Fewer Shoppers Plan to Buy Jewelry for the Holidays

With the traditional holiday season at its halfway point, fewer consumers say they are planning to buy jewelry as gifts, a spokesman for a market research firm said Thursday.

A total of 22.2 percent of consumers said they are planning to buy jewelry and precious metals this holiday season, down from 26.4 percent during the 2006 season, said Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for BigResearch, Columbus, Ohio. 

Despite the decline, jewelry and precious metals remains one of the more popular categories for the gift giving season, according to the National Retail Federation 2007 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, where the results were taken. The survey was conducted by BigResearch.

Rist said that what he calls the “Love market,” will do well during the season. However, it may be a challenging environment for the traditional gift giving market.

“There are groups of young people who pick the holiday as a good time to be engaged,” Rist said. “Love overrides economic situations. If you’re looking at the sector they’ll probably do okay in the engagement category, but it will be the non-engagement type items that will be affected.

Rist also spoke about what he sees as a change in the types of jewelry that is being sold in high-end department stores.

“In the last couple years, there’s been more and more of what I call ‘cheap bling’ available at higher level department stores,” he said “You can walk through a Nordstrom or you can walk through a Macy’s, and you can find a real sparkly looking cocktail ring and it’s sitting out in the middle of the table, and it’s $14. There’s a lot of what I used to call costume jewelry that is replacing the buying of actual gems and gold.

Rist gave his remarks Thursday during a conference call with reporters sponsored by the National Retail Federation. BigResearch does a number of surveys for NRF, including holiday shopping surveys. He shared the those results of those surveys.

In discussing the luxury market, Rist said that those stores, including jewelry and watch retailers, whose customers are truly wealthy, will do well. Stores that tend to have a lot of customers who may not have the income to support the luxury lifestyle will face challenges.

“If you look at the makeup of their customer base, if their makeup is all folks that are very, very wealthy, they’ll tend to do fine,” he said. Situations like three dollar gas prices don’t bother them. But if a good portion of their customers are the ones who have already been living beyond their means, those folk who are feeling pressure in that category will cut back.”

Rist said that customers are very good at researching and finding the best price for their gifts. And this may turn out to be a good thing for jewelry and luxury retailers as shoppers may want to take their savings to reward themselves or others.

“I think consumers really take the time to think through who they’re buying for,” Rist said. “We have seen an increase in practicality. But with practicality sometimes comes rewards. If you were a really smart shopper, used the internet, used newspaper inserts to get the best deal on the Plasma TV and you saved a couple hundred dollars. In the consumer’s mind that’s found money and they might go and buy something that’s not so practical with that additional savings.”