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Holiday 2023 Recap: Fashion Jewelry Up Slightly, Luxury Jewelry Down as Market Corrects

During the summer of 2023, when economists were looking ahead to the holiday season, many predicted that American consumers would spend despite high inflation and low confidence. We would see a strong holiday season, the consensus seemed to be; the catch was that consumers would be looking for deals and discounts.

Those predictions turned out to be accurate. Spending was up overall from the previous year, but lower-priced retail was the big winner in 2023. Fashion jewelry saw some growth, but the bad news is that luxury jewelry spending was down this past holiday shopping season. Overall, jewelry sales were down 2% from the previous year.

Past Holidays: The Numbers

Strong sales in 2023 continues the trend of surprisingly strong holiday seasons going back to 2020. The 2021 holiday saw 12.7% growth over the previous year, the largest increase in 20 years, according to the New York Times. In 2022, sales rose again, this time by 5.4%. In 2023, sales rose again by 3.1%. However, there is one major caveat to the Mastercard SpendingPulse numbers: they are not adjusted for inflation.

General Retail Performance

Rather than swarming malls and shopping centers, shoppers stayed home, probably to the relief of workers at understaffed stores, and searched online for the lowest prices instead. As a result, Amazon and Etsy grew 7% in retail categories, according to Gifts & Decorative Accessories. Categories that soared during the pandemic, like home goods and electronics, suffered this year.

The jewelry sector, however, has not seen the same growth as other retail sectors. 2023 holiday sales fell 2% from the previous year, and in 2022, sales were down 5.4% from the previous year. That may not be as bad as it seems, as these declining sales are a correction from the massive sales we saw during the pandemic years, when luxury consumers really had nothing else to spend those luxury dollars on.

How Did Fashion Jewelry Perform?

The results of the 2023 holiday season for fashion jewelry were mixed at best. Just as consumers sought the lowest prices elsewhere, they sought lower-priced jewelry, as well. National Jeweler reports that while diamond fashion jewelry saw 2% fewer total units sold, the category enjoyed a slight increase in gross sales. Gold and colored stone fashion jewelry reported similar numbers.

How Did Luxury Jewelry Perform?

Continuing a trend from earlier in the year, watches continued to enjoy strong sales through the holiday season, with a 3% increase in gross sales and a 7% increase in average retail sales despite a 4% drop in total units sold. Watches accounted for 13% of December jewelry sales, compared to 10% for diamonds. Total diamond sales fell 5% compared to the previous year. Bridal engagement rings saw a 7% drop in units sold. While unit sales of loose diamonds remained steady, gross sales fell 16%, reflecting the year-long trend of falling diamond prices.

The National Jeweler piece suggests that these numbers might not be as bad as they seem, given some experts were predicting a 20-25% decline in sales over 2022. It’s a case of the market returning to normal pre-pandemic levels rather than cause for concern.

What this means for 2024

Early predictions say that 2024 will be all about personalized promotions and getting consumers back into stores. Luxury jewelry isn’t exactly a sector that offers deep discounts, so those personalized promotions may have to take different forms. Think trade-in offers and free services for customers like repairs, resizing, and cleaning. There’s also the fact that 2024 is an election year in the US to consider. The year has only just begun, though, and it’s still too early to make any solid predictions for the future.