Professional Jeweler Archive: Luxury Consumers Embrace Responsible Buying

November 2003

Editorial


Luxury Consumers Embrace Responsible Buying

"Luxury consumers have a desire to make a difference in the world and to leave it a better place,” says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, who wrote about the trend toward responsible buying in her “Luxury Business” newsletter. She says big spenders are increasingly turning away from simple hedonism and requiring their purchases add meaning to their lives. We all know giving gifts of love such as jewelry has a built-in edge where added meaning is concerned. But consumers now want their luxury purchases to do good as well as feel good.

More Americans are focusing on the safety, security and health needs of workers in the faraway places that produce most of our consumer goods. Danziger cites a new lifestyle concept dubbed LOHAS, an acronym for “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.” She says the estimated 68 million Americans who respond to the LOHAS message “prefer to buy from companies that share their values and are willing to pay more for products and services that are made to minimize harm to the environment or society.” There’s even a Lohas Journal for this new consumer movement, published by Conscious Media, Broomfield CO, a company dedicated to educating businesses and consumers about the importance of health and sustainability.

What does this have to do with you? While any trend affecting luxury buyers is important, this particular trend should resonate as the jewelry industry copes with issues of health, safety and security among those who produce the majority of the raw materials that supply the trade. There’s the human rights issues in gem-rich Myanmar, which provoked the U.S. to ban goods from the country. There are safety, health and child labor issues in other countries where gems are produced or jewelry is made. And, of course, there’s the conflict diamond issue, which stubbornly refuses to go away – even with the Kimberley Process certification program in place.

As if on cue, Global Witness, ActionAid and Amnesty International started a campaign this fall asking consumers to sign a Diamond Pledge to keep the pressure on governments and industry over the conflict diamond issue. The pledge commits consumers to raising awareness of the issue with family and friends, lobbying for independent monitoring of Kimberley Process countries and asking retail jewelers what they are doing to stop conflict diamond trading.

Human rights groups continue to press for independent monitoring of Kimberley nations, especially those with weak or corrupt governments, because they fear that in such countries, diamonds traded to support conflict or even terrorism can still slip in with legitimate stones. The groups also want consumers to press retail jewelers for the conflict-free diamond warranties diamantaires said they would put in place to support the Kimberley Process. The voluntary system promises that traders of rough diamonds will pass on the warranties to diamond cutters, jewelry manufacturers and retailers.

Before a consumer comes into your store asking whether your diamonds are conflict-free, take the quick step of finding out how easy it is to ask your suppliers for the warranties. If you’d like to learn about the warranties, go to Jewelers of America’s Web site, www.jewelers.org, for guidance on what to ask your suppliers.

Seem like too much trouble? The bottom line is you will soon be forced to buy responsibly if you want to attract the growing number of socially conscious luxury consumers.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications