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Luxury Market Trends: Hope for Obama

03 june 2009

The most recent survey of affluent consumers from Unity Marketing reveals hope for economic recovery, just not too soon. According to www.jckonline.com, data shows that luxury consumers are changing their patterns of consumption, and these changes, including cutting spending on luxuries in the next twelve months, may outlast any economic downturn.

Unity Marketing's Luxury Consumption Index showed a slight improvement of 1.5 points in the latest survey of 1,034 affluents (average income $207,000). The survey was conducted April 3-8, 2009 and included questions about financial situations and luxury lifestyle, as well as luxury purchases and spending in the past three months. 

Acccording to findings, affluents are beginning to feel somewhat better about personal financial situation compared to three months ago. Likewise, they feel the country as a whole is moving in a more positive direction than they did three months ago.

Affluents are also beginning to feel more optimistic about their future financial situation in the coming twelve months.  This long term perspective is especially important since one-fourth of the affluents said their personal financial situation had declined significantly, while 39 percent said their financial situation had declined somewhat in the current economic recession.

"But despite these positive indications, over 40 percent of all the affluents surveyed said they plan to cut their spending on luxuries in the next twelve months," says Pam Danziger, president.  "So we are seeing a long, slow crawl to higher levels of affluent consumer confidence. At the same time, there continues to be trouble ahead for luxury marketers, as the affluents are holding back on their expectations about spending more on luxuries for the remainder of the year."

Tom Bodenberg, Unity Marketing's chief economist adds that there could be "an uptick in luxury consumer spending once the recession has played its course, as some affluents will relieve pent-up demand for luxury goods as a vehicle of lifestyle aspiration and expression."  However, "the media's focus on 'recession chic' – personal expression that deliberately excludes luxury goods – may leave a lingering distaste for conspicuous consumption and parading luxury labels,"says Bodenberg.

The rise in US consumer confidence was also reported by www.israelidiamond.co.il. AFNS reports that according to a survey carried out by the University of Michigan and Reuters, during the month of April US consumer confidence rose but it is still hovering at relatively low levels.

The consumer confidence index rose from 57.3 in March to 65.1. In mid-April, the estimate stood at 61.9. Economists anticipated a score of 62 for the month of April.

Richard Curtin, director of the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, stated: "Two-thirds of all consumers anticipated that the economic policies of the Obama administration will be effective in improving national economic conditions, with most of the gains anticipated over the next several years.”

The figure for April is the highest since last September. This would appear to suggest that consumers are encouraged by the current recovery in global stock markets and the possible bottoming out of the recession. In November the index plummeted to a three-decade low of 55.3.

65% of the consumers polled believe that President Obama's economic policies will lead to an improvement in the national economy, and 43% stated that they will improve their personal financial position. However, consumers still note their concern regarding personal finances and are continuing to cut down on spending.

Curtin added: "Despite the strong improvement expected in the overall economy, consumers reported only marginal gains in their job and income prospects.”

A Conference Board report also shows that consumer confidence is increasing. The U.S. consumer confidence index showed a marked rise from 26.9 in March to 39.2 in April.

08.05.2009 – Рецессия сокращает рентабельность ювелирных изделий с бриллиантами, автор: Michelle Graff

Recession shrinks diamond jewelry margins, says www.nationaljewelernetwork.com.

So much for diamonds as a best friend. For jewelers, the gems have lost some of their BFF status to the economic downturn.

Only 25 percent of those participating in National Jeweler's Product Panel reported that non-bridal diamond jewelry comprises 40 percent or more of their overall sales (compared with 36 percent who make that same claim for bridal), yet diamond necklaces, earrings and bracelets do remain a staple for many retailers.

Over the past three years, non-bridal diamond jewelry sales remained level for 48 percent of the retailers on the product panel. Sales decreased for 28 percent and increased for only 24 percent of panelists.

Inventory volume of non-bridal diamond jewelry is also holding steady, with 75 percent of panelists reporting their stock is about the same or increasing.

Reducing the price on non-bridal diamond jewelry, thereby taking lower margins, is one way retail panelists say they are coping with the economic downturn.

When asked to note the ups and the downs in the non-bridal diamond jewelry market over the past five to 10 years, one theme that came up repeatedly among respondents was poor quality, especially in pieces that include pave and micropave diamonds.

A production cut by De Beers, the world’s leading diamond producer, will help improve market dynamics for diamond this year, according to Varda Shine, managing director of the Diamond Trading Company (DTC), the distribution arm of De Beers. This has been reported by Rapaport and Business Standard. There have already been signs of improvement in demand this quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2008, she told reporters here today. Against the backdrop of the global slowdown, De Beers has decided to cut its production by 40 to 50 percent this year. According to Shine, diamond demand at the retail counter should experience a drop of between 5 and 10 percent this year, but the fall in supplies will be much larger, leading to improved stability in the industry.

To improve sales, DTC has planned a marketing campaign for the fourth quarter of this year in the U.S. that should benefit Indian traders as well. “We have earmarked a big budget for this campaign, and this will help Indian producers to sell more polished diamonds and diamond-studded jewelry in the biggest market,” Shine said.

According to www.diamonds.net, it takes more than diamond rings to keep a jeweler afloat these days. As customers rein in spending on jewelry, jewelers are finding other ways to keep their businesses going. Some do more custom work and repairs. Others are buying and reselling gold.

Like many industries, jewelry has suffered. Tiffany, a marquee name in jewelry, saw its sales decline 20 percent in the fourth quarter. It's tough locally, too. For example, Michael Phelps, owner of Michael's Custom Jewelry on Main Street in Visalia, California, said his retail jewelry sales are down about 30 percent.

Healthy jewelers are diversifying to withstand the recession, said Helena Krodel, spokeswoman for the Jewelry Information Center, a Manhattan-based trade association focusing on consumer education. "The thing that retailers really need to do is differentiate themselves and decide how they can continue to be relevant in this day and age," she said. Karkazian Jewelers in Fresno, California, is doing more custom-made pieces, said owner George Karkazian. "This is how we're surviving," he said.

Karkazian said more customers are requesting repairs at his two stores.

At Michael's Custom Jewelry, repair business has increased about 15 percent. The store uses a laser welder — instead of soldering — to make repairs. "More people are getting things repaired," owner Phelps said. "They're not willing to go out and spend the money to buy something new."

Phelps said he's been in business for 35 years and has learned to diversify to survive past recessions. "Depending strictly on retail purchases, you'd be in pretty rough financial shape," he said.

Orloff Jewelers in Fig Garden Village has made buying gold a specialty. The jeweler has bought gold jewelry — for melting down and for resale — and antiques for 50 years, said owner James Orloff. Lately, he's shifted more toward the shorter-term practice of buying gold. The jeweler has hosted several gold-buying events, sometimes with people lining up for hours.

The profit on buying gold is smaller — about 10 percent — than the 25 percent he would earn on estate jewelry that has antique value. But the turnaround time is quicker. The gold must be held for 30 days and a police report made in case it is stolen, but the store still sees a profit within weeks. Waiting for a piece of estate jewelry to sell sometimes takes six years, he said. "Although I'm not making a big profit," he said. "I'm making a lot more little profits, and that keeps my boat floating."