Industry Experts Weigh In On Trends, Forecasts
written by Paul Holewa
Even as inflation continues upward, food and commodity prices increasing as well as escalations in oil and gas, economists and industry experts foresee a favorable holiday season ahead. In February, with Christmas 2020 barely in the review mirror, eMarketer boldly predicted that US holiday retail sales will rise 2.7 percent to $1.1 trillion while ecommerce sales will increase 11.3 percent to $206.9 billion.
In an August 11, 2021, The Conference Board posted its 2H forecast for 2021 stating that: “We expect consumer spending to improve in H2 2021.” That favorable forecast is, however, tempered with spending to be “moderate” for US consumers and new COVID variants (at press time Delta) “presents a downside risk to consumer spending.” Other favorable economic news includes nagging supply chain issues to the resolved in time for the holiday shopping season.
The upside for retail jewelers this year, and the upcoming holiday season, is US consumers are showing increased interest in in-person shopping. Linda Spil, president of Samuel Spil Company, agrees as her clients are getting the jump on holiday spending long before decorating jewelry stores with red and green.
“Our retailers are not waiting for Black Friday or the holiday season to start offering more promotional items,” says Linda. “They are having more events in their stores with give-a-ways.”
Inflation may be the hot economic topic, but Linda is of the opinion that COVID lockdowns and restrictions will counter rises in consumer essentials such as food and gas. “I do not feel inflation will have any effect on holiday 2021,” says Linda. “I feel since the opening back up from COVID shoppers have adjusted their spending to allow for more luxury items – jewelry. There is also more of an emotional connection to the jewelry item. Jewelry’s emotional worth has gone up.”
Going in to the upcoming holiday season Linda remains bullish on jewelry’s post-lockdown emotional worth uptick with “increases in all categories [earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings]” as well as “an increase in interest in yellow gold.”
As a jewelry manufacturer, Linda is seeing strong interest in “hearts and religious items [crosses] as well as paper clip items.” She added that diamond essentials including solitaire pendants and diamond studs are strong sellers in the lead up to the holiday season and pearls “are trending,” as evidenced by sales and Linda’s observation of pearl jewelry seen in leading fashions reads.
Rosy outlooks aside, retailers should always have alternatives for price-point driven shoppers, which will continue to be a factor for the foreseeable future. Spil Company has recently added silver set with diamonds to its bridal offerings. And, Linda encourages retailers to stock up on sterling silver set with CZs and diamonds and 10K gold set with colored stones items for $100 (retail) or under items.
Supply chain issues are set to be wrapped up in time for the holidays, according to experts. But that’s on the domestic front. With the global colored stone industry heavily reliant on slow-moving supply chains in hubs such as Thailand, India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Myanmar (Burma), goods are not meeting demand, in the USA and other international markets, according to Oke Millett, president of Discovery Gems & Jewellery.
Still, consumer demand marches on and for most of this year teal and any gemstones that are blue/green have been “hot as of late,” says Oke. “Blue/green sapphire, blue/green tourmaline, blue/green ANYTHING has been moving – even teal Moisssanite.”
One hiccup to this year’s blue/green colored stone consumer interest is the names people are attaching to the trend. Retailers should be mindful that teal or blue/green is trade terminology. Average consumers are using terms such as “peacock” or “lagoon.” Oke points to social media as the culprit for so many consumer references to the trending color combination. Watch for buyers to pull out their mobile devices and say, “like this,” says Oke.
Oke is in agreement with many industry experts on COVID factoring into his holiday season outlook. “I would predict the ‘sweet spots’ will be moderate, with a market for single high-end pieces,” says Oke. “My reasoning behind this is that I expect consumers will want to mark the ‘close’ [hopefully] of the pandemic with something special. With economic stimulus, and strong stock and real estate markets, mid-range jewelry gifts will be attainable for many consumers.”
For this holiday season and into 2022, Oke sees “bright and vivid colors” selling well in the lead up to the holiday season. “Consumers are showing little interest in muted tones and pale colors, such as morganite,” says Oke.
In stocking colored stones for Christmas Oke strongly suggests blue/green on color as well as traditional blues that have a bright or vivid quality – sapphires, tourmaline, zircon and topaz. Unusual gemstones such moonstones and spinel are also doing well, especially gray and neutral colors. And, bi-colors are hugely popular.
The reopening of the economy this past spring brought customers back to retail stores with purpose and passion. For many retail jewelers their customers were buying everything from small charms to high-end jewelry. Roy Ben-Aharon and Ritchie Grampp assisted us with Diamond trends. “If you had inventory or the ability to source it you were making sales,” says Ritchie Grampp, the President of Bluestone Trading Company.
Jewelry purchases of all types showed the resiliency of spending post lockdown. With travel bans still in place “the jewelry industry wasn’t competing with the travel industry,” says Ritchie, a feat unseen in recent history.
The buying trend will carry into this holiday season. It is predicted that consumers will spend about the same on jewelry this year as last. However, with inflation purchases “won’t go as far as used to,” says Ritchie. “Smaller items at higher prices. And, travel, as far as we know now, will resume and compete for jewelry dollars again.”
In the months leading up to the holiday season, the sales momentum of diamond essentials will continue through the new year. “Stock plenty of diamond studs, hoop earrings, line bracelets, and diamond pendants as well as stackable rings and bangles,” says Ritchie. “And be sure to prepare your staff for an influx of custom work.”
Gearing up for the busiest time of the year, Ritchie has his list, and he’s checked it twice, forecasting diamond fashions under $2,000 including stackable bangles, bands, pendants, and charms. The retail range for diamond studs is projected at $500 to $5,000 while diamond bracelets are priced at $1,000 to $5,000.
For Christmas, Ritchie says: “Stock plenty of diamond studs and line bracelets. Both of these categories are up 300 percent [in sales] compared to recent years.” Diamond-set silver jewelry is a steal under $350 while lab-grown diamond jewelry (for those that stock it) looks to sell at prices ranging from $250 to $3,500. As expected, diamond-set custom jewelry is strong at all price point categories.
The engagement season for Mid-American consumers features round diamonds as the favorite followed by ovals, marquises, and rectangular radiants from .5- to 2.0-carats in size with bridal holiday prices between $2,500 to $7,000. However, “On the coasts and larger cities, we’re selling lots of 1.5- to 4.0-carat center stones,” says Ritchie. “Sweet spot prices will range from $10,000 on up to as much as $50,000 and more.