A View of the Future: Rising Unemployment, Lower Spending and Robots Everywhere

Finance and Trade
30/03/2016 17:09

Starting off with some of the more outlandish comments thrown out by presidential hopefuls, jewelry industry consultant Ben Janowski looks at the impact of changes to come on the economy and the jewelry business in particular. The middle class is shrinking as the number of well-paying jobs decline. "The substantial decline of the middle class, abetted by the economy's shift from manufacturing the services, has stalled the US jewelry business. For some 20 years or so, US jewelry business has stayed at about $30 billion a year, in spite of steadily rising material costs. So we sell fewer units, year by year, even as we struggle to create product at affordable prices."

Meanwhile, technology is advancing, and accelerating its impact on how we live; especially AI, artificial intelligence, which has already wiped out many jobs and will slash many more – such as secretaries, assembly line workers, and meter maids, and many other jobs. In a decade or less, robots will be as smart as humans and will create huge unemployment and social upheaval. Janowski draws a range of conclusions, including a big drop in debt and a rise in savings; robots, or robotics, will be the only way the US economy stays well ahead of most of the world. "We may not like that it kills jobs, and we may even fear it, but it is coming fast"; jewelry will not fade as a desirable product since how it is manufactured, what it is made of, and where it is sold will rapidly change. "More robotics, more non-precious stones and metals, and far more multi-channel marketing - a mix of stores and Internet."

In addition, engagement rings will remain a staple, for both married and unmarried couples. But jewelry will not live by the solitaire alone; the number of retail stores in the country will continue to decline, but destination stores will become much bigger and stronger; customization will become king with fast design, 3-D printing, automated setting and finishing, fast service, and large service providers backing up retailers of all sorts - not just jewelers but many fashion oriented retailers, on-line and not; and finally serving the rich and super-rich will be dominated by brands and global retailers who will essentially own the category, he concludes.