Market Place

Platinum Projections

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed shoppers want more platinum. Since 1990, consumer demand for platinum jewelry has jumped by 600%, says a study commissioned by Platinum Guild International USA.

Though not as dramatic a leap, the study shows demand for platinum jewelry has risen 20% since 1995, which PGI-USA points to as evidence of the steady and sustained increase in interest. Manufacturers have noticed, adding platinum designs to their lines. Not surprisingly, retailers report selling more platinum jewelry.

The 1996 study, the “Platinum Jewelry Market Report,” is comprised of data gathered from consumers, manufacturers and retailers in the U.S.

The Consumers

More than half of the 1,203 consumer respondents say they were very or somewhat familiar with platinum as

a precious jewelry metal. The highest degree of familiarity occurred among adults over 35 years of age. Of that age group, 58% say they are familiar with platinum. Consumers who were most familiar were slightly older – an average age of 41.5.

A total of 4.5%, representing 2.3 million people, purchased or received platinum jewelry within the 12 months prior to the October 1996 study. These purchasers were most likely to be 21- to 44-year-old men – overwhelmingly bridal customers – with annual incomes from $25,000 to $39,000 or over $50,000.

The Manufacturers

Weddings of the Years
More betrothed couples are considering and buying platinum bridal jewelry every year.

1996 1997
Considered platinum 32% 47%
Prefer platinum for wedding jewelry 15% 30%
Bought platinum wedding band for the groom 15% 20%
Bought platinum wedding band for the bride 9% 16%
Bought platinum engagement ring 9% 15%
Source: Modern Bride/K-III Researc

Almost all of the 50 manufacturers surveyed reported they added new platinum jewelry designs to their lines in 1996, reflecting an average increase of 26.5% over indications in 1995. The greatest increases were in the ring category – engagement rings jumped 69%, wedding bands rose 60% and anniversary bands gained 60%.

One-fifth of those surveyed also expanded non-bridal ring lines, and more than a third of the respondents added other new products: necklace designs (37%), bracelets and earrings (34%) and pins or brooches (14%).

On average, 43% of all surveyed manufacturers’ lines were reported to be available in platinum in 1996 – a 20% jump over 1995, when the average was only about one-third of all lines.

Every manufacturer surveyed reported selling platinum jewelry to independent retail jewelers, a de-cided jump over 1995’s 41%. About 60% of the manufacturers report independent jewelry retailers and regional chain stores were new platinum accounts.

The Retailers

Of the 53 retailers surveyed, 97% report their sales of platinum jewelry increased in 1996 over sales in 1995. Bridal rings are the strongest category, with 94% reporting increased sales. Retailers report consumers seeking platinum in their stores increased by 64%, and designer and gem-intensive products show growth of over 20% compared to 1995.

Of all the platinum jewelry sold at the retail level, 29% was all platinum and 71% used platinum and gold in combination.

As a percentage of mentions, nearly 80% of the surveyed retailers reported increases in sales of designer and contemporary styles of platinum.

What Consumers Really Think About Diamonds

The Diamond Promotion Service’s booklet called Diamond Desire is a compilation of interviews revealing consumer attitudes about diamonds.

Interviewed were 24 married couples in four U.S. cities: Washington, D.C.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Chicago, Ill. and San Francisco, Cal. The one-on-one interviews were conducted by a clinical psychologist, with husband and wife interviewed separ-ately. Respondents were between the ages of 25 and 54 and 12 had annual household incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 with 12 earning over $100,000. Eight of the couples were married fewer than 10 years; eight for 11-19 years; and eight for 20 or more years.

Here are just a few of their comments about the importance of diamonds. Be prepared, some of them are quite catty – if not downright nasty or shallow – but they do convey strong attitudes about the emotional worth of a diamond:

  • “A girl at work who has never been married before – going to be 40 and just got engaged – I almost couldn’t speak because the diamond was so tiny. I thought, ‘Is he really serious about wanting to get married?’”

  • “With diamonds, there’s a lot of competition among women too – is her diamond as big as my diamond? Maybe that signifies how their man feels about them.”

