Dealing with escalating gold prices on one hand and concerns about lead content on the other, the watch and jewelry category has been nimbly responding to changing market conditions.
For despite those pressures on top of a weak economy, wholesale volume in the U.S. jewelry and watch sector is expected to grow modestly this year, up 1.7 percent to $41.1 billion, according to IBISWorld, a Chicago-based marketing research firm. Corresponding sales at retail are projected to rise 3 percent.
In June, the price of gold topped $1,000 an ounce, although it has since retreated. And the U.S. Senate and House are hammering out the details of a bill to regulate the lead content in children’s jewelry. There are already several such state laws that jewelry manufacturers are complying with, noted Michael Gale, chief executive of the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association. “We hope the federal legislation will set a national standard. We are in a period of transition right now.”
Through it all, America’s favorite brands have been relentlessly pushing ahead and showcasing more feminine styles, technological features and environmental benefits.
As IBISWorld noted in its new study on the jewelry and watch market, sales are driven by income earners in the top-20th percentile. With jewelry being a discretionary purchase, “A key success factor is having products that are in fashion and therefore in demand.”
“Obviously, people are being more cautious today in their major expenditures,” commented Britton Jones, ceo of AccessoriesTheShow, a trade event for the accessories market. “But if consumers are given a reason to buy, they are buying.”
Timex, the long-standing number-one brand, known for durability and a favorite of men, has been remaking itself with a fashion focus, including a wider selection of styles for women with details drawn from runways. Last fall it introduced the Diamond Collection. “That was a big, big step for us,” remarked Kristine Lumpinski, vice president of marketing for the Middlebury, Conn.-based giant. Now it is building on that with the Crystal Collection featuring Swarovski crystals.
To help in its makeover, Timex has tapped stylist Amy E. Goodman as its first fashion trend director and launched TimexStyle.com. Lumpinski said that while the brand’s core business is in the $45-to-$65 range, it has inched up with tags as high as $325.
Meanwhile, number three-ranked Fossil Inc. of Richardson, Tex., is embracing a green theme for fall with a collection called Naturally Modern. Watches will combine dark and neutral wood tones with textures and patterns inspired by natural elements, according to a spokeswoman. It is also ramping up its accessory store openings and projects it will add between 35 and 90 units this year. That is on top of the existing 113 accessory stores worldwide and 33 American apparel stores.
Ecological topics are becoming a part of the category in both fashion and function.
Citizen’s Eco-Drive watch, a forerunner in the use of light technology that made its debut 11 years ago, has evolved into a core business accounting for more than 80 percent of sales, according to Alyson Gottlieb, director of advertising for the eighth-ranked brand. The company calculates it has saved 15 million watch batteries.
If being green is not enough to keep its name out front, Citizen has expanded its stable of celebrity spokespeople with Matt Kenseth, a Winston Cup champion.
Once competitors, Citizen and Bulova Corp. are now siblings. The 133-yearold Bulova brand, which placed 10th, became a part of the Citizen Watch Co. Inc. this year in a $250 million acquisition. Citizen has said it intends to strengthen Bulova’s international expansion, improve operations and keep the brand’s headquarters in Queens, N.Y.
Mindful of its impact to the earth, Japanese brand Seiko Corp., in second place, recently announced a switch to mercury-free batteries. It is also looking skyward and has arranged for space explorer Richard Garriott to wear its specially designed Spring Drive Spacewalk watch when he blasts off on a trip to the International Space Station in October.
A bit closer to terra firma, sixth-ranked Victorinox Swiss Army Inc. is planning to get itself more exposure with the help of Kevin Connell, the newly appointed director of independent timepiece sales for North America. To give Connell more to talk about, the brand is adding several styles that refl ect a “practical luxury,” according to the company. Among the news are vintage styles in the Infantry Collection, and more stylish and legible faces for the Alliance Collection.
New York-based Tiffany & Co. has had no trouble keeping its name in the top 10, at number seven. Sales of the elegant brand rose 15 percent in 2007 to $2.9 billion and continued to climb in the first quarter of 2008 with a gain of 12 percent.
Driven by domestic new store openings and international expansion, Tiffany will open a concept store in Glendale, Calif., in October, featuring a smaller footprint. The 2,600-square-foot space will have a clean, modern look and will carry contemporary Tiffany collections, from diamond jewelry in platinum and gold to a range of sterling silver pieces.
Japanese watchmaker Casio Inc., number nine, has kept its name in lights this year with celebrations of the 25th anniversary of its G-Shock watch, a timepiece designed not to break. It has become Casio’s fl agship watch. Kanye West performed at a promotional event and the brand has also collaborated with director Spike Lee and artist Eric Haze.
In honor of the anniversary, Casio issued two new G-Shock watches this year — the GWM5625E-7 and the GW225E-7. Both are made with translucent material, but retain classic design features of the original G-Shock models.
Swiss watchmaker Swatch Watches is thrusting itself into the center of pop culture with the Swatch Fivb World Tour 2008, an international volleyball tournament and sponsorship of this month’s Blue Balls Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland. At the musical event, Swatch is presenting its fall watch and jewelry collections. Additionally, it continues a partnership with MTV’s “Best. Show. Ever.” program and collaborated with Italian artist Norma Jeane on a new watch design called Once Again, Again that reprises the famous plastic Swatch watch band.
Finally, it is the fine craftsmanship and exclusivity of the luxury Rolex watch that keeps it ranked among the most recognizable, in fourth place. It has been said that more than 200 artisans and technicians will work on a Rolex before receiving final approval. This year the Swiss-based firm opened its first European flagship in Milan. Among the exclusive styles shown there included a GMT Ice men’s watch adorned with white diamonds. The price? A cool $630,000.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye