Although the annual year-end holiday gifting season receives the lion’s share of retailer attention, the reality is that gifting represents a large marketing opportunity throughout the year. Next to Christmas and the back to school shopping seasons, Mother and Valentine’s days are key gifting times, especially for fine jewelry and watches. Then, there’s Father’s Day and graduation season, where jewelry has tremendous room to grow as a keepsake gift.
But really everyday is a holiday for someone—birthdays, anniversaries and weddings happen throughout the year. People celebrate achievements, need encouragement, embrace friendship and so much more that fine jewelry and watches have lasting meaning and value.
Unity Marketing found in recent luxury market research that Christmas gift spending has been flat from 2010 to 2015, but overall spending on gifting increased 6.4%, during that five-year period. This signals opportunity for retailers to grow their share of the gifting market by attracting gift shoppers throughout the year for other holidays and gifting occasions.
“Retailers must help customers identify good gift choices for all occasions,” purports Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, Stevens, Pennsylvania. For the typical gifters, Christmas accounts for less than half their total gift-giving budget. The majority of gift purchases are made the rest of the year. “Retailers need to understand the gift buying and shopping behavior of customers to attract them and meet their needs with suitable gift ideas and shopping experiences.”
Recognizing the opportunity is the first step, then take action, advocates Danziger. The gifting market totals some $131 billion, estimates Unity. About 10% of total sales in GAFO-type stores (general merchandise, apparel, home furnishings and other stores by the Census Bureau) are attributed to gift buying.
Gift shopping is significantly more important for some types of retailers than others with Unity research citing that for jewelers more than one in three sales are gift related. A leading gift for holidays of love, jewelry realized nearly $5 billion of the $19 billion spent for Valentine gifts; and $4.3 billion of the $21 billion spent on gifts for mom.
Spending for Father’s day this year reached $12.7 billion, with four in 10, almost 40% buying apparel and accessories like dress shirts and neckties to the tune of $1.7 billion—ideal for cufflinks, tie bars and other jewelry hardware. Moreover, gift spending for the spring graduation season reached nearly $4.8 billion, an all-time high in the survey’s 10-year history, with apparel and accessories among the top presents next to electronics, gift cards and cash. There is lots of room to grow gifts of jewelry and watches for Father’s Day and graduation.
Beyond these specific occasions, every day there is a reason to celebrate. Jewelers who succeed in gift sales are prepared with the right merchandise and promote what they have to their consumers in a way that inspires and excites.
“Curate and merchandise a unique collection, then visually display/feature it in a beautiful presentation,” advocates Kathy Grenier, marketing director for Imperial Pearl in Providence, Rhode Island. “Promote your store as the source for the newest and finest for all annual gift-giving occasions. Always have an assortment ready and stocked, customers need gifts to buy, be their reliable source.”
For all these seasonal shopping occasions and reasons to celebrate, the retail sweet spot for entry price is between $100 and $300.
Top Gift Trends
Top gift items for holidays of love, birthdays and more are personalized with details like initials, dates and birthstones, reports Renee Miller, director of sales and merchandising for Alison & Ivy, a Fantasy Diamond brand, based in Chicago. She describes the messaging as subtle. “Instead of a necklace proclaiming Jane and John, it’s J + J or the date they met. Next to numbers and initials, Morse code messaging is popular for us. The trend for secret messaging in jewelry is particularly popular for men.” She also cites monograms trendy for men on cufflinks, collar stays, signet rings, and dog tags, even watch faces.
Accessories that can be personalized resonate with men, says Jonathan Goodman Cohen of IB Goodman, Newport, Kentucky. “We think engraved jewelry items are a very personal keepsake, memorable and classic. Cufflinks are a wonderful way to accessorize a man’s wardrobe and there are so many styles to choose from that individualism can be easily expressed, novelty or classic—whether stainless steel, silver and enamel, or gold and gems.” He also cites tie bars, and unique key chains and money clips as top choices for gents.
Iconic symbols like the heart remain a go-to gift for many shoppers, notes Courtney Galloway for Breuning in Lawrenceville, Georgia. “Hearts are always big for any occasion of love, especially new twists on classic styles.” She also sees the infinity symbol and spiral designs as popular motifs for these occasions. New takes on iconic symbols include organic and abstract forms, or different metal treatments, gem accents and special details, describes Samir Sanghani, senior vice president of sales for Verigold, New York City.
Moreover, timeless diamond designs always sell well for all of these occasions including studs, pendants and line bracelets, hails Nick Parekh for Laxmi Diamond, New York. He notes that while carat weights are rising, jewelers must be able to offer well-priced, well-made entry level designs in the ¼ to ½ carat total weight range that bring customers into the store for gifts of jewelry. He also reports that stud and pendant sets are bestsellers. Sanghani notes that small hoops and diamond or gem front-to-back earrings are top gift choices.
It’s not just jewelry that resonates as gifts of love, but also watches. Samantha Barker public relations and social media coordinator for Citizen Watch, Lyndhurst, New Jersey notes that watches offer the ideal mix of sentiment and practicality. Watch trends embrace a broad spectrum of personalities form fashion styles with interchangeable bezels and bands to sports watches big on function to elegant diamond timepieces.
“Watches make a wonderful statement to mark special occasions and holidays,” describes Rachel Kirschenbaum, global communications coordinator for Bulova, New York City. “A beautiful diamond watch for a woman, an elegant accurate timepiece for a man is a stylish accessory, symbol of love, gesture of appreciation and recognition of fine craftsmanship.”
Power of Suggestion
Consumers are open to gift ideas that will help them simplify the search and make them look good, so jewelers must pitch products that are both occasion-themed and on-trend bestsellers in affordable prices, especially jewelry that can be personalized.
Offering your own gift guide helps to narrow the focus for consumers and gets them thinking about the possibilities, advises Galloway. “It’s a starting point that gets people in the door and opens conversations. With all the competition in the marketplace, jewelers have to put themselves out there talking about the possibilities in store, online and through traditional marketing.”
Keep jewelry gifts front of mind by merchandising selections, developing scenes throughout the store. “It doesn’t have to be overpowering,” shares Denise Cabrera, product manager, display and packaging, Rio Grande, a Richline company, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Use props, special fabrics and paper, photography, and other elements that call attention to these gifting opportunities.” Plant the seeds in signage and marketing messages, advocates Liz Chatelain of MVI Marketing and Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council, San Luis Obispo, California: “Retailers should be asking things like, ‘Whose Birthday Is It Today?”
Marketing experts encourage jewelers to host in store events, cross promote with noncompeting businesses, make charity connections, offer special discounts or free-gift-with-purchase, and provide complimentary gift-wrap, which Cabrera advises doesn’t take a lot of time or big investment but adds to the experience.
With most consumers, especially millennials doing a bulk of their product research online (and one fourth of their purchases), jewelers must be engaging conversations on their website and social media platforms. “Social media has got to be a merchant’s best and most cost effective opportunity to expand customer relationships,” says Chatelain. “Build a conversation with the community, discuss and showcase great products, and suggest gift-giving occasions.”