In our final holiday season mini-survey, INSTORE's "Brain Squad" came back with a powerful blast of holiday cheer — with a full 50% saying the season overall was "better than expected" or "terrific" and only 20% reporting "disappointing" or "dismal" results.

Results spiked upwards from last week's survey, in which only 35% of jewelers saw this year's holiday season in a positive light.

However, final results were similar to the final "Brain Squad" holiday survey of 2009, in which 52% of jewelers rated the holiday season as "better than expected" or "great" and 19% rated the season as "disappointing" or a "disaster".

In this year's final survey, u53% of survey respondents reported that customer traffic was up. However, results for average ticket price were very mixed — with 38% of jewelers reporting increases, 29% rdecreases, and 33% no change in average ticket price. This was sharply better than 2009's final results, where 54% of jewelers claimed their average ticket price was down.

"This was the best year in a long time," said Linda Griffiths of Hoover Jewelers in Kearney, NE. "We were up very, very, very significantly. Gold buys were good but selling was like old times."

"Amazing season," says Mark Clodius of Clodius & Rockford, IL. "We still have high unemployment, about 14%, yet customer counts especially new customers ran at record levels. It was nice to see some significant action in the $1,000-price points."

"Years ago, I decided to keep selling reasonably priced sterling along with gold and higher end because of our geographic location," said Sandra Ferlnad of Precious Things Jewelers in Enosburg Falls, VT. "It was a wise decision."

For Jimmy Pesis of Continental Diamond in St. Louis Park MN, a successful season was the result of new  work habits. "We worked much harder and smarter this year," said Pesis. Actions included more phone calls and emails to customers as well as a "thank you" party in November. Pesis's team also organized their mailing list, handling customers differently based on their relationship to the store — "first time, repeat, steady client, friend, top friend/advocate".

But not everybody was happy. Jewelers who didn't do as well pointed out various reasons for their down results.

"Unlike some previous seasons, there didn't seem to be a 'must-have' jewelry item for consumers to drive them in our store," said Bill Elliott Store of Ross Elliott Jewelers in Terre Haute, IN. "Without three- stone or Journey jewelry being promoted, the occasional jewelry buyer was missing this season."

"The Pandora bead phenomenon helped us a great deal traffic-wise, bringing in hundreds of new customers," said Dorothy Vodicka of The Gem Collection in Tallahassee, FL. "But many of our regulars spent 2/3 less than previous years, as their wives wanted Pandora beads, when normally they would want gold, diamond fashion or better colored stone jewelry."

Jewelers are feeling better about putting the recession in the rear-view mirror.

When asked "On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you feel your business is in terms of recovering from the recession?", 66% of jewelers rated themselves as 6 or better. Still only 6% rate themselves a "fully recovered", so there's still progress to be made.

"Where was the recovery everyone was talking about?" said David Peters of Dave Peters Jewelers in Ferus Falls, MN.

One "Brain Squad" member wants to remind his fellow jewelers that just because Christmas is over, it doesn't mean it's time to rest.

"Now is the time to dump old inventory and anything you get close to cost by scrapping," says J. Dennis Petimezas of Watchmaker's Diamonds & Jewelry in Johnstown, PA. "It's time to start promoting Valentine's Day [starting January 2]." Petimezas suggests generating a special mailing list of all Christmas buyers and start sending direct mail. "Don't go to sleep!"


See jewelers' picks for their best sellers over the holiday season.


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