Yancy Weinrich, who heads the JCK jewelry shows, presented the results of a recent jeweler survey at a breakfast held Friday morning, before the opening of the 2018 edition of JCK Las Vegas.
Las Vegas--If one recent survey is any indication, the industry is feeling pretty optimistic right now.

JCK Events conducted a survey in conjunction with GfK this spring and created a report based on the findings, the 2018 JCK State of the Industry Jewelry Report.

On Friday morning in Las Vegas, Reed Jewelry Group Senior Vice President Yancy Weinrich shared select highlights from the report at a breakfast held before the jewelry trade shows opened for the day.

Performed in February and March, the survey included feedback from 549 respondents. Most of them were retailers, but survey-takers also included manufacturers and wholesalers as well as some jewelry designers.

Weinrich added that 79 percent of the respondents have been in the industry for more than 11 years, meaning they’ve weathered changes before and bring a long-term perspective to the results.

When looking at the results, she said they discovered a “level of optimism about individual business prospects and the overall direction of the general economy that was striking.”

Though the male respondents were slightly more optimistic than the females, the overall sentiment was positive by a margin of two to one.

In fact, Weinrich said the confidence in the industry and future outlook for the general economy far outstrips that of the general public. Forty-six percent of those who took the jewelry survey said the economy was doing better in the last 12 months, which was nearly twice as many as who said the same in the population at large.

Those expecting continued improvement in the next year are slightly fewer than that, but still outnumber the American public by almost 50 percent.

She said the industry is “overwhelmingly positive” about the likely effects of the recent tax overhaul, with only 13 percent concerned it might hurt the economy.

In questions of trade policy, however, there was more caution and concern; more respondents were worried the changes in the policy toward the Asia-Pacific region, in particular, might hurt the economy.

Nevertheless, the industry sentiment, according to the survey, seems to be positive, especially when it comes to respondents’ own businesses.

Coinciding with the release of the survey, JCK Events introduced a number designed to reflect the state of the industry: the 2018 JCK Jewelry Industry Confidence Index, which will be based on the percentage of jewelers who express optimism regarding their stores.

For the first measure of the index, when asked how optimistic they were about their own businesses over the next 12 months, 88 percent of retailers said they were either somewhat or very optimistic.

“This is a number that we’re eager to watch over the years, testing its resilience and learning about the attitudes of our professionals in the jewelry industry over time,” Weinrich said.

When it comes to the industry’s biggest challenges, the most commonly mentioned were: online competition, overall economic climate, a lack of general consumer demand and a lack of millennial demand.

According to the survey, the top strategy for dealing with these challenges is improving the in-store buying experience, which “shows that retailers particularly believe that buying jewelry is not something that can only migrate to the virtual world,” she said.

Even with the larger number of brick-and-mortar stores closing, many in the industry aren’t behind going all-in on e-commerce, as buying jewelry goes beyond product to also include seeing and feeling pieces in person, becoming educated and being guided by a trusted professional.

The industry also is turning toward non-traditional advertising and social media as ways to drive the consumers into the store.

Eighty-one percent of survey-takers ranked social media marketing as one of their most successful business practices, while 90 percent indicated they plan to increase their efforts in this area, with Facebook and Instagram dominating.

“Social media is obviously seen as a cost-effective front for taking on online competition,” Weinrich said.

The survey also delved into lab-grown diamonds.

Though only one in five respondents reporting selling the stones, those that are in the business reported that sales were good; 62 percent said sales were up in the last year, and 78 percent expect them to increase again in the coming year.

Also among the top trends for survey-takers was the sale of “responsibly sourced jewelry,” with 73 percent reporting that they sell it, and 49 percent reporting sales were up year-over-year in 2017.

“While this may bolster the growth of blockchain in the industry in the immediate future, it also provides a foothold for lab-grown diamonds to leverage going forward,” Weinrich said.

Meanwhile, sales of watches and charms were “visibly down” from 2016 to 2017, with the former being affected by the disruption of smartwatches and wearable tech, while sales of custom pieces were up 59 percent among respondents as the customization trend across all consumer categories picks up.

The full version of the 2018 JCK State of the Industry Jewelry Report can be purchased at JCKLasVegas.com/IndustrySurvey.

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