Whether it’s coincidence or kismet, as soon as I slated this post for Friday’s newsletter, I began reading stories addressing the issue that’s been on my mind for some time: the shrinking of the middle class.
On Monday, Bloomberg published a story quoting Johann Rupert, the executive chairman of Richemont (Cartier, Van Cleef, Jaeger-LeCoultre, etc.) who regularly ranks among the world’s billionaires.
In a speech at a luxury summit in Monaco, Rupert listed the erosion of the middle class, and his belief that it will have negative effects on the sale of luxury goods because those who are wealthy won’t want to flaunt it, as one of the issues that keeps him up at night.
“How is society going to cope with structural unemployment and the envy, hatred and the social warfare?” he said, according to Bloomberg. “We are destroying the middle classes at this stage and it will affect us. It’s unfair.”
The story quoting Rupert came just one day after The Daily Beast published a column stating that the malls that are thriving are those that cater to the wealthiest consumers.
Mr. Rupert, I agree. The decline of the quality of life for members of the middle class concerns me not just because my job is in the fine jewelry industry, but because I am member of the middle class.
I grew up outside of Pittsburgh, in a sea of small run-down mill towns that have been in decline since the 1970s and which society long ago stopped caring about; no hipsters, breweries or shops selling $30 jars of organic mayonnaise there. It’s the just the same buildings that have been decaying since I was a kid in the 1980s.
“Jewelers need to change with it. This includes being willing to stock lower-priced, and higher-margin, silver and/or fashion lines .”