U.S gold jewelry sales topped $15.6 billion

Despite a year marked by economic, political and national turmoil, fine gold jewelry sales in the U.S. achieved an all-time high for the year 2001, topping $15.6 billion, a new record.

This increase of 2.1% follows the previous all-time record set for gold jewelry sales in 2000 (just topping $15 billion) and is the eleventh consecutive year of gold jewelry sales increases, according to the 14th annual U.S. gold jewelry sales summary conducted by Audits & Survey Worldwide and sponsored by the World Gold Council.

At least part of this surprising strong showing was attributed to a $7 million advertising campaign in U.S. fashion and lifestyle magazines, which ran during the second half of 2001. It was part of a worldwide ad campaign by the WGC.

“We are gratified by gold’s continuing strong performance, particularly in light of the country’s economic downturn and tragic events of the past year,” John Calnon, senior vice president/jewelry (Americas) of the World Gold Council, said in a statement. “This confirms the influence of the new advertising campaign launched last year and that Americans continue to give gifts of fine gold jewelry to mark special occasions or as self-purchase items to treat themselves.”

In addition to an increase in overall retail sales, the survey reports an increase of actual gold jewelry units in 2001 of 4.2% overall.

Despite the country’s faltering economy, consumers continued purchase fine gold jewelry with increases in several sectors, the report says. The sale of gold wedding increased by 5.4% in dollar sales volume and 5.3% in unit sales volume. The WGC says this proves that “the institution is alive and well in good economic times and bad and that a gold wedding ring is still the ‘standard’ for many couples.”

Gifts and self-purchases also drove the sales of fine gold jewelry in several areas. Bracelets increased in dollar sales volume by 3.7%, a significant gain since bracelets had decreased by 3.3% during the previous year, the report states. Earrings-a perennial favorite of women of all ages-continued to be strong sellers with an increase of 4.3% in dollar sales volume and a 10.2% increase in unit sales volume, significantly influenced by the fashion world’s embrace of large hoops and dangling earrings. Non-bridal gold rings increased by 3.7% in dollar sales volume and 8% in unit sales volume.

Among retail outlets, independent jewelers led the field in gold jewelry sales, reporting an increase of 3% in dollar sales volume and 1.8% in unit sales volume. Discount stores saw a 1.2% increase in dollar sales volume and a dramatic 6.5% rise in unit sales volume of fine gold jewelry. Department stores, for the second consecutive year, reported a 0.8% drop in dollar sales volume, but gained ever so slightly in unit sales volume with an increase over 2000 of 0.9%.

Despite the tragic events of September 11th and the sagging economy, gold jewelry sales increased by 4% during the critical fourth quarter, according to the report. “Low interest rates fueled home refinancing, which supplied available cash for consumer spending and this contributed to stronger consumer confidence. The retail winners during the holiday season were those outlets with a wide inventory selection of fine gold jewelry at a wide range of price points and styles.”

All data contained in the survey is based upon the results of a retail market audit derived from confidential sales reports from a panel of over 7,500 stores encompassing all major gold jewelry distribution channels. The statistics cover all classes of trade for men’s and women’s gold jewelry where the primary value is gold content, including jewelry that contains accent stones. Consumers, specifically women who continue to drive self-purchase, overwhelmingly choose gold as a luxury item, the report states.

The World Gold Council is a global trade association of gold producers with headquarters in London and offices in major markets around the world. The Council’s mission is to maximize the demand for gold.