Evolution of the midpoint jewelry category

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Insights and Trends - Midpoint Jewelry Category: Evolution in Consumer Preferences

Over the past five years in the United States middle market for jewelry, Signet Jewelers, with its brands Kay, Jared, and Zales, has remained the leading player, and gold and sterling silver have remained the most commonly used metals. Styles and designs have evolved, but with the vintage styles and designs declining in popularity and the nature themes becoming more prominent.

BRANDS

  • Throughout the period 2014-2017, the other popular jewelry brands in Pandora's category in the United States remained to be Zales, Tiffany, and Kay. These three brands were the major jewelry brands, apart from Pandora, that trading network Polygon had identified in 2014, 2016, and 2017, respectively.
  • In 2016, National Jeweler, the publication of Jewelers of America, reported that the top-selling jewelry sellers within Pandora's specialty retail category were Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co. Signet Jewelers owns the Kay, Jared, Zales, Sterling Jewelers, Kay Outlet, Gordons Jewelers, Mappins, Peoples, and Pagoda jewelry retail chains, which in turn, carry key brands such as Forevermark, Ever Us, Le Vian, Leo Diamond, Now & Forever, Neil Lane, Open Hearts, Vera Wang Love, and Tolkowsky. Tiffany & Co., on the other hand, carries the brands Tiffany, Elsa Peretti, Schlumberger, and Paloma Picasso.
  • According to National Jeweler, throughout 2017 and 2018, Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co. remained the top-selling specialty retailers of jewelry.
  • Signet Jewelers targets mostly mid-market customers and its three key brands, Kay Jewelers, Zales Jewelers, and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry, all target mid-market jewelry customers. Between 2015 and 2019, Kay Jewelers's stores in the United States grew from 1,094 to 1,214, while Zales's stores decreased from 706 to 658.
  • Though Tiffany & Co. offers more expensive products, the company is considered a direct competitor of Pandora.

STYLES AND DESIGNS

  • In 2014, jewelry trading network Polygon identified colored gemstones and diamonds, antique or vintage style, and art deco style as the popular styles and designs in the United States. On the other hand, in 2017, it reported that nature themes, vintage themes, retro-styled jewelry, ostentatious jewelry, square-cut diamonds, colored gems such as rubies and emeralds, and moonstones are the popular styles and designs.
  • Polygon also reported in 2014 that celebrities' jewelry purchasing habits suggested that colored stones and diamonds, art-deco-styled jewelry, and vintage-styled jewelry are becoming more popular. Additionally, Novel pearl farming techniques also led to the growing popularity of South Sea baroque pearls and Edison pearls.
  • In 2016, Polygon reported that design trends that emerged in 2014, particularly those with nature, asymmetry, and sentimentality themes, had become mainstream. It also identified colored pearls and gems, stacking rings, nature themes, choker necklaces, collars, ear cuffs, and arm cuffs as the popular styles and designs for 2016. It was also stated that flower, leaf, tree, and animal designs continued to grow in popularity.
  • In 2017, Polygon reported that while nature themes remained prominent in jewelry design, vintage-styled jewelry declined in popularity. But there were also design trends that emerged, including 70s-themed jewelry, square-cut diamonds, ostentatious or gaudy jewelry, moonstones, and colored gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, and lapis lazuli. The use of lab-grown diamonds and atypical materials such as marble, tungsten, and recycled materials grew as well.

METALS

  • Sales of platinum jewelry in the United States, covering all price points, grew by 11% in 2018. By that year, platinum jewelry sales had been growing for five years in a row, which were inferred to be driven by bridal requirements.
  • Sales of silver jewelry in the country covering all price points, on the other hand, has been growing for nine consecutive years, with 2017 having an increase of 17% in sales.
  • Gold jewelry sales in the United States had been declining since 2013, and it was only in 2017 that sales had recovered, with an increase in sales of 3%.
  • However, the fact that most of Zales's products are made of gold and sterling silver can indicate that despite the growing sales of platinum jewelry, the middle market, or a significant portion of it, may still have a preference for the less expensive gold and sterling silver. Zales, which targets the mid-market and which is also owned by one of the leading players in jewelry middle market (namely Signet Jewelers), would not offer a mostly gold and sterling silver jewelry product lineup if it is not what a significant number of consumers demand or want.
  • For example, when it comes to rings, Zales has 15,143 gold rings, 5,677 sterling silver rings, and 368 platinum rings on offer. For earrings, Zales has 3,973 gold earrings, 2,898 sterling silver earrings, and 44 platinum earrings.
  • Gold and silver were also the metals most commonly used in 2014 because Polygon reported that most jewelry products offered in that year by mid-market jewelry brand Pandora were made of gold and sterling silver.
  • Based on Polygon's 2017 report, non-traditional metals for men's jewelry at Kay Jewelers, a mid-market jewelry brand, are becoming more popular. Examples of these unconventional metals include stainless steel and tungsten.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

In determining how the preferences of midpoint-priced jewelry consumers have changed over the past 5-10 years, we employed a number of strategies. First, we determined if the evolution or transformation of midpoint-priced jewelry in the United States is readily available in the public domain. Since the topic of interest is the evolution of consumer preferences, we looked for articles or reports covering this exact topic. This initial strategy, unfortunately, produced very little relevant information. Missouri-based Noe's Jewelry has published an article describing how jewelry trends have evolved in the past 100 years, but since the time period covered is too wide, very little information was provided on trends in the 2010s. California-based Calla Gold Jewelry has also released an article about the evolution of jewelry, but the article was focused on the emergence of high-tech jewelry.

Second, we checked which firms or organizations should we to track or study in the jewelry industry. As it is likely that these organizations periodically release reports that cover midpoint-priced jewelry brands, styles, and metals and that media outlets most likely refer to these reports, we figured finding these firms is the best place to start. Through this second strategy, we found that Edahn Golan, Polygon, National Jeweler, and the De Beers Group all release reports and articles on the industry, but both Edahn Golan and De Beers focus on diamonds. Several market research firms that cover numerous industries also track the jewelry industry. Koncept Analytics, IBISWorld, and First Research are among them, but the full versions of their reports are paywalled and these reports' corresponding summaries contain limited information. The reports we found most helpful were Polygon's reports on jewelry retailing trends in 2014, 2016, and 2017. These reports contain several details about popular brands, styles, designs, and materials. Comparing these reports, we were able to see how consumer preferences have evolved. The major brands that were mentioned in these reports also indicate that the findings apply to the specific category Pandora operates in.

Third, we looked for Pandora's direct competitors and checked how their offerings have changed over time. We figured that companies directly operating in the midpoint-priced jewelry category are aware of consumer preferences and therefore offer products in line with these preferences. As Pandora is a specialty retail chain, its top competitors appear to be Signet Jewelers, Fred Meyer Jewelers, Helzberg Diamonds, Swatch Group, Swarovski AG, Diamonds International, Tiffany & Co., and Samuels Jewelers. These are the leading specialty retail chains that sell jewelry, according to National Jeweler. By looking at these companies' public disclosures these past two years and five years ago, we were able to gather a number of helpful insights. For example, by comparing the 2015 and 2019 annual reports of Ohio-based Signet Jewelers, we were able to determine how the popularity of various Signet brands has evolved.

Since these strategies returned little information about the metals commonly used in mid-market jewelry and only gave details about how overall sales of gold, silver, and platinum have grown, we looked at the offerings of mid-market jewelry brands. We used the Zales website as Zales is a mid-market brand and it allows users to filter and count products by metal type. Using Zales's website and Polygon's reports, we gained insight into the popular metal types.
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