Twenty-four percent of affluent consumers plan to give jewelry and watches this year as a holiday gift, about the same as prior years, according to the annual Survey of Affluence and Wealth, conducted by YouGov in partnership with Time Inc.
“I’ve been looking at this for 10 years—it’s always around the same percentage of people wanting to give jewelry and watches,” says Cara David, YouGov managing partner. “It’s relatively stable.”
But she notes that affluent buyers remain “focused on worth.”
“It’s not just about the brand,” she says. “Brand loyalty is in decline. Affluent consumers are focused on quality, craftsmanship, service, history. What’s the story? You have to give them a reason to believe it’s worth it to make the purchase.”
The survey found that jewelry purchases are largely driven by consumers in the top 1 percent of all incomes, defined as those with an income of $450,000 and more. Thirty-one percent of that group plans to buy jewelry or a watch, versus 21 percent of the rest of the population. Thirty-five percent of millennials plan to buy jewelry or watches, versus 22 percent in other age groups.
Most categories in the top 10 percent of consumers—defined as those with incomes of more than $120,000—plan to spend more this year, with the exception of upper-middle-class consumers ($120,000– $200,000 income) who feel caught in a financial vice, David says.
Overall, households are planning to spend 5.5 percent more than in 2014.
* A growing number of millennials prefer to give “experiences.” “They are very thoughtful about the gifts they expose to other people,” she says.
But that doesn’t negate jewelry, she says.
“Brands can make giving a piece of jewelry an amazing experience,” she says. “That can include the experience of going to the store, the fawning of the salespeople, and learning about the craft behind it.”
* Millennials love to shop.
“They are very exuberant about shopping across all categories,” she says. “They really do believe that the brands they are wearing say something to other people.”
* Despite all the talk about online shopping, salespeople remain crucial to the luxury-buying experience.
“People who are really interested in luxury brands consider the salespeople to be the embodiment of the brand,” David says.
* Salespeople need to be aware of affluent consumers’ feelings of self-consciousness regarding income inequality.
“Sales associates have to be immune to that wealth gap,” she says. “They can’t have any kind of feelings about the wealthy that aren’t necessarily positive. They need to love these customers.”
* Many buyers spend on luxury only during the holiday, and some are entering the market for the first time ever.
“Luxury brands have to recognize that and try to suss out: Is this person coming in here for the first time?” David says. “That is an incredible opportunity to win a customer for life and convert somebody to become a luxury customer.”