Double-digit gains for jewelry sales

by December 16, 2013

It’s that blingy time of year when even many of us no-frills types gravitate to a little sparkle, whether around our necks, on our fingers or destined for someone else’s stocking or gift bag.

Ring shopping at Tiffanys

U.S. jewelry store sales rose 14.8 percent year on year in October. Photo: The Plain Dealer

And with jewelry stores enjoying a nice year-to-date sales gain, you might want to tap this segment for some interesting business and economy features that will add shine to your holiday coverage.  For example, how’s this for an eye-catching juxtaposition of traditional and high-tech:  Jewelers are using 3D printing methods to create rings and other jewelry!  Fox News reports on one New York City jeweler that lets customers design their own pieces from home;  the 3D printer extrudes the wax model of the piece and (in a nutshell) the model is used to create a mould for casting the metal findings of the jewelry.  The precision and time saved — artisans typically would carve the wax by hand — can be passed on to consumers.  Here’s a round-up of related stories about printing precious metals and jewelry from the online publication 3D Printing Industry. What a fascinating development; what does it bode for mass-market jewelry makers, custom designers, artisans and even repair-persons?

(Note, this just-out press release on the type of printer jewelers may use says dental labs are using the same technology;  might want to file that away for a future piece on how skilled human technicians can be replaced by a printer.)

Eye jewelry.  Another offbeat and hot-off-the-press bling trend is eye jewelry, in which a tiny metal doodad is implanted on the eyeball, as this USNews.com story reports. While nascent, and somewhat tangential to the retail jewelry industry, the trend is bizarre enough that you might want to check in with area eye doctors about any inquiries for the delicate surgery.

Retail stores. Rapaport, an industry publication, reported that October jewelry store sales in the U.S. were up 15 percent year over year; — the double-digit showing in this category far outperforms the October sales reported by most national chain retails of apparel, electronics and other goods, according to this Wall Street Journal round-up

It seems to follow the trend of consumers beginning to give in to pent-up demand for big-ticket items and fulfills this IBM Big Data forecast from earlier in 2013 that jewelry sales would post double-digit growth.  Census Bureau figures on monthly retail sales do seem to reflect a gain since the depths of the recession; you can get monthly historical data for the jewelry store segment in the bureau’s Monthly Retail Trade report.

It’s a good time to check on which of your community’s independent jewelers survived the past five years, how the remaining ones (and their craftspersons) fare, and what sales trends they’re seeing.  Is demand being driven by milestone purchases like engagement rings, or by individuals indulging in high-end every day wear?

Ethical jewelry.  Consulting firm KPMG is out with a report that says younger consumers are concerned about ethics of the trade for and origins of the materials their goods are made of; this report was cited in several jewelry industry publications I skimmed; you might focus on this market and find out what manufacturers and retailers are doing (or say they are doing) to respond to concerns.

Metals prices.  Gold prices have been dipping as investors gain confidence in the economy and while that won’t necessarily help with current retail jewelry prices (items currently for sale were made with metal purchased at higher cost) the trend does have implications for jewelry buyers at retail stores, online outlets, artisanal galleries and even what people who work craft fairs are planning to design and make for the coming year.

Estate and antique jewelry. Always a picturesque and intriguing segment of the market; ask dealers and merchants about what they are seeing in terms of supply and demand.