Japan is the world’s third largest jewelry market after the United States and China, with an estimated $9.1 billion retail market for costume/fashion jewelry in 2008, a 7.3 percent decrease from the previous year. The market had grown steadily from 1997 until 2006, but declined by 3 percent in 2007 due to the economic downturn. The key demographic for costume/fashion jewelry is female consumers, with strong preference for silver jewelry among male and young female consumers. The current Japanese jewelry market is diversified with a range of pricing and fashion options.
Imitation jewelry imports from the U.S. increased by 35 percent by value in 2006-2007, but declined by 4.1 percent in 2008, reflecting economic conditions and high price competition. Leading U.S. import products by HS classification in 2008 were: Imitation jewelry made of base metal (plated with precious metal) other than cuff-links and studs; and imitation jewelry made of at least two materials (e.g., wood and glass, bone and amber, mother-ofpearl and plastics). The U.S. has been the largest supplier of silver jewelry for many years with a 31.7 percent share in 2008. Successful U.S. jewelry brands include bridal jewelry and fashionable designers silver jewelry, which are known for their high quality and stylish designs.
The Japanese jewelry market is highlighted by its diversity. One can find low-priced products which dominate impulse purchases. At the other end are high-priced brand-name products. Both differ tremendously in their distribution structure and consumer purchasing patterns. The market offers affordable precious metal jewelry products in silver or in low-karat (10 an 14K) gold as well as costume/fashion jewelry in various materials from titanium or stainless steel to plastic with semi-precious stones or crystals. Given this diversity, the distinction between costume jewelry and authentic traditional jewelry is less clear, as there is a broad variation of materials and designs available in the market.
Recent difficult economic conditions have had a strong impact on consumer spending and consumption patterns. Not unexpectedly, many Japanese consumers have introduced costume jewelry/fashion jewelry into their fashion repertoires. While women in their 30s and 40s tend to look more favorably upon imported and prestigious brands, young consumers in their 20s focus more on fashion trends and choose products for their unique and distinctive designs rather than brand name. Additionally, these younger buyers use jewelry as a decorative accessory to add fashionable accents to their workday attire. While there is no single trend, consumers have developed a wider range of preferences than has been evident in the past.
Many of the established fashion brand retailers in the market, such as H&M, UNIQLO, Forever21, and Zara, have begun to carry costume jewelry/fashion accessory items at their stores. Major domestic jewelry manufacturers with retail outlets have also successfully started marketing their brand products through their stores in popular shopping complexes, attracting many consumers. There are few upper lines of costume/fashion jewelry called, luxury costume jewelry, targeting middle age female consumers with higher incomes with retail price ranges similar to prestigious brand jewelry.
There are an increasing number of jewelry/fashion accessory products available in direct selling channels such as catalog, on-line, and TV shopping. While a wide variety of precious metal and non-precious metal jewelry is available in this channel, the price range as well as quality and design might vary by company and sales channel from catalog to internet. Amazon has begun selling jewelry products, and Jwell.com is also a major player carrying a wide variety of fashion jewelry/costume jewelry. Consumers are starting to use different resources to collect information on products.
By Junko Namba