“People have long bought flashy items because they made them feel good. Now some say those same items make them feel icky,” wrote JCK’s Rob Bates. According to a recent New York Times article a percentage of affluent consumers are moving away from the ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’ stereotype. Some even consider their wealth a burden, going as far as hiding the price tag of their recent purchases.
Research conducted by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman shows that while, in past generations, the poor and middle class experienced the largest income growth, today just about all the gains are enjoyed by the affluent—and not even all the affluent, but the top 99.99th percentile. According to the article “today the 10 percent of earners now garner over 50 percent of income nationally, and the top 1 percent over 20 percent.”
Although there are still those who wear jewelry as a status symbol or simply for the love of the rock, the industry needs to adjust their traditional messaging for the reformed consumer, or risk losing them altogether. A change in perception is necessary. Consumers need to see jewelry purchases as smart investments in both quality and design, rather than a wasteful or garish purchase. Bates stresses the need “to give our products a better story.” The example he gives is that of high-end watch collecting, which has become as much about each item’s technical and artistic aspects as the actual piece.