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On Data: The Top-Performing Jewelry Categories in 2023

ColumnistsJan 09, 2024

On Data: The Top-Performing Jewelry Categories in 2023

Sherry Smith breaks down the final results for the month of December as well as for the full year.

National Jeweler columnist Sherry Smith
Sherry Smith is director of business development for data and consulting company The Edge Retail Academy. She can be reached at sherry@edgeretailacademy.com.
The performance of independent jewelers in December paints a picture of a nuanced market marked by distinct shifts across various product categories.

This period, traditionally pivotal for retailers, offers intriguing insights into consumer preferences and market dynamics.

Below is an in-depth analysis of these trends, providing a comprehensive snapshot of the industry’s performance during this key sales month.

Overall Trends
The independent channel experienced a marginal decline in sales in December, with gross sales falling by less than 1 percent.

Interestingly, while there was a 4 percent decrease in the number of units sold, the average retail sale increased by 3 percent.

Category Highlights
• Diamond earrings: Despite a 5 percent drop in sales compared with December 2022, they accounted for a significant 10 percent of the month’s total sales.

• Watches: Outperforming earrings, watches constituted 13 percent of December’s sales, showcasing resilience. They exhibited a 3 increase in gross sales and an impressive 7 percent rise in average retail sale, although there was a 4 percent decrease in units sold.

• Diamond bridal: This segment witnessed a 12 percent drop in gross sales and a 9 percent decrease in average retail sale, with a 4 percent decline in units sold.

• Diamond fashion jewelry: Results here were slightly more positive, with less than a 1 percent increase in gross sales and a 2 percent rise in average retail sale, despite a 2 percent decrease in units sold.

• Diamond bracelets: These were a December success story, with a 9 percent rise in gross sales, a 4 percent increase in units sold, and a 5 percent boost in average retail sale.

• Services: Repairs and custom jewelry increased 8 percent in gross sales and 13 percent in average retail sale despite a 4 percent decline in units sold.

Other Notable Shifts
• Gold fashion jewelry: This category exhibited a 4 percent growth in gross sales and a 5 percent increase in average retail sale, although there was a 1 percent decline in units sold. 

• Colored stone jewelry: There were mixed results here, with a 2 percent decrease in gross sales and 5 percent drop in units sold, but a 3 percent increase in average retail sale.

• Pearl jewelry: Pearls faced a 5 percent reduction in gross sales and a 10 percent decline in units sold yet saw a 5 percent rise in average retail sale.

• Sterling silver: This category had a tough month, with a 10 percent decrease in gross sales and an 11 percent fall in units sold, but a 1 percent increase in average retail sale.

 Related stories will be right here … 

Annual Overview
As we reflect on the year 2023, the independent jewelers’ journey through the past 12 months reveals a fascinating narrative of adaptation and resilience.

This annual review delves into the industry’s performance, marked by both challenges and triumphs.

In a year during which consumer habits and market dynamics continued to evolve post-pandemic, independent jewelers witnessed subtle shifts in demand across various categories.

From the steadfast allure of classic pieces to the rising popularity of certain trends, this analysis offers an overview of how independent jewelers navigated the complexities of a changing economic landscape and consumer preferences.

At the beginning of 2023 discussion varied, with some predicting a rise of up to 10 percent in sales and others advising caution with potential declines of 20-25 percent.

I was cautiously optimistic and predicted a decline, albeit only in the single digits, provided the independents continued to execute best practices.

In reality, the independent jeweler sector witnessed a mere 1 percent decrease in gross sales and a 2 percent decline in units sold in 2023, with average retail essentially holding steady.

Here’s a look at the full year’s performance on a category-by-category basis.

Diamond categories: These comprised 43 percent of the year’s total sales, slightly down from the usual 45-49 percent.

Bridal Jewelry Trends
• Diamond engagement rings: This key category experienced a downturn, with a 2 percent decrease in gross sales and a more significant 7 percent reduction in units sold, indicating shifting market dynamics in this traditional segment.

• Semi-mounts: This category also faced a decline, registering an 8 percent drop in gross sales and a 5 percent fall in units sold, reflecting changing consumer preferences.

• Loose diamonds (natural and lab-grown): This area of the business witnessed the most notable decrease, with a steep 16 percent decline in both gross sales and average retail sale, despite unit sales remaining steady. This trend highlights evolving attitudes towards different types of diamonds.

2023 Standouts
• Diamond bracelets: This category had notable success with a 5 percent increase in gross sales, coupled with a 4 percent rise in units sold and a 1 percent boost in average retail sale.

• Diamond necklaces: These demonstrated modest yet steady growth, achieving a 1 percent rise in both gross sales and average retail sale while maintaining stability in units sold.

• Fashion gold jewelry: The results here were promising, with a 1 percent uptick in gross sales. This growth underscores the renewed interest and surge in yellow gold’s popularity.

• Watches: Timepieces continued to be a robust category with an impressive 7 percent growth in both gross sales and average retail sale, overcoming a minor 1 percent decline in units sold.

• Colored stone bracelets: This category stood out with a significant 13 percent jump in gross sales, a 10 percent increase in units sold, and a 2 percent rise in average retail sale.

• Colored stone necklaces: This category wasn’t too far behind showing 9 percent growth in gross sales, a 5 percent rise in units sold, and a 4 percent increase in average retail sale.

• Sterling silver and alternative metals: The year brought mixed results for these metals. While most categories saw declines in gross sales and units sold, chains bucked the trend with a modest 1 percent increase in gross sales and a 4 percent rise in units sold.
Services

• Repair business: This category showed positive movement across all key performance indicators, albeit with slight increases.

• Custom jewelry: Although this category was strong in December, it experienced a yearly dip with a 3 percent decrease in gross sales and a 1 percent drop in both units sold and average retail sale.

Looking Ahead
While there were declines in some areas, the resilience and adaptability in others paint an optimistic picture for the future of independent jewelers.

While certain categories like diamond earrings and bridal jewelry faced downturns, others such as diamond bracelets, watches, and fashion gold jewelry showed notable growth. 

The mixed results across different segments reflect a dynamic market adapting to shifting consumer preferences and economic conditions.

The modest decline in overall sales, contrasted with the growth in average retail sale, suggests a market that is navigating through complex economic terrain successfully. It highlights the industry’s ability to retain value and customer interest even in less favorable conditions.

Looking forward, the independent jeweler’s ability to adapt and innovate will continue to be crucial. 

Embracing emerging trends, understanding consumer behavior, and focusing on high-performing categories can pave the way for sustained growth. 

The resilience shown in 2023 sets a foundation for cautious optimism as we step into the future, ready to meet new challenges and seize opportunities in the ever-evolving world of jewelry retail.

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