Marketing that targets brides is the status quo in the jewelry business. After all, bridal purchases compose 35 percent of total retail sales, according to Jewelers of America’s 2013 “Cost of Doing Business” report. But by convention, it is the groom who purchases the priciest piece of wedding jewelry—the engagement ring. And while men tend to be less predictable consumers than women, the modern groom—whose shopping endeavors are becoming ever more digital—can be particularly difficult to pin down (more on this later). To assist you in your guy-centric sales and marketing efforts, we asked a handful of seasoned bridal jewelry retailers, along with a few recently hitched gents, to weigh in on the shopping habits of all the young dudes.
HE WILL SPEND ON JEWELRY
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent stats (2010), the average marrying age for men is 28.5 years old—which makes today’s groom almost a full two years older than marrying men in 1990, 1995, and 2000. His average weekly gross salary is $847, but there’s a chance he still may be living at home: More than 10 million millennials were shacked up with a parent in 2013. But, according to the Shullman Research Center, he’s three times more likely than a Gen X or baby boomer guy to purchase a piece of jewelry that costs more than $500. Play your cards right, and that banked income (no rent at mom’s!) may find its way to your store.
And hard times be darned—Jewelers of America’s “Cost of Doing Business” report discovered that only 14 percent of grooms claimed to have downsized the engagement ring due to the economic climate. But that good news comes with a caveat: On average, couples are spending slightly less than $5,200 on the engagement ring, down from the $5,800 they shelled out in 2008.
A boundless selection of ring styles—and information on gemstones—is literally at his fingertips. He’s seeing a lot of rings and rocks before zeroing in on the one(s). According to TheKnot.com’s 2013 Engagement and Jewelry Study, grooms typically spend 4.4 months researching rings before purchasing.
“Eventually, all the rings started to blur and look the same,” recalls David Deusner, a recently married attorney from Vestavia Village, Ala., who did “a bazillion hours” of online research before reaching out to a jeweler.
HE’S DONE HIS HOMEWORK
Ring in 14k gold with 14.14 ct. morganite and 0.19 ct. t.w. diamonds; $9,998; Jorge Adeler, Great Falls, Va.; 703-759-4076; adelerjewelers.com
“I believe grooms like to be more informed than the gentlemen that preceded them,” says Wendy Adeler, co-owner of Adeler Jewelers in Great Falls, Va. “In prior generations, it felt like men were led to the jeweler. Now it feels like they’re taking a little more initiative in educating themselves.”
Still, Internet info on the 4Cs and other jewelry nuances can lead to a flawed knowledge base, say many jewelers. “They think they know,” chuckles Dean Abell, vice president of Sarah Leonard Fine Jewelers in Los Angeles. “I would say most guys have a basic foundation we can work from, but certainly, you can’t look at something on a piece of paper and know what it’s going to look like in real life.”
Jeff Roseman, owner of Connecticut-based David Harvey Jewelers, says today’s grooms are educated about diamonds, but usually as a commodity only. “There are aspects of cut that they do not know and cannot know based on the time it would take to learn,” he says. “But these guys are very intelligent and well-read, and they appreciate when you treat them as though you’re consulting with them, not selling.”
Nearly every husband-to-be shows up with style references on his smartphone. “I would say seven out of 10 grooms have pictures on their iPhones,” says Adeler. “They don’t bring in magazine clippings so much anymore.”
Barry Berkowitz, co-owner of Blauweiss Berkowitz Jewelers in New York City, says his grooms “have a good sense of the 4Cs, a good sense of the competitive market.” Which means, “we work it today primarily as a service business.”
HE’S LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Marvin Pittman, a sports news editor based in West Hartford, Conn., who recently married his longtime girlfriend, shopped for and purchased his ring in a single day, but “drove all over the state, visiting all these different jewelry stores before going to the one where I ultimately found the perfect ring.” His mission was to find a unique ring. “I know the value of having something that no one else has,” says Pittman, who researched off-the-beaten-path designers on Etsy before deciding on a ring with a sapphire center stone at Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in West Hartford.
Deusner, who suffered from research overload, ultimately opted to work with a diamond wholesaler to dream up the ring he wanted for his sweetheart, which was inspired by the top of a skyscraper in Chicago. The resulting style includes satellite-style crisscrossing bands that float above the shank, swirling around a 1 ct. center stone.
“This generation expects their rings to be unique and one-of-a-kind,” says Adeler. “These young men are interested in getting something their girlfriend’s coworkers don’t have.”
HE WILL CONSIDER BUYING ONLINE—BUT PROBABLY WON’T
When shopping for rings for his intended, David Wheaton, a recently married Washington, D.C., resident, took advantage of the creation software offered by online retailer Blue Nile.
“I basically pulled up a couple of settings they had, and scrolled through, picking things I thought she’d like,” Wheaton recalls. “Then I left a few styles on the screen of our computer and told my girlfriend I was going down the street to get some beer. When I came back, she was looking at styles, and eventually left one window open, showing me what she wanted without saying it.” He bought the platinum and diamond solitaire ring then and there.
Ring in 18k rose gold with 2 ct. morganite and 0.11 ct. t.w. diamonds; $1,350; Loretta Castoro, Beverly Hills, Calif.; 865-789-0690; lorettacastoro.com
According to TheKnot.com’s 2013 Engagement and Jewelry Study, only 9 percent of grooms polled bought their bride-to-be’s engagement ring online—a figure that held steady from 2011. In contrast, a whopping 76 percent of grooms polled bought rings from independent jewelry outposts and national jewelry chains. But—and this is the number to watch—27 percent of grooms said they did seriously consider making the purchase online.
HE HAS A BUDGET AND STICKS TO IT
When buying a ring for his bride, Wheaton applied the “three months’ salary” rule—and ended up spending $8,700, around a thousand less than he had budgeted. Pittman budgeted around $2,000 for his wife’s ring, and spent almost exactly that.
According to TheKnot.com’s 2013 Engagement and Jewelry Study, 75 percent of grooms decided on the ring budget themselves, but 64 percent of brides know how much their future husbands are spending.
Berkowitz says his grooms stick to their budget “for the most part,” while Adeler claims that her guys are “not intimidated about staying in their budget and they’re very creative in how they figure out how to meet that price.” She adds, “buying a ring is always a strategic thing.”