Expect big holiday sales on everything but the bling

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Retailers have already signaled big sales are coming for the holidays — with one major, sparkly exception.

Stores are looking to offload overstocks of clothes, shoes, toys, gadgets and furniture. But jewelry might evade all that deep discounting.

That’s because holiday jewelry sales have been on fire over the last two years. On an annual basis they surged 32% in 2021 and 26.2% in 2020, according to MasterCard’s SpendingPulse report that tracks retail spending from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 , the peak period for year-end gift shopping each year.

“Jewelry is in good shape heading into this holiday season,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry adviser with NPD Group. He expects consumers will gravitate to bling because they perceive it to be a “good investment gift, so spending limits by consumers will feel better spent on jewelry.”

Fine jewelry like diamond studs and necklaces — and maybe even an engagement ring — have historically been popular gift options, but a few trends are pushing its popularity even higher, Cohen said.

There aren’t many new flashy, lavish tech products to compete with jewelry this year. More importantly, jewelers aren’t struggling with excess inventory that has plagued much of the retail industry.

“With no real overstock position, [jewelry] retailers are not anxious” and don’t see the need to run big sales, he said.

Signet Jewelers — the largest jewelry company in the US and owner of Zales, Kay Jewelers and Jared — highlighted these trends in its most recent earnings call, with the company also seeing stronger demand for higher-priced items.

“This is reflected in the fastest jewelry growth being luxury-price tiers, followed by accessible luxury,” Signet CEO Gina Drosos told analysts during the call earlier this month. Signet said it is seeing the strongest sales growth in the $1,000 and higher pricepoints in general, and in the $4,000 to $5,000 and $10,000 range, especially for bridal jewelry.

The company is increasing the amount higher-priced offerings to cater to growing demand from wealthier customers, Drosos said. But Signet is also navigating the impact of inflation on value-focused shoppers by expanding its assortment of affordable jewelry, such as pieces with much lesser-priced lab-created diamonds instead of natural diamonds.

Heading into the holiday season, Signet said it has a “healthy level of inventory” to meet demand but the amount of stock is down year-over-year.

“This gives us the confidence that we are well-positioned to deliver newness with minimal levels of clearance for the holidays,” Joan Hilson, Signet’s chief financial and strategy officer, said in a statement earlier this month.

Paul Zimnisky, an independent jewelry industry analyst, said Signet’s comments indicate that consumers should not expect big sales or liquidation deals.

“I do not expect discounting. However, I expect that a lot of jewelers will likely be stocking lower-priced merchandise options,” said Zimnisky.