The fourth quarter is not the moneymaker it once was as shopping behaviors have changed with consumers going online to select, research and buy gifts anytime. A five-year study released in 2015 by Unity Marketing reports Christmas gift spending flat since 2009, while overall spending on gifting increased 7%. About 45% of consumers’ annual gift spending in the last year went to Christmas, down from 48% in 2009, with yearly retail sales quarter-to-quarter flattening out.
Back in 1995, about one third of retailers’ sales were made in the last three months of the year, in 2014 it dropped to 29%, says Pam Danziger, president of the Stevens, Pennsylvania based marketing firm. She says the opportunity for retailers to grow their share of the gifting market, estimated to be more than $131 billion, rests on attracting gift shoppers throughout the year, for other holidays and occasions like birthdays, childbirth, and anniversaries.
Valentine and Mother’s days remain key gift-giving occasions for jewelry, which ranks as the top choice for at least a quarter of consumers, says National Retail Federation Consumer Spending Surveys, with room to grow. For Valentine’s Day this year, the NRF estimates spending to reach about $20 billion, up from last year’s almost $19 billion, and a survey high, with jewelry accounting for a quarter ($4.4 billion). For Mother’s Day, total spending is estimated to reach $21.4 billion, up slightly from last year’s $21.2 billion, with $4.2 billion of that in jewelry.
Father’s Day, while not traditionally a big jewelry-gifting occasion, has enormous potential. Total spending this year is expected to reach $14.3 billion, finds the NRF, the highest in the survey’s 13-year history. Apparel and personal care items rank among the top gifts given, signaling more interest in men’s appearance and style. Jonathan Cohen, president of IB Goodman, Newport, Kentucky sees the potential, citing the success of its latest “Wingman” campaign promoting go-to gifts for the men you count on—dad, best man, sweetheart, with customers attracted to its latest “Americana Collection”, made in the USA.
It’s about creating cultural imperatives for jewelry as a gift for different occasions, says Scott Rauch, president SHR Jewelry Group, a division of SDC Designs, New York, who hopes to do that for the birth of a child with its Miracle Links customizable necklace. “Next to marriage, no other occasion has a specific product associated with it.” MVI Marketing, which conducted research for SHR, cites significant potential for year-round sales in this category, with 4 million births every year, 1.6 million first-time moms, and 85 million mothers in the U.S. Most women would like jewelry as a “push present” and most men would give it if they knew what to get.
Personal & Collectible
Personalization is key for any special gift—whether it’s a holiday of love, birthday or other occasion. Products including initials, engravings, charms, and iconic symbols (heart, infinity, intersecting circles, religious themes) remain go-to presents, with brands like Chrysalis and Alison and Ivy offering great examples.
The stacking and layering trends are inspiring the mix of meaningful jewelry like charms, hails Dave Maine for Chrysalis, a London-based Richline brand known for its adjustable bangle charm bracelets. “The trend has progressed from bangles to layering necklaces, stacking rings, and even multiple piercings, which we’ve extended our range to include.” He says the collectible nature of charm jewelry offers consumers many ways to easily identify gifts.
The tendency to stack also resonates with men, who are mixing bracelet styles like chain, leather and beads, and layering pendant necklaces, says Rauch. Maren Pfister, merchandise manager, Ostbye, Minneapolis, Minnesota also sees the trend popular in stackackable diamond and gemstone bands for Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and childbirth.
But Pfister hails diamonds a no fail gift, citing the company’s Shimmering Diamonds line successful because it comes in a variety of styles and price points. “With the breadth of assortment there are many options from classic to fashion forward so everyone can find their sparkle.” She suggests the company’s Diamond Marriage Symbol® and 2Us™ collections—different takes on the two-stone concept—popular for holidays of love and anniversaries.
Moreover, almost everyone has an emotional connection to pearls, cites Kathy Grenier, marketing director for Imperial Pearl in Providence, Rhode Island. “They’re an iconic gift that’s always appropriate.” Similarly to diamond, pearls are chameleon-like gems that effortlessly go with any metal, stone or design elements paired with them. While there is so much variety, pearl basics continue to be timeless gifts including necklaces and earrings.
Watches also make great gifts to mark special moments in time. Priscilla-Marie Ilarraza for Seiko, notes that technology is a huge factor when deciding on a gift for men, with traditional watches that hold cutting edge technology popular; and fashion is important for women who tend to mix smaller, jewelry-inspired watch styles with stacking bracelets.
How You Sell It
“Success today is less about what you sell, and more about how you sell it,” says Danziger.
Pam Levine, Levine Luxury Branding, New York advises jewelers create an environment that’s immersive and inspiring, encouraging participants to tell a great story about the brand. “Seamlessly weave and fully integrate digital activation and social media with every facet of the marketing mix to leverage user generated content and participation”. “It’s more about connections and memorable experiences than a brand look-at-me moment.” She suggests developing themes around color and language (letters, names, inspirational words) that provide escape, ideas, and guidance.
Jewelers should keep gift ideas front of mind by subtly setting scenes, says Denise Cabrera, product manager, display and packaging, Rio Grande, a Richline brand in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Use props, interesting fabrics and paper, photography, and signage that call attention to gifting opportunities. Consumers faced with myriad options want the direction.”
In fact, identifying bestsellers have proven to be a winning formula for Ostbye and its customers, says Pfister, noting its Top 10 Gifts Program that calls out popular gift ideas in a range of prices.
Levine also encourages jewelers to host meaningful events, invite specialists like stylists and wedding planners, cross promote with non-competing businesses, and partner with charities. She hails the before and after integral parts of the shopping experience, noting that retailers can more effectively use their virtual reality to nurture the front and back ends of the experience, encouraging story and picture sharing, contests, and more. Happiness is as much about how we look forward to and look back on an event, as it is the event itself.