Graduation means opportunity for jewelers

Monetary gifts are still the way most people choose to award new graduates during the commencement season in May and June. However, gifts of fine jewelry and watches are gaining in popularity, according to an Internet-based survey. Jewelers need to capitalize on this gift-giving season by promoting the lasting and sentimental value fine jewelry represents, an industry consultant says.

“Jewelry that encourages collecting—like slide, charm and add-a-gem concepts—can bolster a retailers repeat sales, by making it easy to mark occasions throughout the year,” says Elizabeth Chatelain, president of MVI Marketing Ltd, Paso Robles, Calif., “The graduation season can provide jewelers with the opportunity to showcase their customer service skills by helping shoppers select the ideal gift to complement the graduate’s lifestyle and mark her/his accomplishments.”

Chatelain and MVI Marketing founded the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council. It is an e-panel of fine jewelry consumers throughout North America representing all ages, genders, income levels, buying categories and geographic regions; and serves as a tool to predict consumer behavior.

Research highlights in relation to graduation gifts include:

* More than a quarter of survey respondents know someone graduating this year, with nearly 70 percent planning to buy them a gift—up significantly from last year when only a quarter intended to buy a gift to mark the occasion.

* More than 20 percent plan to buy birthstone jewelry (up from 16 percent in 2005), 18 percent are interested in diamond jewelry (on par with last year), and 16 percent want plain metal jewelry (down from a quarter in 2005, perhaps due to higher gold prices, although yellow and white gold are leading metal choices.

* Popular prices points fall below $200, consistent with last year’s expectations. In 2004, 35 percent planned to spend less than $50, while 32 percent favored the $50 to $100 range.

This year, 30 percent of grad gifters are undecided what to buy and 28 percent intend to give money. Chatelain says that figures are an open door for jewelers to capture the ambivalent and convert the money giver to apply the cash to a gift that lasts: Jewelry.

“Jewelers should begin marketing to grad gifters by May, and stock both classic and sporty products with a heavy concentration in prices below $200,” she said.

Chatelain also suggests partnering with local vendors to offer consumers gifts from their stores and eateries with a jewelry purchase.