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Big Survey

10 Takeaways from the 2023 Big Survey

As always, the survey produced a wealth of interesting data, lots of fun facts and the odd “whoa!” moment.

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OuR ANNUAL BIG SURVEY is a little like one of those huge open-pit diamond mines found in places like Russia’s Far East or in the Kalihari desert that just keep on producing valuable gems the deeper the miners go, year after year. In 2023, the Big Survey dug deep into productivity as well as a range of other issues that touch the lives of jewelers, from their best-performing brands, to crime, to pay scales and the most “hard core jewelry thing” they’d ever done. As always, the survey produced a wealth of interesting data, lots of fun facts and the odd “whoa!” moment, thanks to the generous input of the over 750 independent jewelers who contributed to the exercise. The full survey results can be found HERE. Following are 10 highlights:

Working hard for the money

In contrast to the wider US economy, which has seen productivity dip in recent years, independent jewelers report they are getting more done with less. Across the production and sales pipelines, a combination of innovation, technology and – crucially — a shortage of skilled workers is driving productivity gains as fewer hands do more work. Sixty-seven percent of jewelers said their store had become more productive in recent years. At the same time, one-third said they were currently short-staffed.

Earnings continue to creep higher

Many jewelry store owners are making more money than ever, with almost one in three taking home $150,000 or more a year. But they are also working harder. 64% said their main strategy to cope with staff shortages was to do more of the work themselves.

Online, offline

The traditional sales floor appears to have little to fear from online sales. People still want to come in and see and touch merchandise up close. Indeed, online was the one area where the overwhelming share of jewelers said they were seeing disappointing returns on their efforts to boost productivity given the regular upgrades and constant attention that are required. Only 10% of the jewelers in our survey said e-commerce made a “Substantial contribution” their earnings.

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A New No. 1 Brand

There was a new top dog in this year’s survey for “best-performing brand”: Sylvie. The brand, known primarily for its bridal and wedding jewelry collection, has been creeping up our rankings for the past few years and finally conquered the competition, taking the No. 1 spot while edging out Allison-Kaufman by only two votes (64 votes vs. 62 votes). Gabriel & Co., a perennial favorite among retailers nationwide, was a comfortable third. Stuller and Ostbye rounded out the top five, respectively.

Lab-grown diamonds going strong

The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has been the biggest innovation in the American jewelry industry in decades. Despite initial reservations, 63% of independent jewelers now stock them. The margins on LBG remain better than for natural diamonds even as their prices have fallen. At the same time, only 19% of jewelers said they had faced blowback from customers on purchases that have sometimes quickly lost value.

Green, up to a point

One of the big mega trends of the last two decades has been increasing consumer awareness about social and environmental issues. But when it comes to buying jewelry, such concerns don’t seem top of mind: Sixty-five percent of jewelers said they are “rarely” asked about “ESG” issues such as ethical sourcing or the environmental impact of mining.

Cut vs Carat

Of the famous four Cs, just over half, or 52%, of the jewelers ranked Cut as the most important consideration when choosing a diamond. But, for customers, the choice was even clearer, with an estimated 73% prioritizing “Carat.”

Crime figures

Only 8% of the respondents said they’d never experienced a crime in their store. The most common types of crime experienced by jewelers were credit card fraud (40%), shoplifting (37%) and burglary (30%). A significant 11% had been held up at gunpoint.

Remote jewelers

It’s not just digital nomads and freelance coders working from Starbucks — 18% of jewelry-store owners are doing over 10 hours of work a week remotely (although yes, that includes jewelers taking work home).

A Blue Moment

Blue was by far the favorite color of jewelers, chosen by 41% of our survey participants, well ahead of red (13%) and green (12%), While the scientific validity of color personality tests is disputed, they can throw up interesting insights. According to our survey of various color-based psychology tests, blue indicates a trustworthy and persistent personality, so maybe there is something to it after all. Then again, as one jeweler noted pragmatically: “Blue sells!”

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SPONSORED VIDEO

When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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