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One of the major influences on performance the jewelry industry over the years has been the Indian wedding seasons, typically running from October through December and then again in April and May. India celebrates between 10 million and 20 million weddings per year, of which about 80 percent are in the Hindu tradition. The Indian wedding business is estimated to be worth as much as $50 billion per annum, and gold jewelry and increasingly diamond and gemstone-set jewelry play a key role.
The connection between the wedding season and jewelry sales is legendary. In 2015, because of a series of peculiarities in the astrological calendar, there were 20 percent fewer “auspicious” days on which to get married than in 2014.
Pundits worried that this would have a depressing effect on the gold price. India buys a huge amount of gold each year, much of which is used ion jewelry associated with weddings, and it vies with China for the position of the world’s largest gold jewelry market. Inia typically buying about four times as much gold jewelry as the U.S. market, which lies in third place.
Over the past two years, the biggest concern has not been the astrological calendar, but rather the COVID pandemic, which has restricted the size of wedding celebration in a country where the guest list sometimes runs to 500 and more.
During the first two waves of the coronavirus, not only did the number of weddings drop quite dramatically, but so did their size. But by 2021, it seemed that things were beginning to return to normal.
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SIZE CHANGES BUT NOT QUALITY
A recent survey conducted by WedMeGood, an Indian wedding planning website, which collated 3,000 responses by 3,000, looking at the scale and preferences of events taking place between between January 2021 and January 2022 indicated that 83 percent went ahead as originally intended.
The survey included responses from both users as well as vendors listed on the platform nonetheless showed several fundamental ways in which weddings changed in India as a result of the pandemic.
About 80 percent of the of vendors reported that at least 30 percent of their business had been affected, with outdoor venues now favored by between 25 percent and 30 percent of people to enhance health and safety.
But the biggest impact was on the size of the event with only 60 percent of of its users wanting to plan large weddings with more than 200 guests. In North America or Western Europe such weddings would still be considered sizeable, but not so India where a marriage is often celebrated over several consecutive days with a much larger number of attendees.
SALES OF GOLD ON THE RISE
But while the size of weddings had been affected, jewelry and more specifically gold sales did not seem to have been impacted – indeed, possibly even the opposite.
According to the WedMeGood survey, only between 6 percent and 7 percent of couples who got married in 2021 said that they spent less on wedding wear and jewelry. Unsurprisingly, India’s gold consumption has been forecast to increase further in 2022, after leaping 79 percent in 2021 because of a general improvement in buyer sentiment, according to the World Gold Council (WGC), not to mention that 2020 had been the year in which COVID had significantly suppressed the marketplace.
India’s gold imports rose to 900 tons in 2021, the highest in six years, up from about 350 tons in 2020.
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“The occurrence of record weddings has resulted in increased spending by consumers,” wrote analysts for the Wedding Wire India, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based The Knot. “Demand for discretionary categories such as jewellery and ethnic clothing, on a slump since the pandemic hit, has shot up.”