De Beers' marketing arm, the Diamond Trading Co., says its rough diamond sales total $5.67 billion this year, 8% higher than last year's record amount. De Beers Managing Director Gary Ralfe says the U.S. remains the force driving sales. "We're pleased to say results since Thanksgiving have been positive," he says, adding that holiday sales account for almost 40% of the yearly total in the U.S. Markets elsewhere in the world also grew with the exception of Japan, where sales are down slightly. In addition, polished diamond sales increased more than 6% worldwide.
Because economic indicators in the U.S. point toward slower growth, it's impossible now to set a target for next year's sales, Ralfe says. The DTC plans to announce its sales targets by late February.
Ralfe says the most important factors driving demand next year will be De Beers' supplier-of-choice strategy, which asks DTC's preferred customers (sightholders) to focus on principles that maintain consumer confidence and to share in marketing spending. "The strategy is to grow demand for diamond jewelry long-term through leveraging our supplies and by achieving greater marketing through a proliferation of diamond brands," Ralfe says. "Our intention is to grow the price at which we sell through differentiation."
Ralfe also says that because De Beers is such a potent brand name, it will be reserved for retail sales of higher-end diamonds. "When De Beers enters the market, we will enter the top part of the market, setting ourselves to be a competitor with the best that is available and positioning ourselves to compete with other luxury products." Further details of De Beers' strategy to sell branded jewelry will be announced in the near future.
- by Robert Weldon, G.G.