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June 2002

Though Consumer Confidence declined moderately in April, other economic indicators-along with first quarter reports from jewelers and other luxury retailers-show strength in the economy.

“This month’s retreat in confidence was caused primarily by a softening in consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions,” says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. “Consumers’ expectations remain virtually undaunted and signal continued expansion in the months ahead.”

The support of consumer spending brought chains like Tiffany and Zale good news for the first quarter of the year. Both experienced strong profits and earnings. Both stores said that consumers were spending enough to raise sales, but spending trends had changed.

Jewelry consumers are buying, but they’re buying smaller or lower-priced merchandise. Transactions have increased, but the average transaction price fell.

Zale officials, however, noted that the higher-end merchandise was beginning to move again, while high end luxury firms like LVMH also started to report a reverse in its eroding sales.

Analysts like Kenneth M. Gassman, who closely follows the jewelry industry, predict a strong second half for jewelry sales and a rally for publicly held jewelry stocks.

Figures released by the Commerce Department show that total retail sales jumped 1.2 percent in April, seasonally adjusted from March.

“April retail sales were much stronger than anyone expected,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “The economy continues to recover from the mild recession experienced last year, and there is little doubt that consumers are doing their part to stimulate economic activity.”

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