While the big headlines about the opening days of the 2017 holiday season focused on online’s blockbuster numbers and Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos’s enhanced status as the richest man on earth, back on Main Street, independent jewelers were enjoying a milder but still encouraging start to the crucial winter sales season.
Almost one in three of the respondents to our first 2017 holiday mini survey, which was taken after Black Friday and Small Business Saturday but as Cyber Monday was still in full swing, reported the opening weekend had been better than expected and 5 percent described it as “terrific”. Just under half said it had gone as expected, while 15 percent labelled it disappointing and three percent said it was dismal.
More jewelers reported traffic was up rather than down (35 percent versus 27 percent) over last year, while an even greater proportion – 37 percent -- reported that their average ticket was up over the 2016 season. Forty-three percent of jewelers said their average sale was in excess of $350, which was not surprising given the number of jewelers listing diamond goods among their hot sellers over the weekend. The other strong performers were silver goods and custom. (See the full results here.)
“It’s been diamond fashion across the board,” said Mike Doland, owner of Doland Jewelers in Dubuque, IA.
Fewer sales but higher tickets were also the story at Calhoun Jewelers in Royersford, PA.
“I had my best Black Friday/Saturday since 2005. Money wise, not customer wise,” said owner Cathy Calhoun.
And also at Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers in Cambridge, MA.
“I had my best Black Friday/ Saturday since 2005. Money wise, not customer wise.”
“So far I've only had four sales out of the case. Two necklaces, a pair of earrings and a strand of pearls. The four sales and a couple of incoming smaller custom jobs gave me the best Thanksgiving weekend I've ever had. On the other hand I'm still running 25 percent behind last November,” said owner Daniel Spirer.
While the start to the season was generally promising, the shadow cast by Amazon and other Internet-based retailers was never far away, with several jewelers commenting that online sales were pressuring their margins or forcing them to keep tighter inventories.
It also left some wondering if they too should be doing more to get in on the online action.
“Got to get fully into online selling. That’s the ‘now’ and ‘future’ of jewelry sales,” commented Floriza Khoury of Gaskell Jewelry in Miami, FL.
To be sure, the Black Friday weekend has never been as important to jewelers as to other merchants. And with Christmas due to fall on a Monday this year, there is an expectation 2017 will see an especially strong surge in last-minute shoppers.
“Both unemployment and consumer confidence are said to be at their highest levels in over 15 years. I am looking forward to a great Christmas season this year,” said Robert at Reeds Jewelers, Daytona Beach, FL.
With so many variables at play -- the weather, technology, changing retails trends, the economy -- there is much that could go wrong or very right this holiday season. INSTORE will be tracking the season through our surveys and reports at instoremag.com. Please feel free to join us by taking the weekly surveys (sign up here) if you’re not a Brain Squad member yet) or by commenting on the results at instoremag.com