Merchants Unfazed Over Data Showing Experiences Stole Holiday Market Share from Jewelry

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

Fresh data from Mastercard SpendingPulse shows that while overall U.S. holiday sales (excluding automotive) increased 7.6% from Nov. 1–Dec. 24, jewelry sales dropped 5.4%. These figures contrast sharply with the same period in 2021 when jewelry sales skyrocketed 32% over 2020. The competition largely came from in-person dining, reinforcing speculation that post-Covid spending patterns have shifted.

“Retailers discounted heavily but consumers diversified their holiday spending to accommodate rising prices and an appetite for experiences and festive gatherings post-pandemic,” explains Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Incorporated.

Mastercard SpendingPulse measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment and is not adjusted for inflation.

More insights reveal that online sales spiked 10.6%, and e-commerce accounted for 21.6% of total retail sales, an indicator that consumers continue to prioritize convenience. Availability of discounts was another driver, as data showed that Black Friday served as the top day for spending—up 12% over 2021—during the entire holiday period. Restaurants were the biggest category winner with a 15.1% increase, while apparel saw 4.4% gains. Electronics experienced a 5.3% drop.

“Inflation altered the way U.S. consumers approached their holiday shopping—from hunting for the best deals to making trade-offs that stretched gift-giving budgets,” observes Michelle Meyer, North America chief economist, Mastercard Economics Institute.

Gem dealers weighed in midway through the holiday sales season, citing anecdotal evidence of demand for top-end goods. This week, other gem and jewelry sellers reinforced those reports, even offering insight into the contradictory sales data.

A 5 ct. Mozambique-origin Ruby from Kimberly Collins Gemstones that sold during the holiday season
A 5 ct. Mozambique-origin Ruby from Kimberly Collins Gemstones that sold during the holiday season

“People aren’t waiting to do one big holiday shop,” says Kimberly Collins of the eponymous gemstone company and president of the board of directors of AGTA. “Twenty years ago Christmas was everything, but now people are spending more all year long on events like birthdays and anniversaries.”

Lisa Guild and Robert Galustian of Robert Guild Jewelry in downtown Chicago, agree. “We’ve never been a big holiday store, but we are busy with custom projects all year.”

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