U.S. Luxury Market Driven by Women Self-Purchasers, Says Survey

The U.S. luxury market is “scorching hot,” and much of the boom—including watches—is being driven by the growing number of women self-purchasers, says John Clarkin, executive director of sales development for W magazine. He spoke at the recent LUXURY by JCK show in Las Vegas, where he detailed a new W survey of affluent women in households with annual incomes topping $100,000.

It found Originals—its name for affluent women who “create trends, move the market, are stylish, and are ambassadors for brands they buy”—spend more on average on fine jewelry and watches ($24,248) than the national average for affluent people ($6,341).

Clarkin said the average woman fine-watch collector owns at least three watches—casual, dress, and evening—and 25 percent of those surveyed bought a fine watch in the prior 12 months. An Original spends on average $4,357 on a fine watch, versus $808 for the typical affluent consumer, he noted. Originals also heavily influence other people’s buying of watches or jewelry.

The survey found women still prefer stores for their purchases. “Eighty-five percent go to stores to see and touch pro-ducts,” said Clarkin. Independent retail jewelers were frequented by 46 percent. But Clarkin noted that e-commerce Web sites are gaining a foothold. Some 18 percent of those surveyed buy jewelry and watches online.

The W survey also found that purchasing accessories like handbags has a higher priority for these women than buying jewelry or watches, so he urged jewelers to market them like accessories that are “generational keepsakes” with “permanent high value.”