  • “My having a large diamond signifies he was able to provide that for me.”

  • “As long as it met my sort of minimum criteria, I would rather have a better stone than a larger stone.”

  • “Quality is more important than size.”

  • “If I were buying a ring today, size would have a lot to do with it because at 45 years old, I wouldn’t want a quarter-carat diamond, I’d want a big one. At 20, when I got engaged, I was just so ga-ga over getting married that I didn’t really think about size and clarity.”

International business affected by corruption

A private international group fighting corruption around the world says surveys show businesspeople perceive that corruption remains relatively low in Western Europe, North America and Japan but has gotten worse in Russia, Poland, and the Czech Republic since last year.

Transparency International, an organization based in Berlin, released its 1997 index of corruption perceptions in Washington in August.

The index is based on a survey of seven major polls of businesspeople, Internet users, and the general public by established international polling organizations, including Gallup, Goettingen University in Germany and the Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, France

The index ranks only 52 countries. To be included, a nation must be covered by at least four major surveys. Johann Graf Lambsdorff, an economist at Goettingen University in Germany who developed the index for TI, says that since there are almost 200 sovereign states in the world today, “It is certain that there are many countries that may be perceived as even more corrupt than those in the index, but we do not have sufficient information to rank them all.”

The surveys used to build the index found most people perceive Denmark as the least corrupt nation and Nigeria most corrupt. The U.S. and Japan just missed making the top ten of least-corrupt nations, but Canada ranked third. Russia was chosen as the third most-corrupt area. Corruption there was perceived to have worsened compared to last year.

TI President Peter Eigen cautions not to assume these nations are either the very best or the very worst.

“TI is not saying in this index that one country is more corrupt than another. We are reporting how businesspeople around the globe perceive levels of corruption in different countries,” he says “We must also bear in mind that many of these businesspeople are a part of the problem.”

Because the conclusions are based on perceptions, the ratings should be taken with cultural differences in mind. “Cultural settings are likely to differ considerably over time and between different surveys and differing perceptions may be due to a change in awareness rather than real corruption,” he says.

Lambsdorff stresses many of the businesspeople surveyed are from western industrialized nations and many of the surveys used in compiling the index are run by western organizations, which may lead to some bias against developing countries.

Still, says Eigen, when different surveys and polls find similar concerns, it is usually an indicator that there is a problem. “The index provides insights into perceptions, which have an impact on how private companies – particularly in Japan, North America, and Western Europe – operate in the rest of the world,” he says.

TI says it compiles the index to help in its campaign against corruption. The organization, founded in 1993, has more than 70 national chapters.

Unemployment down, hiring problems up

Low unemployment rates have reduced the pool of available labor, so to get good employees you’ll have to be more aggressive, says a survey released by Manpower Inc., the temporary help employment agency.

The Employment Outlook Survey, a poll of more than 16,000 businesses, reveals 28% plan to add staff in the fourth quarter, 7% expect to cut back on staff, 60% anticipate no change and 5% do not yet know. These results surpass last year’s fourth quarter results, when 25% of those polled expected to hire and 9% expected their staffs to decline. Not since fourth quarter of 1978 has there been such high demand for employees.

The hiring outlook in the wholesale and retail sector, always a leader in holiday hiring, is even stronger. Thirty-eight percent of poll respondents say they will add staff, despite heavy hiring patterns earlier in the year. Only 7% plan to cut staffing. All projections are for the permanent work force.

To compete, companies will have to be more creative in their recruiting efforts and accommodate the needs of potential employees, say Mitchell Fromstein, Manpower chairman and chief executive officer. “Wages have increased marginally during the year but companies know that increasing wages will provide only a short-term solution to the staffing problem,” he says. “They are examining their training programs and recruiting methods to accommodate such groups as older workers and those who lack the skills to operate in today’s production and administrative environments.”

The quarterly survey was designed and administered by Manpower’s International Research Department, using a statistically representative sample of more than 16,000 public and private employers from among ten industrial sectors in 484 U.S. cities.