Our annual State of the Industry survey shows that jewelers are pretty upbeat about their business. In related news, so are JCK Las Vegas and Luxury exhibitors.
The jewelry industry remains optimistic about the economy and the industry in general, said Reed Exhibitions senior vice president Yancy Weinrich in a State of the Industry presentation on June 1 at JCK Las Vegas.
The survey can be downloaded here.
Last year, JCK debuted its Jewelry Industry Confidence Index (JICI), which measured how optimistic industry members were about their business over the next 12 months. This year, the JICI came in at a robust 86, roughly equal with last year’s 88. This means that 86% of industry members were very or slightly optimistic about their business in the year ahead.
Industry members were a little less sanguine about the overall American economy. When asked about the economy, 59% said they were optimistic, but 33% said they were pessimistic—a 10% increase over last year.
Regarding their biggest business challenges, 67% of respondents cited online competition, 56% said the overall economic climate, 50% named a lack of general demand, and 40% pointed to a lack of millennial demand.
“There is still wide agreement that online competition is the enduring challenge of the era, but macroeconomic concerns are much more visible on the industry’s radar this year,” Weinrich explained.
The survey then asked jewelers how they planned to combat online competition: 17% said their No. 1 strategy was connecting with clients via social media, 13% planned to advertise in nontraditional forms, 13% wanted to improve the in-store buying experience, 12% hoped to change inventory buying habits, and 3% wanted to invest in technology innovation.
As for what advertising platforms jewelry companies plan to use in 2019, 82% cited social media and 61 percent said online advertising, including paid search. On the subject of which marketing strategies they expect to be successful, a whopping 72% said social media marketing. (Last year, 82% gave the same answer.)
The survey also found that the most popular trends of 2019 were stacked rings and heart-themed jewels.
Stacking, Weinrich said, “appeals to buyers across a wide range of price points and offers consumers an incentive for regular browsing to add mix-and-match pieces to their existing collections—presumably without displacing occasion-driven larger purchases.”
Respondents said that sales of custom pieces and colored stones rose over the last year, while charms were the only category where sales declined. As far as anticipated sales for 2019, respondents had the highest hopes for colored gemstones and fashion/bridge jewelry.
The survey also did a deep dive into consumer attitudes toward lab-grown diamonds.
The main reasons that consumers are interested in buying lab-grown diamonds, said respondents, were lower price (86%), “eco-friendly” positioning (36%), conflict-free positioning (33%), and interest in the tech aspects (15%).
The main reasons consumers said they didn’t want to buy lab-grown diamonds: They consider natural stones more “real” (47%), they prefer natural diamonds (46%), they have concerns that lab-growns won’t hold their value (39%), and the price was not low enough (17%).
One in five consumers who didn’t want to buy them now suggested they might if the price falls.
The survey was conducted by pollster MRI-Simmons among more than 500 industry members.
At the Sands and the Venetian, show attendees generally mirrored the survey’s upbeat mood.
The first day of Luxury was “very strong,” said A. Jaffe chairman Sam Sandberg. “People were positive and they bought. Luxury was very good for us.”
Nicky Mehta, president of Diamond Days, a diamond wholesaler, found attendees at the show a little more optimistic as they head toward the holidays. “People want to know what the trends are going to be,” he said.
Mehta said he has seen an increase in jewelers looking for ethically sourced materials and that lab-grown diamonds were the “hot topic” of the show.
Jessica Rossomme, director of operations for Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry in Peachtree City, Ga., said she was looking for “a little bit of everything,” particularly new items. Among the things she’s keeping her eye on: diamonds and color, mainly in mid-range to low price points.
“We try to be ahead of our clients’ want,” she said, “especially the new generation.”
Top: A bustling registration desk on JCK opening day (photo by Camilla Sjodin)