Stingy sweethearts

Though Valentine’s Day is typically a celebration of romantic love, good marketing campaigns from card, candy, and floral suppliers have turned the holiday into a ”candy-heart-and-card day,” say jewelers. According to 1,000 adults surveyed in January by the International Mass Retailers Association (IMRA) on impending gift selections, just 11% of consumers will buy jewelry this Valentine’s Day. Instead, this year’s lovers will lavish each other with cards (65%), candy (38%), flowers (32%), gift certificates (29%), stuffed animals (21%), and other gifts (17%).

Though jewelry is last on Valentine shoppers’ lists, 65% of those polled claim they’re romantic-with 67% of romantics in 45- to 54-year-old range. But where’s the romance in a rose that’s dead in a week, jewelers demand?

”If shoppers are so romantic, they need to put their money where their mouth is,” declares Darryl Alexander, owner of Alexander’s Jewelers in Gilbert, Ariz.

In the jewelry-buying category, men outnumber women two to one: 15% of males will purchase fine baubles vs. 7% of women. And the younger the customer, the more likely he or she is to buy jewelry. Eighteen percent of shoppers aged 18-24 plan to buy jewelry; in the 25-34 range, 15% of consumers plan to do so; in the 35-44 range it’s 13%; in the 45-54 range, 11%; in the 55-64 range, 5%; and a mere 3% of 65-and-older shoppers plan to buy jewelry for the most romantic day of the year.

Other IMRA study results reveal that shoppers will spend their money at discounters (32%), specialty stores (18%), department stores (14%), and other types of stores (26%), including grocery and Home Depots. Interestingly, more women frequent discount stores (39% versus only 24% of men) while more men shop at specialty stores (22% of men versus 14% of women). Ellen Ramer, president of Martin Jewelers, Cranford, N.J., has had both ways: A 35-year-old female self-purchaser bought a $5,000 diamond necklace and earrings from her store last week, and a 70-year-old man recently spent $2,000 on an estate dragonfly brooch for his wife.

But for most shoppers, price remains a factor. A week before the holiday, retailers cited modestly priced trinkets, including 24k gold-covered roses retailing for $60 and some gold and diamond heart pendants and bracelets, as best sellers. To compete with mass merchants advertising $99 diamond heart pendants, many jewelers offer similar but better-quality pieces ranging in price from $100 to $20,000. Better and more advertising may be the key to increased sales, suggests Alexander.

Overall, shoppers will spend an average of $84.20 on gifts, 8% more than they spent last year. Men will spend an average of $121.60 on gifts, nearly 28% more, and twice as much as women will. The biggest spenders are ages 18-24, who will spend an average of $183.80 on presents for their sweethearts.

Creig Sterret, owner, Sterret Jewelers, Columbia, Mo., questions consumers’ gift-giving ‘savvy.’ ‘Jewelry will still shine a token of love in August when candy, flowers, and cards are long gone,’ he says.

Still other jewelers aren’t surprised by IMRA’s survey results. Phil Nault, owner of Nault’s Jewelers, Issaquah, Wash., is one of them. ‘There’s a lot of other categories, like trips and dinners, competing for consumers’ dollars,’ he says.