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DE BEERS PRESSES HIGH-TICKET SALES

De Beers is concentrating on inducing U.S. consumers to buy more expensive diamond jewelry this year, following an encouraging increase in 1994 diamond jewelry sales.

U.S. retail diamond jewelry sales hit a record $13 billion, up 7% from 1993, according to the Diamond Information Center of N.W. Ayer & Partners, De Beers’ U.S. advertising agency. The outlook for 1995 seems even better. An Ayer survey found 70% of retail jewelers anticipate higher diamond sales; only 13% believe sales will decline.

The number of pieces of diamond jewelry sold last year increased 4%, while the average price per piece rose 3%. Strong consumer confidence, an improving economy and De Beers’ ongoing marketing programs were cited as the reasons for the increase.

“To continue this momentum, the thrust of the De Beers 1995 marketing campaign in the U.S. is to further increase the acquisition of diamond jewelry at a higher price point,” says Derek Palmer, De Beers’ U.S. regional director.

Here’s a look at 1994 sales by category:

  • Married Women’s Jewelry – up 11% to 7.3 million pieces and up 13% to $5.6 billion in retail value. This general gift market was paced by a renewed interest in tennis bracelets and diamond ear studs.

  • Diamond Anniversary Bands – up 15% to 1.4 million pieces and up 8% to $1.2 billion in retail value, continuing an upward trend since the product’s relaunch six years ago. Tenth anniversaries are by far the most popular occasion for giving a diamond anniversary band, accounting for 77% of the total.

  • 25th Anniversary Diamond Necklaces – up 14% to 175,000 pieces and up 35% to $183 million in retail value. This category was launched in 1991 and has seen significant growth.

  • Diamond Engagement Rings – up 1% to 1.7 million pieces and up 1% to $2.6 billion in retail value. Seventy-six percent of first-time brides and 69% of all brides received a diamond engagement ring in 1994.

“We have dedicated significant resources to these Rites-of-Passage market segments and are pleased to see positive sales results and growing momentum,” says Jim Haag, senior vice president and a senior partner with N.W. Ayer.

WATCH IMPORTS DIP, VALUE RISES

The value of watches imported to the U.S. rose 4% to $2 billion in 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, while the number fell 2.2% to 238.1 million (see charts). That means more expensive models were imported in 1994 than in ’93.

Further supporting that trend, imports of watches with precious-metal cases grew 15% in value and fell 7% in units, based on an analysis of government figures by the American Watch Association, Washington, D.C. China was the top producer of precious-metal-case watches in units (followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland and Japan), while Switzerland was the top producer by value (followed by China, Hong Kong and Japan). Precious-metal-case watches from China averaged only $2.70 each; those from Switzerland averaged $849.54.

21st CENTURY SHOPPERS TO STRESS PRICE

Price is the determining factor for most consumers when they shop for apparel as the 21st century approaches, according to a new report by Management Horizons, a division of Price Waterhouse. The affluent market, however, will continue to be driven by quality and styling.

The report – called “Satisfying the 21st Century Shopper” – concentrates on apparel, but its findings are an indicator of what consumers want when shopping for many items, including jewelry.

What do shoppers want, and how are values and attitudes changing? Some of the data are disturbing. For example, the report shows consumers care less about fashion than they have in past years. Only 31% of consumers polled agreed that it’s important to wear the latest styles, down from 37% in 1990 and 39% in 1988.

Instead, they are more interested in everyday low prices and sales. In fact, more than half of all consumers base their decisions on where to shop on advertised sale prices. And they want to be certain the advertised products are available when they get there.

In general, consumers don’t place a high level of importance on well-known brands, unique merchandise or trends when choosing where to shop. Increasingly, they shop only when they need to replace an item, and they most often choose a self-service environment.

But all’s not lost for savvy retailers who specialize in good service and unique goods. Management Horizons says that in contrast to consumers in general, the affluent are more focused on style and quality than on price. Only 54% of affluent consumers ($100,000+ annual income) say price is a key factor in deciding where to shop, compared with 70% of all consumers.

Among the factors important to affluent shoppers are the availability of high-quality merchandise, well-known brands and unique merchandise. The latest styles also are more important to this group.

Who shops where? The survey found a continuing decline in mall-based shopping frequency. The number of consumers who shop frequently (once a month or more) at conventional department stores dropped from 33% of the population in 1990 to 19% in 1994.

Shopping frequency remained fairly stable at specialty apparel stores and grew at value-based environments such as discount department stores and factory outlets. Since 1990, department stores have steadily lost ground as the destination of choice for women’s apparel and accessories, though they’ve strengthened their hold on the most affluent segment of the market. Discount department stores, meanwhile, have broadened their appeal from predominantly less-affluent shoppers to include middle- and even upper-income shoppers, says the report.

