How ‘Originals’ Drive Jewelry and Watch Sales

The consumers who spend the most and are the most passionate about luxury goods are the best people to gear marketing efforts toward and learn from, according to a recent study.

Nina Lawrence, W magazine vice president and publisher, on Thursday revealed the results of a survey conducted by the luxury consumer magazine along with other research. The magazine surveyed 536 of its most affluent subscribers: with an average age of 42, an average household income of $268,260, and an average net worth of nearly $1.8 million. The research compiled information on their luxury buying habits and the reasons behind the purchasing decisions they make.

Out of that group, W identified “Original” consumers, defined as being both affluent and passionate about the luxury lifestyle.

“They originate lifestyle trends,” Lawrence said during an event held at the Condé Nast headquarters in New York City. “They are affluent, have style, and have a passionate interest in the luxury lifestyle.”

The survey identified the Original as owning more than 36 pieces of fine jewelry, with 70 percent purchasing a piece of jewelry within the previous 12 months. They spent an average of $11,052 on fine jewelry in the past year and during that time have acquired 5.4 pieces of fine jewelry either as a self-purchase or as a gift.

These consumers also own more than three watches (casual, dress, evening). In the past 12 months, 26 percent of these consumers have made at least one watch purchase spending an average of $9,637. During the past three years, they have acquired 1.8 watches as either a self-purchase or a gift.

As important as their spending habits, or maybe even more important, is the influence they have on other jewelry and watch consumers. A total of 87 percent of the Originals surveyed say they have noticed that their friends copy their style, and that on average, each Original has advised or influenced the fashion or style of 12.2 others persons.

“They are great brand ambassadors,” Lawrence said.

Originals own a broad range of jewelry, including a variety of precious metals, diamonds, gemstones, and pearls.

A total of 38 percent of Originals have hidden a luxury purchase from their significant other; 18 percent said they deserve a piece of jewelry as an apology gift; and 10 percent said they deserve a watch as an apology.

A total of 60 percent said they have heard about conflict diamonds and less than a quarter are less interested in buying diamonds as a result.

Originals buy their jewelry from everywhere. Nearly 45 percent buy from independent jewelry retailers and 37 percent buy from neighborhood jewelers.

Fine watch purchases closely resemble their jewelry choices, according to the survey, with 28 percent choosing independent jewelers and 17 percent making their purchases from neighborhood jewelry stores.

High-end nationally branded jewelry retailers and upscale department stores are the Originals most popular choices for jewelry and watches. These consumers are also buying jewelry and watches on the Internet, saying the online medium is quick and provides plenty of choice. High-speed Internet is also prevalent among these consumers, making it easier to become active online shoppers.

Nearly three-quarters of jewelry and watch purchases among Originals are self-purchased, according to the survey. More than half of these consumers say they never ask for permission to make a jewelry or watch purchase. For those that do feel the need to ask permission, the dividing line is cost. A purchase over $4,435 for jewelry and $6,950 for watches would require permission, according to the survey.

A total of 42 percent make their jewelry purchases on the spot and 33 percent make watch purchases on the spot. More than half said they will buy their jewelry and watches within a month.

Lawrence said that in order to take advantage of these in-store purchasers, retailers and brands need to be marketing all the time.

“You need to be out there and visible all the time with your marketing effort because you don’t know when these occasions arise,” she said.

One place where jewelry and watch brands and retailers can increase sales is to take a page from handbag makers and do a better job marketing jewelry and watches as accessories.

In order of importance, for creating their “look,” Originals place a higher priority on handbags than they do with jewelry and watches.

“It’s got to be easier to get them to spend some of that (handbag) money on jewelry,” Lawrence said. “To become an accessory it’s important to market like an accessory.”

Originals are also very loyal to good quality luxury brands, Lawrence said. That’s what drives their handbag, as well as jewelry and watch choices.