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2018 Holiday Season So Far: Not Bad, Just Not Terrific

Many say the season is still in line with their expectations.

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INDEPENDENT JEWELERS moderated their view of the 2018 holiday season in the last week, with more describing it as disappointing but fewer also saying it was either dismal or terrific. About one in three said it was still in line with their expectations.

HOW DO YOU RATE THE HOLIDAY SEASON SO FAR?

Jewelers had gone into the season with high hopes — our Jewelers Confidence Index reached a year’s high at the beginning of November — but with just over a week to go until Christmas Day, the most common description of the season was that it had failed to live up to its billing.

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“Analysts were predicting a better holiday season this year than last. But sales are about the same, which is disappointing because we were expecting higher growth,” said Lyla Ismael of Lyla Jewelers, in Oak Lawn, IL.

Respondents blamed their slightly subdued sales so far on the stock market slump, politics, the prolonged holiday season following an early Thanksgiving, increased online competition, and the weather among other factors. Several admitted to being slightly bewildered by how things were turning out.

HOW IS THE CUSTOMER TRAFFIC COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

“Just surprised after a strong November that December could be so soft,” said Tom Duma, owner of Thom Duma Fine Jewelers in Warren, OH. “Not sure if it’s because of the General Motors closing plant announcement or Trump and his antics with a government shutdown, China trade deal, or the volatility in the stock market. I had high hopes for December but after 16 days I don’t see it coming back,” he said.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR AVERAGE SALE SO FAR FOR THIS HOLIDAY PERIOD

Average ticket continued to be strong for most jewelers, with 35 percent of the survey respondents saying it was above $500 and 36 percent saying it was up over last year’s average sale.

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Indeed, it was the loss of smaller ticket items that seemed to be hurting jewelers the most.

“Love those large-ticket items but I am really missing the $500-800 bread-and-butter items we have grown to expect to leave in droves. I hope I am proven wrong over the coming week,” said Denise Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL.

David Abrams, of Grand Jewelers in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, said he believes the “$500 and under sales have migrated to the web,” suggesting jewelers face a tough time in winning them back.

HOW IS YOUR AVERAGE TICKET COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

To be sure, the overall picture was not gloomy. Many jewelers reported strong sales and healthy margins and many were still hopeful there would be a late surge of buyers. More also seem to be realizing they need to tweak the way they do business in 2018.

“The dollars come later and later every year,” said Dennis Petimezas, of Watchmakers Diamonds & Jewelry, Johnstown, PA. “I finally got smart and reversed November/December marketing dollars. Majority advertising in December, minority in November. Sent ‘Free’ money ($50 and $100 bill images incorporated in body of letter) to be used as actual money in any way on merchandise in store to our top customers. It’s working!”

Our third 2018 holiday season was sent to INSTORE’s Brain Squad on Monday morning and answered by more than 135 jewelers across the country.

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Chris Burslem is Group Managing Editor at SmartWork Media.

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