After five years of uninterrupted growth in the value of diamond jewellery sales to consumers, and following a record 2014, demand for diamond jewellery measured in US dollars declined marginally in 2015 (Fig. 4). This was principally due to unfavourable currency movements and economic slowdown in China and other emerging markets.
The value of diamond jewellery sold to consumers in 2015 reached an estimated US$79 billion – down from US$81 billion in 2014, or a two per cent decline. This contrasted with positive growth of three per cent in 2014. At constant exchange rates, global demand for diamond jewellery grew by some two per cent in 2015.
The US – the world’s largest market for diamonds – was the main driver of global diamond jewellery sales growth in 2015. That was mostly due to the economy’s sustained recovery and the strength of the US labour market.
At the same time, and after years of buoyant growth, 2015 saw consumer demand for diamond jewellery slow in China and decline in India. In China, the widely reported Chinese economic slowdown was the main contributor to the slower growth in diamond jewellery sales, but a change in patterns of travel by Chinese consumers also played a role in the market’s performance. In India, the market decline was driven by a more restricted consumer credit environment and overall weakness in consumer spending.
Other markets saw declines in the value of their diamond jewellery sales, driven by unfavourable macro-economics and large devaluations of their currencies against the US dollar.
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China has also gained relative share of sales since 2008–09. Mainland Chinese demand doubled its share from seven per cent share in 2008 to 14 per cent in 2015.
Changes in the share of polished diamond sales in 2015 were also affected by currency movements.
As approximately 45 per cent of global diamond jewellery sales take place in countries whose currencies are neither the US dollar, nor pegged to the US dollar, their share of demand in US dollars varies year- on-year depending on currency market trends. The sharp appreciation of the US dollar against almost all other currencies in 2015 helped countries with US dollar-linked sales gain relative market share.
In terms of polished diamond content in jewellery sold to consumers,4 global value fell by two per cent in 2015 to US$24.7 billion. That compares with growth of three per cent in 2014, at US$25.2 billion (Fig. 5). The global figure masks some divergent trends within the main consumer geographies:
The last five years saw the gradual recovery of the US economy following the 2008–09 global financial crisis, and this market returned to the same share of the world’s polished demand that the country had last seen in 2004. In 2015, sales of polished diamonds to US consumers accounted for 45 per cent of global demand for polished diamonds, up from 39 per cent in 2010 (Fig. 6).
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The bridal and married women gifting categories remain the backbone of the US diamond jewellery business, with 28 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively, of total demand value in 2015. But there are new growth opportunities as more women are buying diamond jewellery for themselves and younger consumers continue to show an increasing preference for brands.
As the largest (and consistently growing) diamond consumer market in the world, the importance of the US to the diamond industry cannot be overstated. A new, De Beers-commissioned survey of 18,000 US women aged 18–746 shows how dynamic this market has been in the last two years.
A number of clear trends point to areas of opportunity for retailers, brands and other participants looking to capitalise on the strength of the American woman’s love of diamonds. The top five trends and areas of opportunity are:
While single women’s acquisition levels increased slightly in 2015, their average spend soared by some 20 per cent compared with 2013 as they acquired more diamond-only earrings and necklaces and larger diamonds.
With the US marriage rate at historic lows7 and younger women delaying marriage,8 the rise in unmarried households9 has been well documented. The singles’ demographic is thus expected to grow. The diamond jewellery industry must continue to engage with this segment, using a combination of relevant ideas for each age and income group to capitalise on its potential.
Married women’s diamond acquisition increased strongly in 2015 even though average prices remained flat. The married 35–54 age bracket increased its share of acquisition, as did those owning more than eight pieces of jewellery containing diamonds (‘heavy owners’).
The married woman ‘heavy owner’ continues to be the pillar of the non-bridal segment – she is happy to receive diamonds as a gift and to self-purchase. New ideas and designs will inspire her to return to diamonds again and again.
More women are buying diamond jewellery for themselves and, in particular, women in households with incomes above US$75,000 per annum and 25–39 year olds. Diamond-only earrings and neckwear were more popular for those buying for themselves.
