Complex Made Simple

Men absent yet key in Middle East jewellery market

Men are a self-effacing presence in the Middle East’s gold and jewellery market, yet they are essential to its growth and success, a top industry executive told Aficionado.

According to Tawhid Abdullah, chairman of the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group (DGJG), men – especially Arabs – are not inclined to wear jewellery, but their buying power is heavily depended on.

“The Arab man rarely wears jewellery… very limited, the word ‘gold’ for a man doesn’t fit into his lifestyle,” Abdullah said, noting that this is not to be generalised, as while men’s jewellery has a shy representation in the region, it does exist.

“There are a lot of Asians and a few Europeans who wear chains, ID bracelets, key chains, cufflinks, tie clips… among Asians probably rings and ID bracelets are the most popular,” he added.

“With all said, the Arab man from time to time wear non-gold jewellery; it could be a bracelet or key ring, which is not gold.”

A Dubai jeweller claimed such habits were purely behavioural.

“Men would not come to buy jewellery, they’d probably end up going to buy a Ferrari or Lamborghini,” Serj Apikim, store manager at Yeprem, a jewellery house, told Aficionado on the sidelines of the Dubai International Jewellery Week, which was held earlier in December.

Key buyers

Men – including Arabs – are not underestimated or neglected by gold traders in the UAE and the overall region, at least, not their credit cards.

“The man is the most spender on gifting, so we live a lot on the man’s spending,” Abdullah said. “The credit card of a man is very important for us,” he added.

Abdullah explained that around 50 per cent of gold and jewellery retail sales are made by men, buying gifts for their mothers, daughters, sisters or significant other.

But this equation is not applicable if reversed.

“A woman buying jewellery for a man has very little offerings, again because of the tradition of not wearing jewellery,” Abdullah said.

“There is no demand so the offering is very little, and it is a very shy presentation,” he added.

Looking at the future, Abdullah is not too optimistic about any changes in men’s positioning in the market.

“That is not going to improve, on the contrary maybe two to three decades ago, Arab men used to wear rings, but now no more,” he said.

This is apparent in the sales of retailers; “We used to do some brooches, but not everyone can wear it anymore,” Apikim said.

The absence of men in Dubai gold and jewellery market does not affect its current success and future growth plans.

“The worth of jewellery retail sales in Dubai is measured at around AED15 billion, this only includes retail, no exports, imports or wholesale… so this means AED1.2bn per month,” Abdullah said.

“We are hoping to attract more from the younger generations, and take on more of other competitors… we are targeting AED16bn retail sales for 2015,” he added.