Sun, 24 Nov 2002

Traders experience lackluster gold sales

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Idul Fitri has always seen an increase in gold sales, with people buying jewelry as a means to demonstrate to others that they have been successful.

But that is a trend of the past.

Perhaps because of the financial crisis, with increasing prices forcing people to reduce spending and the rising crime rate making them wary of being too ostentatious, people have toned down somewhat, especially in relation to the jewelry they wear.

These day they apparently deem it unnecessary to deck themselves in gold jewelry to demonstrate to others how successful they have been in the big city.

This year, despite the relatively stable price of gold over the last three months, gold traders in various districts of the capital say their sales have dropped 20 percent compared to last year.

Eva, a shop assistant at Toko Bandung, and Stefanus, the owner of Toko Mutiara Hati in Palmerah market, Central Jakarta, said that their shops were usually packed with customers during the Ramadhan fasting month. Sales usually peak 10 days to five days before Idul Fitri, when people receive their Idul Fitri bonuses.

"Last year, the number of buyers increased each week prior to the holiday. But now our sales have dropped approximately 20 percent from last year," Stefanus told The Jakarta Post.

They said that their customers do not look for a specific type of jewelry.

Nia, the owner of Toko Selamat on the second floor of Senen market, Central Jakarta, said people buy either rings, bracelets or necklaces from her shop.

"Most customers prefer 22 karat gold jewelry, of which we have in various items. They buy items ranging from three grams to 10 grams," she said.

One gram of gold ranges in price from Rp 80,000 (US$8.7) to Rp 95,000, depending on how many karats it is and its quality. According to traders, the price usually jumps by Rp 1,000 to Rp 2,000 per gram two weeks ahead of Idul Fitri.

Santi, from Sukabumi in West Java, a housemaid in an upmarket housing area in Pancoran, South Jakarta, told the Post on Wednesday that she had bought less gold than usual this year. She said she only bought a three gram gold bracelet for Idul Fitri.

Interviewed after buying her bracelet at Toko Bandung gold store in Jatinegara's Mester traditional market in East Jakarta, she claimed she bought more last year, but had sold most of it to send money home.

"If I had the money, I'd rather buy clothes for my relatives or have a feast at home. Moreover, I'm afraid to wear too much jewelry because there are so many robberies on buses these days," she said.

One customer at Stefanus' shop, Yati, said that she often invested in gold. Whenever she has extra money, she exchanges her jewelry for larger pieces. "Then whenever I need money, I just exchange my jewelry for smaller pieces plus some money in return," she said.

Apparently, the decrease in business is not limited just to gold shops, but also extends to stores selling imitation jewelry.

Upik, who sells imitation jewelry at Mester market, said sales had dropped 75 percent compared to last year.

"Many returning to their hometowns for Idul Fitri celebrations last year bought imitation jewelry. But so far this year, I've hardly had any customers at all," she said.