Are there differences in who shops where? The report found that young singles and young couples shop more often at mall specialty stores, families with children most often favor promotional department stores and discount department stores, and the mature market remains loyal to the department store.

Management Horizons, 1177 Ave. of the Americas, New York, N.Y.; (212) 596-8210.

GOLD JEWELRY SALES RISE 8% IN QUARTER

Gold jewelry sales remained strong amid lackluster overall retail sales in the first quarter of 1995. In fact, gold jewelry sales rose 8% from the same period of 1994 to $1.4 billion, says the World Gold Council, New York, N.Y. Total retail sales were up just 5% in the period.

It was the 14th consecutive quarter of higher sales of jewelry (excluding watches) in which the primary value is in the gold content. “Retailers across all channels of distribution continue to recognize gold jewelry’s strong performance in terms of sales growth, profitability and productivity,” says the council’s John Calnon.

Discount stores posted the biggest percentage increase (20.1%). They were followed by independent jewelers (up 9.5%), catalog showrooms (up 6.9%), chain jewelers (up 5.7%) and department stores (up 4.9%).

Which types of gold jewelry posted the biggest sales increases in terms of value? Earrings ranked first with a 13.4% increase, followed by charms at 11.9%, non-chain necklaces at 8.5%, bracelets at 8.4%, wedding rings at 7.6% and neckchains at 5.3%.

STATE PER-CAPITA INCOME GROWS

Most states reported increases in 1994 per-capita personal income that were well above the nation’s inflation rate of 2.4%, according to preliminary estimates by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

For the nation as a whole, per-capita income rose 4.9% to $21,809, after rising 3.3% in 1993.

The biggest increase was in Iowa (+10.9%). Others in the top five were South Dakota (+9.5%), North Dakota (+8.6%), Michigan (+8.5%) and Mississippi (+7.4%). All of these states except Mississippi are in the Plains region, which benefited from a rebound in farm income. All of these states except Mississippi also reported below-average increases in population.

The five states with the slowest growth in per-capita income were Wyoming (+3.6%), Alaska (+3.1%), Montana (+2.8%), California (+2.7%) and Hawaii (+2.4%). All except California had above-average increases in population.

1994 WATCH IMPORTS TO U.S. BY SOURCE
(in thousands, with % change from 1993)

Units Value
China 96,427 -2% $183,032 +29%
Hong Kong 42,285 -31% $225,532 -41%
Japan 56,305 +19% $723,423 +12%
Philippines 22,800 +24% $168,415 +28%
Switzerland 6,189 -11% $561,175 +10%
Rest of world 14,125 +19% $139,292 +20%
Total 238,131 -2% $2,000,869 +4%

1994 WATCH IMPORTS TO U.S. BY TYPE
(in thousands, with % change from 1993)

Units Value
Quartz analog 127,893 +9% $1,477.4 +5%
Digital 88,212 -8% $230.9 +10%
Anadigital 7,854 -6% $67.3 -17%
Mechanical/automatic 451 -10% $170,659 +6.2%
Mechanical/manual 1,108 -57% $20,820 -12%
Pocket, stop, other 12,612 -34% 33,735 -25%
Source: American Watch Association analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce report.

WHAT CONSUMERS CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING WHERE TO SHOP
(% of consumers indicating factor is very important)

All consumers Affluent consumers
1990 1994 1994
Sale prices 69% 72% 54%
Styles right for me 68% 72% 80%
Low everyday prices 65% 70% 42%
Availability of advertised products 54% 56% 47%
Availability of high-quality goods 53% 51% 62%
Availability of well-known brands 34% 25% 30%
Unique merchandise 15% 14% 19%
Availability of trend-setting fashions 9% 9% 9%
Note: Affluence is defined as annual household income of $100,000+.
Source: “Satisfying the 21st Century Shopper” by Management Horizons.

BRIDAL JEWELRY

Engagement and wedding rings account for 22% of wedding costs, according to a recent article in Modern Bride magazine.

The average wedding cost $17,470 in 1993, the year targeted in the report. The engagement ring averaged $2,760, the bride’s wedding ring $710 and the groom’s wedding ring $400.

However, the biggest expense is something far less lasting than rings: the reception at $7,000. The smallest expense listed was $30 for men’s formal wear rentals.

Other selected costs: photography, $1,090; wedding gown, headpiece and shoes, $1,070; flowers, $860; music, $600; limousine, $300; bridal party gifts, $250; and clergy, $220.