Ten percent of U.S. Internet users, or 7.5 million people, are frequent buyers of luxury goods, and they account for at least 30% of luxury goods purchases (both online and offline) in America, according to a new study commissioned by Ashford.com, a Houston-based online retailer of luxury and premium products. Ashford dubs this group, which has an annual potential purchasing power of $15 billion, ?ePowered Buyers.? They ?prefer to buy luxury goods online,? says the study, because it?s convenient, offers a wide selection, and saves time compared with shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

The Ashford study confirms similar research indicating that the affluent are the primary users of the Internet and that men use it slightly more than women. But the ?ePowered Buyers? identified by Ashford are a category all their own. Four of five have spent $250 or more online for a single item in the past year, and 100% plan to buy something online in the next year. Half own three or more watches worth $150 or more each, and 45% have a household income of $100,000 or more.

The study also found that about half of the U.S. online population?about 38 million consumers?are luxury goods buyers and have made at least one purchase of fine watches, diamonds, jewelry, fragrances, or writing instruments in the last two years, either online or offline.

The study, conducted for Ashford by the Rosetta Marketing Strategies Group of Princeton, N.J., polled more than 4,000 active Internet users and Ashford customers and prospects between January and April. Ashford claims it?s the most comprehensive study yet of Internet users who buy luxury goods. Ashford?s study, however, differs somewhat from recent similar surveys. It defines affluent households as those with annual incomes of $50,000 or better but doesn?t use personal or household income as the criterion for ?luxury buyer.? Instead, it defines ?luxury buyer? as anyone who has purchased one or more watches (at $250 retail or more), diamonds ($500 or more), fragrances ($50 or more), jewelry ($250 or more), or writing instruments ($50 or more ) online or offline within the past two years.?William George Shuster


The e-commerce alliance of jewelry manufacturers, designers, and brick-and-mortar retailers formerly known as DJOL (Designer Jewelry On Line) announced its name change to Enjewel June 1 at The JCK Show in Las Vegas.

?This new name is magic,? says Sheldon L. Ginsberg, president, chief executive officer, and a founding member of the company. ?It is an upscale, chic name, a compelling call to action?to wrap, or ?enjewel,? oneself in fine jewelry.?

The Enjewel e-commerce venture, due to be launched in September, will sell branded and designer jewelry on the Internet and aims to give its jewelry trade members an advantage in competing against other online retailers of fine jewelry.

Consumers will access Enjewel through a retailer?s Web site, a manufacturer?s Web site, or through www.enjewel.com. Each sale will be linked to a local affiliated jewelry retailer, with a profit-sharing and service arrangement. (Enjewel will build Web sites and provide links to its site for affiliated jewelers and manufacturers.)

The company now has some 160 members, 120 of them retailers and the rest manufacturers and designers. It expects to have more than 250 members in its national network by the end of August.?William George Shuster


Jewelers of America and the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America have formed a venture to give the industry a portal Web site with e-commerce capabilities. The project was announced June 5 at The JCK Show in Las Vegas.

The new company, called JA/MJSA Net Inc., is scheduled to go online by Oct. 1 to allow sales on the Web prior to the holiday season. It has its own board of directors and staff, with JA and MJSA providing expertise in their respective areas. JA will lend its skills to the business-to-consumer side, including educating and selling to Internet consumers through JA member Web sites. MJSA will advise the business-to-business side of the venture, which enables jewelry suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers to do business with each other via the Web as well as exchange information and ideas.

The new company?s technology comes from BrandMatrix Ltd., a division of the Polygon Group, which now provides JA and MJSA members with basic Web sites. It will use patent-pending e-commerce software.

Both JA and MJSA members already see their futures intertwined with the Internet. JA?s newly redesigned Web site is at www.jewelers.org. A recent survey finds 75% of JA members have Internet access at home and 64% at work. Of those, a solid 70% access the Internet from their workplaces daily. And 70% of respondents see the Web playing a larger part in their business, for buying and selling, in the future.

MJSA has a Web site (http://mjsa.polygon.net) and two online search engines that handle more than 1,900 weekly requests for industry buyers seeking products and services from MJSA members. A recent survey also found that more than 75% of MJSA?s members will use the Internet to sell their products in a business-to-business environment by the end of 2000. ? William George Shuster


Antiquorum, an auction house offering fine watches and jewelry, has launched its own online interactive bidding system.

Dubbed ?One Auction, Two Systems,? the Antiquorum system lets clients around the world register online to bid at traditional auctions and to place interactive and absentee bids online.

The system was introduced in Hong Kong on June 5-6 with a successful sale of important watches and clocks. There, 27 people registered to bid online, with the highest online bid being HKS 720,000 (US$92,190). It debuted in the United States on June 22 with a sale of contemporary and limited-edition watches and important jewelry.

When bidding interactively on www.antiquorum.com, bidders will see the lot number with the item?s image, description, and condition report, as well as their own bid sequence (for any previous bids they have placed on that lot). Catering to the firm?s international audience, the system also lets participants follow the bidding in currency other than that in which the auction is conducted.

The system is also equipped with a countdown icon that indicates the time left for bidding. In the event of a connection failure, online bidders will be notified of a telephone number in the salesroom, with which they can continue bidding through an Antiquorum staff member. ? William George Shuster


Otto Frei & Jules Borel Inc., Oakland, Calif., a source for jewelry supplies, has launched a Web site, www.ofrei.com.

Among the more than 4,800 items offered for sale on the site are watchmakers? tools, watch material, clock parts, display and packaging items, watch bands, and jewelers? tools.

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