||For Engagement Rings, Many Couples Shop Local
The Knot's latest survey on engagement rings and bridal jewelry shows that local, independent jewelers remain the top pick among younger couples when it comes time to select their engagement ring.
Data from The Knot's 2013 Engagement and Jewelry Study showed that 42 percent of couples buy their engagement ring from an independent jeweler in their area, up from 40 percent the last time the surveyed was fielded, in 2011.
National and regional chain stores were the second most popular choice, cited by 34 percent of respondents, down from 35 percent in 2011. According to the study, Kay Jewelers is the top among chains for engagement rings, with the Sterling Jewelers-operated stores cited by 27 percent of respondents.
Only 9 percent of those surveyed said they bought their fiancée's engagement ring online.
While independent retailers are concerned with losing business to e-tailers, the reasons young men said they didn't shop online for an engagement ring run parallel to the advantages cited by brick-and-mortar retailers: the chance to see the diamond in person and continuing customer service.
The top reason the men said they didn't want to buy online was that they wanted to see the ring and/or stone in person before purchasing (69 percent), followed by concerns over making such a significant purchase online (42 percent) and limited customer service (35 percent). A total of 33 percent of men surveyed said they needed more personal attention than the Internet could provide and 6 percent wanted to be able to show their fiancée the ring before proposing.
Of those who did buy an engagement ring online, Blue Nile remained the most popular site, cited by 21 percent of survey respondents, down from 27 percent in 2011. The Seattle-based online retailer lost ground to Amazon.com, which was cited by 7 percent of respondents, up from 3 percent in 2011.
While many engagement ring shoppers turned to local retailers because of the chance for solid customer service, the survey also showed that the independents were not following up as much as they could have post-purchase.
According to the study, only 49 percent of brides said that they had heard from the retailer since the engagement ring purchase, with most contacting them with information about care and cleaning (23 percent), their satisfaction with the engagement (22 percent) and information about upcoming sales or merchandise (19 percent).
The study points to the fact that retailers may be missing opportunities for follow-up sales, as 81 percent of brides buy jewelry to wear on their wedding day and 59 percent buy it as a gift for their bridesmaids. In addition, the study showed that one-third of grooms buy jewelry for the big day, mostly cufflinks and watches.
"Half of retailers miss the opportunity to develop a loyal customer," the study notes.
Other highlights of the study included the following:
-- Tradition is alive. A total of 86 percent of grooms surveyed said they popped the question with the ring in hand, 88 percent said the words, "Will you marry me?" and 74 percent asked for the father's or both parents' permission before proposing. In addition, 94 percent of grooms had the actual engagement ring in hand while proposing. A total of 4 percent used a "stand-in" and only 2 percent didn’t have a ring.
-- Brides-to-be are involved. Sixty-three percent of brides said that they dropped hints or discussed the ring with their significant other prior to the proposal (36 percent) or actually shopped and purchased the ring together as a couple (27 percent). A total of 36 percent said the ring was a complete surprise.
-- They are looking online. The Internet was the No. 1 influencer of brides' ring choices, followed by jewelers/salespeople, friends/family and wedding magazines. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these young brides have either a smartphone and/or tablet computer, and they used them to research diamond engagement ring styles (27 percent), share hints with their fiancé (20 percent), browse designers or retailers (19 percent) or share ideas with friends and family (17 percent).
-- Men will do some legwork. The grooms surveyed spent an average of 4.4 months researching the ring choice and 3.4 months shopping for it, visiting an average of four retailers and looking at a total of 24 rings. The quality of the diamond, the style and the price are the top three factors influencing the man's choice while the woman is concerned with the style/setting, cut/shape and the stone quality, in that order.
-- Still rounding it out. Round diamonds remain the most popular pick for center stones (55 percent) followed by princess-cut diamonds at 28 percent. Both cushion (5 percent) and Asscher cuts (3 percent) experienced slight increases in popularity since the 2011 survey. Metal-wise, white gold remains the overwhelming pick for engagement rings at 72 percent, with platinum (15 percent) and yellow gold (6 percent) rounding out the top three.
The Knot conducted its engagement and jewelry study in February and March, surveying 14,000 engaged or recently married U.S. brides and 1,750 grooms engaged within the past 12 months. Most were college educated, with annual household incomes of $55,000 to $68,000. The average age of the women surveyed was 27 to 28 while the men were 28 to 29.
(Source: National Jeweler, 07/23/13)