Gifts that Tell a Story

Purchasing gifts for friends and loved ones, even for oneself is a way for consumers to shift focus from the uncertainty and stress of the pandemic to celebrating the holidays.


The National Retail Federation (NRF), in its holiday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, finds consumers plan to spend, on average just shy of $1,000 on purchases for themselves and their families during the holiday season. Consumer spending is on par with last year, and expected spending remains higher than the five-year average, reports the NRF.

One in five (19%) holiday shoppers say that they typically travel for the holidays but will stay home instead this year. Over half (53%) of those who changed holiday travel plans said they’re likely to spend more on holiday items in lieu of it.

CNBC reported in articles dated Nov. 16 and 25 how shoppers are seeking personalized, thoughtful holiday gifts to feel connected during the pandemic. Among the examples shared was jewelry with stories that resonate during the pandemic.

The reports referenced Signet Jewelers latest collections at its retail stores including Jared, Zales and Kay — “Closer Together” with a design of two entwined ovals that can signify how the challenging time has brought a couple closer; and “Everything You Are” designed with five unique diamonds to celebrate the many facets of a woman.

“The most popular products will be the ones connected to stories and/or events, because consumers crave connection to products,” says Bruce Pucciarello, CEO of Novell, subsidiary of Continental in Rahway in New Jersey.

Theresa Namie, merchandise manager for Ostbye concurs, recognizing the opportunities jewelry presents to tell stories. Popular for the Minneapolis, Minnesota-manufacturer in this vein have been birthstone family jewelry; its silver coin-style Diva collection with initials and sayings; and String Of collection marking Love (heart), Celebration (whimsical woven motif), Faith (cross), and Forever (infinity).

Engagement Boom
Drosos told CNBC that Signet expects pandemic-fueled romance to buoy sales this year. “Couples have accelerated moving in together and grown closer during the pandemic — and that may lead to more engagements,” according to the company’s internal research. She said several sales associates at Signet stores have gotten ordained and officiated at about a dozen weddings in store or in the curbside pickup line during the pandemic.

Bridal continues to be the sweet spot in jewelry sales as more couples are getting engaged during these COVID times, Neil Shah, of Shah Luxury, New York finds as well. “Whether out of sentiment or fear, people are not waiting to get engaged.” And, with couples spending less on the wedding and travel, they’re spending more on their rings, and buying larger stone, he reports, noting that many couples are buying rings ready for delivery. “They don’t want to wait.”

Michael Lerche, President and COO of the New York-based Goldstar, hails bridal and anniversary to be the driving pillars for this diamond jewelry manufacturer to the majors. “Many retailers have told us the same.” In the bridal arena, he finds that basic and simple styling is leading the way. But fancy shape centers — oval, pear and princess — are much more popular than in previous years.

Just Want to Sparkle
Beth Goldstein, an industry analyst for fashion, footwear and accessories at NPD Group says some people see jewelry as a refreshing change, tiring of sweatpants. Over 50 percent of consumers said they miss getting dressed up for events such as work, special occasions, and social events, according to an NPD poll of about 1,000 people across the U.S. in September.

Jewelry, Goldstein said, may be seen as an investment that they can use for social gatherings well into the future and can “tap into the things consumers are missing particularly around the holiday times.” Shoppers may also look to jewelry as an alternative to experiential gifting, which has fallen from favor as people can’t go to the theater or spend a day at the spa.

Novell is promoting dreams of bling this holiday season, diamond, sapphire, ruby and emerald designs in its new Holiday E-Cat on the “Together” product information platform. “The E-Cat can be supplied as a link for websites or as a PDF so retailers can send out to their email lists or print,” Pucciarello explains.

Jeffrey Cohen, president Citizen Watch America in New York, notices this holiday season a growing uptick in self-purchasing versus watch gifting. “Many consumers are rewarding themselves with the purchase of a new watch to add to their wardrobe.” He says men’s bracelet watches in stainless steel continue to dominate sell through numbers for both Citizen and Bulova. For women, bracelets sell far better than straps, with yellow and rose gold trending.

With all the virtual meet-ups professionally and socially, consumers are looking for “Zoom” worthy jewelry to spice up their on-screen look. Drosos told CNBC that she has been surprised by the jump in sales of earrings and pendants with just that in mind. She noted that customers have gravitated more to colored stones, including in engagement rings. “That’s one of the ways customers are bringing color, life and light back into their lives.”

After the first few weeks of lockdown and working from home, many realized that this wasn’t just temporary and had to adjust their approach to work and personal presentation, concurs Cora Lee Colaizzi, marketing director and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold, Fairfield, Ohio. “Putting on jewelry right before a Zoom call, makes most feel polished and professional.”

Colaizzi namedrops paperclip jewelry styles to be at the height of gold fashion. “They can be worn with anything, and translate visually for ease of sale online.” Namie concurs, adding that gold is making a strong comeback, especially in hoop earrings, which she describes as giving us something else to look at besides a mask.