Merit Shopping: The Growing Trend of Treating Yourself Big Time

In Industry News, What's New by Lauren Parker, Accessories MagazineLeave a Comment


Got a promotion? Hit a major milestone birthday? Adoption, or maybe even a divorce, finally come through? Treat yourself! You deserve it.

Women are increasingly living by this credo and it’s paying off at retail, particularly in jewelry. At the recent Accessories Council Summit, the topic of Merit Shopping was addressed, from the angle of consumer attitudes toward it and how retailers can capture that category. Nancy Berger, the Publisher of Marie Claire magazine, sat down with Lauren Kessler of Lauren K Fine Jewelry and Charsy Evers, retail trend and independent fashion analyst, to dissect this growing trend.

Nancy Berger: One thing I noticed while working in magazines is that men’s media always did a lot of articles about about how to spend your bonus, while women’s media was very much about gift giving. But lately, we’ve been thinking about women treating themselves. Merit shopping: you’ve earned it, you serve it to yourself.

Lauren Kessler: Our research revealed that women aged 18-34 are the most active self gifters and most likely to splurge on themselves. Two, women overall are more likely to treat themselves than men. And three, jewelry is the preferred choice for self giving, particularly diamonds. Women aren’t waiting for a guy to buy them diamonds.

Charsy Evers: There are several factors to merit shopping. One, the SHEconomy, the income of the female demographic on our global economy. Women spend 70% to 80% of our economy global spend. Women are empowered and there is a female economic boom. Two is Singledom, or Selfies, or Indies… they’re a group that has chosen not to get married. The 35-54 age group spends a trillion dollars a year on themselves! Self gifting there too. The financial empowerment dialogue has changed a lot for women. There’s a real element of magic for women to buy something fabulous for themselves. Why not splurge? We don’t know what tomorrow brings.

Lauren: Women have fought really hard to earn what they earn and it’s a symbol of independence and who they are. They’re more careful with those dollars. Also, many of us have been victims of opening up a gift and not liking it, or sending their significant other a hint, or outright photo, of something they want and still getting the wrong thing. When you self gift there is no disappointment. Satisfaction trumps surprise. I earned it, and this is it.

“When you self gift there is no disappointment.
Satisfaction trumps surprise.”

What other categories benefit from this trend?

Charsy: Diamonds in particular are interesting because in our increasingly artificial world they still represent something rare, special and one of a kind. For millennials, lab grown diamonds are playing to their need for sustainability, and also pricepoint. They’re a disruptor. Forty percent of millennials are likely to self gift. Automobiles, are another category. Women spend $22 billion on automobiles, which is 5 times the amount of what men spend.

How is self gifting affected generationally? The older generation is done wearing their engagement rings. But they’re not trading up to that upgraded 2nd Stone, like they used to.

Lauren:  I worked for my grandfather and that category of men upgrading their wife’s diamond does still exist in traditional jewelry stores. I love the idea that women can just do it for themselves. But women have to get over the hump to do it. I think universally, earrings are a great pick me up. Millennials love piercings, which is good for the jewelry industry. The focus is on little, which is a burgeoning trend for younger women.

Lauren K Designs

Charsy: The millennial mindset doesn’t hit those adult milestones like they did in the past. Now instead of a second ring they’re buying an experience or a trip. If I’m not getting married or want some bling, I’m gonna buy it myself.

Lauren: They’re getting married later so until maybe they’re 38 or older, they’re buying for themselves. On a trip, women will buy for themselves as a memento of that trip, and if it’s a girls getaway or celebratory trip, they might all buy something to remember the trip together.

So women want ways to celebrate something great, like a new job or a big birthday? 

Charsy: Now that many women aren’t having traditional events like marriage or babies, we’re starting new traditions. It might be fabulous vacations with friends, or even divorce parties or adoption parties. Millennials are shifting the holidays. Valentine’s Day shifts to Gallentine’s Day or Palentine’s Day. You don’t need love to buy yourself something.

Are there other trends that are helping the luxury and/or accessories self-gifting category? 

Charsy: In jewery, there’s a deformalization of jewelry that’s making it more accessible, more toward fashion and lower price points, so more women can buy jewelry for themselves. Maybe a prestige store will add an ear piercing booth or sell different levels of product. The idea of tiering your business and the idea of grooming your customer is a growing trend.

As consumers shop for gifts this holiday season, do they self gift at the same time? 

Charsy: It depends on where they shop. There are so many deals so you often can’t help to buy for yourself while you’re out buying a gift. Millennials are more likely to self gift than any other generation. Brand: ME.

And what are the self-gifting items this holiday?

Lauren: What’s really big now is the idea of creating a story. Women buy two  rings, then another and it creates a story. Or maybe she buys a bunch of layered necklaces for wearablility and versatility. I think it can be part of a legacy. Even if you don’t have children you can give to a niece, or own it for your life. And jewelry is that great conversation piece. People are always drawn to jewelry and will ask about it. And the wearer will always tell them of that little boutique in Santorini where she got it. These stories are social currency. Women are talkers.

Charsey: I’ve heard about self-made millennials who are self made. They are the Hero of their Own Story. there’s this kind of mindset that the gift is justified. They are the demographic most likely to self gift. It’s all about one great thing. Instead of many little things. Even in this world of fast fashion, they might earn less but they’ll spend more on one big purchase.

Remember the De Beers Right Hand Ring campaign telling women to buy their own diamond ring and wear it on their right hands? Would that work today? 

Charsey: It’s too contrived. Now women don’t need permission or someone to tell them what to do. And unions are so different now.

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