately 250 stores in the U.S. and Canada and the company’s online retail business, told Observer.
“More and bolder” is a clear trend, at least in the U.S.
Swarovski owns and operates about 1,200 stores globally, with its revenue roughly evenly split among Europe, Asia and the Americas. But what consumers buy in these markets differs greatly.
“We definitely see nuances in regional preferences. We have, in our collections, purposefully different assortments to address consumer needs,” Kiofsky said. “For example, in the U.S., our home business, especially the collectible figurines, is a bigger portion of the business [than in other markets]. In Asia, we tend to sell more refined, smaller pieces, like necklaces and bracelets. And in southern Europe and Latin America, there’s a tendency for bigger, bolder pieces.” (Interestingly, a similar geographic difference is observed in engagement ring preference.)
Jewelry remains Swarovski’s largest category, accounting for 80 percent of its consumer business. Despite the rise of counter-intuitive phenomena elsewhere in fashion like quiet luxury, “more and bolder,” Kiofsky said, is a clear trend in jewelry, as shown in Swarovski’s best-selling categories in the U.S., such as Engelbert’s newly launched Millenia collection featuring chunky and geometric design and the company’s body jewelry line created in collaboration with Kim Kardashian’s lingerie brand Skims.
To that end, last year, Swarovski launched its first lab-grown diamonds line, offering a more affordable (and ethical) alternative to natural diamonds. “Customers are telling us, first of all, as a brand, we have the credibility to be in the lab-grown diamonds [business] because we have 130 years of legacy of growing and cutting man-made minerals. And secondly, they like the design,” Kiofsky said.
Swarovski chose to sell its lab-grown diamonds first in the U.S., where consumers favor large stones more than anywhere else. “We’ve observed diamond customers often have a budget. With lab-grown diamonds, they are not necessarily looking to spend less; they are looking to get a bigger piece for the same budget,” Kiofsky said.
Swarovski defines luxury differently
As a luxury brand, Swarovski caters to a wide audience with products priced anywhere from under $50 to tens of thousands of dollars. Kiofsky said Swarovski doesn’t define luxury by price tags but focuses on creating a unique experience. “Luxury can be perceived very differently by consumers depending on where they come from,” he said. “A $49 pair of earrings can feel luxurious to someone. We want to provide this experience, regardless of what a customer is looking to buy.”
Kiofsky, a former marketing executive at Porsche, joined Swarovski in 2010 and has, over the past decade, led the company’s sales and marketing efforts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He took the role of general manager of North America in 2021 as part of a companywide restructuring led by new CEO Alexis Nasard, the first person outside of the Swarovski family to helm the company. Before joining Swarovski, Nasard was a consultant at McKinsey & Co. Earlier in his career, he held executive roles at consumer goods companies.
“Swarovski luxury is not the traditional luxury, which is about snobbism and high prices, and taking ourselves seriously,” Nasard said in a video interview with CNN last week. “Our luxury is about offering consumers joy, self-expression, self-indulgence and the ability to be beautiful on your own terms.”