As women in the US continue to make gains in the labour force10 the self-purchase trend offers one of the clearest opportunities for future growth. Having a selection of diamond jewellery which appeals to the woman looking to celebrate a personal milestone, or to buy something special to reward herself, should become as much a focus for jewellers as bridal and other relationship milestone-related jewellery. This may require a degree of customisation, or a fresh focus on design.
Love and commitment continue to be the most important motivations for acquisition, but there has been a small increase in the proportion of people acquiring diamonds simply because they like a particular design. Combined with trends of single women acquisition, self-purchase and the younger woman’s desire for self-expression, design appeal is expected to become more important in attracting new and repeat customers to the category.
While branded acquisition did not increase its share overall, this was not the case for the younger age groups. Amongst 18–34 year olds, there was another rise in preference for branded diamond jewellery; within that age range, 25–34 year olds showed a particularly strong affinity for brands.
Younger consumers’ preference for brands offers retailers the opportunity to create a virtuous circle of higher margins and future growth. The right branded offer helps retailers strengthen their proposition to the women who have clear preferences when dreaming about their diamond. The higher margins generated by brands then help support investment in innovation and marketing, which in turn will strengthen retailers’ proposition to consumers.
While the appeal of diamonds remains strong across all segments of the US female population, in particular as gifts, the 2015 research shows the desirability of a diamond for self-purchase has slipped slightly overall from seventh to eighth most desired purchase.
Another important way of keeping diamonds aligned to evolving consumer values is by providing responsibly sourced products. Responsible sourcing of diamondsis of high importance to more than a fifth (21 per cent) of US diamond engagement ring acquirers in 2015. The relevance of responsible sourcing is higher among the US Millennial generation (aged 18–34), compared with older age cohorts – while only two per cent of consumers over the age of 35 stay away from diamonds because they do not trust that they have been responsibly sourced, that proportion rises to seven per cent among Millennials.
In summary, the bridal and married women gifting categories remain the backbone of the US diamond jewellery business, accounting for 65 per cent of all sales (by value) of women’s diamond jewellery in 2015 (this was 70 per cent in 2013). New areas of growth are clearly emerging: self-purchase and singles looking for diamond-only, more design-driven and responsibly sourced pieces, and discovering brands and new channels in search of a more experiential acquisition process and an opportunity for self-expression.
This applies in particular to the next generation of diamond jewellery consumers, aka the Millennials. In the midst of profound socioeconomic changes in the US and worldwide, this edition of the Diamond Insight Report offers an in-depth analysis of this consumer segment and suggests ways in which the industry can secure its future by understanding the aspirations of this new generation (see In Focus: Millennials and the Future of Diamonds).
Macro-economic volatility has contributed to subdued global growth in consumer demand for diamond jewellery in the first half of 2016. The gradual adjustment of China’s economy away from investment-led growth to consumer-driven growth is still under way and volatility in Chinese demand can be expected in the short term. India’s path to more sustainable public finances will also involve initial adjustments to consumer spending. Japan and most European countries are expected to continue to see subdued consumer demand growth, given the weakness in their macro trends.
By contrast, the US economy has continued to post strong growth in consumer spending and solid employment numbers. If the strength of the US economy leads the US Federal Reserve Bank to increase interest rates, more volatility in the currency markets could be the result.
With geopolitical risks perceived to be on the increase,5 in the short term industry participants will need to invest in resilience and potential growth areas to succeed.
In the medium to long term, demand for diamonds is expected to grow in real terms, provided the industry as a whole continues to invest to strengthen its competitiveness.
4 All growth figures for polished diamond content in diamond jewellery are for new diamonds and exclude recycled diamonds.
5 McKinsey Geostrategic risks on the rise report, June 2016.
6 The survey sample was 18,129 women aged 18 to 74, representative of 114 million women split by age, marital status and income and included a ‘booster’ sample of bridal respondents, ie married and/or engaged in 2015.
7 Demographic Intelligence U.S. Wedding Forecast 2015, cited in http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-millennial-marriage-rate-20150517-story.html.
8 The average age of first marriage in the United States in 2012 was 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22 in 1960. Source: http://twentysomethingmarriage.org/i-do-but-later/.
9 For statistics on this population segment see: http://www.unmarried.org/statistics/.