Jewelry Demand Flat Among Wealthy: Survey

Most wealthy Americans expect to spend the same on fine
jewelry this Christmas as they did last year, according to the 2010 Survey of
Affluence and Wealth in America from American Express Publishing and Harrison
Group.

Asked how their jewelry spending would change in the next 12
months, 12 percent of the affluent consumers surveyed said it would increase,
21 percent said it would decrease, and 67 percent said it would remain the
same.

Only 15 percent of respondents said that a piece of fine
jewelry was on their “dream list,” coming in fifth. A “gift certificate to a
favorite retailer” was the number one desired gift.

Some 28 percent of wealthy buyers said they had cut back on
jewelry spending in the past year to save money, 35 percent said they had
purchased a piece of jewelry valued at $500 or more in the past two years, and
46 percent said they would buy a really expensive item, like jewelry, at a
store like Costco or Sam’s Club. Meanwhile, independent jewelers still rule
when it comes to closing sales: 30 percent of respondents said they had last
purchased a piece of jewelry worth $500 or more at a “local” shop, according to
the survey.

Overall, consumers have gotten more frugal: The survey noted
the average affluent family’s budget for gifts totals $2,093—one percent less
than the 2009 sum. Fueling this sentiment is the fact that 88 percent of
respondents believe they are still dealing with a recession. As a result, 53
percent of responding households aim to reduce the number of gifts they buy, while
71 percent intend to purchase gifts of enduring and lasting value.

Some 82 percent of respondents report that the recession has
made them more resourceful, while 88 percent have become more responsible in
spending, and, 81 percent are more self-sufficient with their finances. A
renewed emphasis on spending time with relatives is reflected in the fact that 54
percent of families who are planning a trip this holiday season will travel to
a family member’s home.

“As affluent families enter this holiday season, they remain
committed to a spirit of careful, prudent financial management and a spirit of
family collaboration,” Jim Taylor, vice chairman of Harrison Group, told the
press. “We have been watching these trends for several years now, and despite
the fact that the savings rate among affluent families is over 20 percent—meaning
they have a great deal of cash on hand—the holidays have become more about the
giving of time than the giving of more stuff.”

As families become more self-reliant and focus on their
families, the strength of the bond to their community has declined. Fifty
percent of respondents see themselves withdrawing from their community. Holiday
charitable giving is predicted to be less for 24 percent of affluent
households.

Added Taylor, “This will be a good holiday for merchants
that offer value in great, unique merchandise and a difficult holiday for mass
merchandisers, dependent upon bulk purchases. With family and friends around
for the holiday, people will be doing things and giving gifts that honor the
deep affection they have for one another.”

While total average holiday budgets will be down by less
than 1 percent, spending will be up $1.1 billion or 4 percent because of the
addition of 400,000 families that joined the ranks of the affluent in the past
year.

The Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America, produced by
American Express Publishing Corporation and Harrison Group, is now in its
fourth year. The study is fielded on a monthly basis and has surveyed nearly
3,000 affluent and wealthy consumers this year so far. For this September
report, 805 individuals with a household discretionary income of $100,000 and
above were sampled.  The study was
conducted September 16–23, 2010.