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Gold & Diamond Jewelry Slump: Retail Rotting From the Head Down

As trend forecasters, we closely monitor movements that signal market-sector advances and/or declines often driven from the grassroots up or the top down.

In the current financial climate, as evidenced by ample quantitative data, since the Panic of ’08, the vast rewards of economic growth have been unequally distributed at the top. In the United States, for example, 95 percent of income gains have accrued to the top 1 percent. And, at the top of the global wealth pyramid, a reported 10 percent of adults account for 85 percent of the world’s total wealth.

Thus, be it an organization or state that fails due to leadership at the top being the root cause – or whether it’s the high-end retail sector signaling that those at top of the economic ladder have dramatically reined in retail spending – “the fish rots from the head down.”

Indeed, from Burberry to Hugo Boss, from Cartier to Tiffany, foot traffic is down, profits are slumping, stores are closing and markets are shrinking. Across the luxury spectrum, beyond jewelry, watches and valuable gifts that are among the worst performers… even sales of luxury apartments are falling some 20 percent in prime real-estate markets around the world.

Diamonds: Not a Girl’s Best Friend

At the top of the retail top, gold and diamond jewelry sales, two key trend indicators that signal both a weakening global economy and ensuing economic turmoil, continue to worsen. While the luxury-retail sector blames soft sales primarily on a decline in tourism, unstated in corporate fiscal reports is that the reason tourism is down is a direct consequence of the worsening global recession we forecast as a Top Trend of 2016.

On the gold front, demand for gold jewelry has, according to the World Gold Council, plummeted in China and India in 2016, while global gold-jewelry-driven demand is down 19 percent for the quarter.

As for diamonds, with the high-end luxury sector buffeted by equity-market volatility, overextended debt burdens, and economic retraction, diamond extravagances are not must-have gems on their bucket list. De Beers, which sells 35 percent of the world’s rough diamond production, saw its underlying earnings shrink 72 percent last year.

Trend Forecast: While diamond producers are predicting a sales recovery, especially in the US, which accounts for 45 percent of demand, it runs counter to current and emerging trends lines.

Once the obligatory engagement gift since the mid 20th century, we forecast diamonds will lose their glow among the massive late-to-marry, cash-poor and romance-deprived millennial generation. According to a new Pew Research Center study, in the US, for the first time in more than 130 years, more adults ages 18 to 34 are living in their parents’ home rather than in their own household with a spouse or partner.

Thus, with the top of the economic scale having peaked, and the middle class sinking lower, gold and diamond jewelry sales, along with the entire luxury sector, will continue to decline.