From the United States to Europe and Asia, growing numbers of women are deciding that they are not going to wait to receive jewelry from partners and husbands and are increasingly buying their own jewelry.
Women today are more financially independent than ever before, and they also trust their own taste rather than that of their partner or spouse. And they also want jewelry that suits their business attire. In addition, they are buying themselves jewelry as tangible evidence of their career success.
This growing market segment and the types of diamonds in the items that women choose can provide valuable market intelligence about changing trends and the types of goods that are growing in popularity for diamond and jewelry manufacturers and retailers. Is the diamond and jewelry industry taking advantage of a great marketing opportunity?
Rising female jewelry self-purchasing is coinciding with historic numbers of financially independent women who have more disposable cash available than ever before. They are proud of their independence and want firm evidence for their own self-satisfaction.
“Women make better purchases for themselves than men do,” said one jewelry designer. “You don’t send your boyfriend or husband to buy you a dress because you don’t know what he might come back with. The same principle applies to jewelry.”
The engagement ring market is being affected by this growing trend. Indeed, some jewelers say that women are so in control of their jewelry purchases that they are seeing fewer men buying engagement rings for their fiancées on their own. “Women used to basically get what they were given. The guy shopped alone and she accepted it. Now it’s completely flipped. The woman comes in alone. She already knows what she wants,” said one jeweler.
In North America, Europe and the western world in general, the traditional structure of households has changed fundamentally in the past two generations. In most families today, both the mother and father work. Fewer than 10% of American and European families live on one income. In addition, more than 90% of the decisions made about shopping in the United States are, according to surveys, made by women who carry out in excess of three-quarters of the shopping themselves. The numbers are similar for Europe and not so far off in key Asian markets.
Women are increasingly deciding how to deal with the household expenses and because of that they are also feeling more comfortable on spending part of their paycheck on products they desire.
A Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council (JCOC) study in the United States found that 23% of self-purchasing women expected to buy jewelry containing colored gemstones or cultured pearls at least once a year, while many women were likely to purchase the jewelry for the sake of fashion. They did not want to simply wait to receive a taste of luxury, especially when they know exactly what they want.
Also in the JCOC report’s finding was that half of self-purchasing women buy a piece of jewelry simply because they like it. And local jewelry retailers are responding to the power of women in luxury purchase decisions by offering wish list systems in order to clarify the preference of each woman in the case of an engagement, for example.
“It’s sort of as if a bride is registering for a wedding,” said one jeweler. “Frequently the woman will come in first, and we write down what she likes so the gentleman knows exactly what to look for.”
Some industry observers trace the start of female self-purchasing to De Beers and its advertising campaign for the right-hand ring: “Left hand is we. Right hand is me. Women of the world raise your right hand.” That was the beginning of women making the statement about their ability and power to buy themselves their own jewelry.
Following that came the three-stone ring and the right-hand ring, and it was the latter in particular that was aimed solely at women. That could be the critical point when female self-purchase really took off.
The closure of the income gap between men and women, especially in the younger age group, is clearly one of the main factors in the development of female self-purchasing. That is good for the jewelry industry because it needs to attract young women who are more likely to buy for themselves, and if it can retain those women throughout their lifetimes to keep returning to buy jewelry then that can be a very strong segment of their sales.
The first determined campaign to promote self-purchases of diamond jewelry by women dates back to the early 1980s, and was designed for the Japanese market by J. Walter Thompson on behalf of De Beers.
The relatively large number of single, working women in the Japanese labor market at the time was what led JWT to launch the ‘Diamond for Working Women‘ campaign.
Why do women buy jewelry for themselves? The answer, it appears, can be as complex and varied as the woman herself. In addition to wanting to mark an important life event, such as a special birthday, a career success, or a certain occasion, other women may simply see a particular item that appeals to their tastes or complements their wardrobe.
Research has also shown that the jewelry can often be bought as a memento of a place that has special meaning for the buyer, such as an item bought on vacation. It is also on many occasions purchased as a bond with someone the buyer cares about, such as mothers and daughters, or two best friends buying matching jewelry.
More frequently, the purchase celebrates events such as promotion at work, a significant birthday, and an important anniversary. And they are not the predictable anniversaries, such as weddings, but also events such as a year of surviving treatment for breast cancer.
Furthermore, jewelry can be a strong statement for women who are self-purchasers. Its very permanence – being made of metals such as platinum, gold or silver, and set with the hardest stones known to man – makes a persuasive case for purchase. It can be worn repeatedly, with a range of different outfits, and on many different occasions. And in the end, it can be passed on to the next generation.
Women are buying jewelry for themselves, but they are frequently doing so at venues other than traditional jewelry stores, according to a JCOC study. Chain stores remain the most popular place among women buying jewelry for themselves, followed by independent fine jewelry stores, according to the JCOC.
However, 60 percent of women buy jewelry at places other than traditional jewelry stores, and the percentage of women buying jewelry online, at department stores and at mass retailers is increasing. More than two-thirds of the 2,476 women surveyed reported that they had bought jewelry for themselves in the past, and 16 percent planned to do so within the next six months. Some 78 percent said they bought jewelry whenever they saw something they liked, and more than half said they bought it while shopping for others or to celebrate birthdays or accomplishments.
Is the retail jewelry industry making enough effort to attract self purchasing women who have become such a powerful consumer force in the marketplace? The JCOC survey concluded, “As a jewelry consumer, this demographic is largely underexploited and ignored by the broad spectrum of the jewelry industry.”
The JCOC study found that two-third of female self-purchasers in the United States, in a typical year, will buy new shoes for themselves between two and five times, while an additional 12 percent said they will purchase new shoes more than five times a year. Similarly, with clothing purchases, in a typical year 45 percent of respondents said they would buy a new dress or clothing outfit for themselves between two and five times per year while 29 percent answered more than five times per year.
“As a jewelry consumer, this demographic is largely underexploited and ignored by the broad spectrum of the jewelry industry.”
However, when it came to jewelry purchases in a typical year, just 23 percent said only once a year, while 19 percent said “not sure” and 23 percent replied “none.”
These included 57 percent saying they only “sometimes” found enough selection and choices, while 61 percent said they only sometimes find prices within their budget. The three most important value drivers in importance to these consumers in terms of shopping for this product knowing that the stones in the jewelry are real versus synthetic; having confidence in the salesperson; and being able to easily return or exchange the purchase.