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Holiday Season Mini Survey

As Vaccine Rolls Out, Jewelers Report Improving Sentiment

For many, sales have been better than expected.

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WITH JUST 9 days to go until Christmas, many independent jewelers reported being positively surprised at how the 2020 holiday season was shaping up.

According to our latest INSTORE Mini Survey, 60 percent of the jewelers in our Brain Squad said sales had been better than expected (10% described them as “terrific”), while more than half reported that their average ticket was up from last year.

“So far, very surprised to be keeping pace with last year,” said Frank Salinardi, owner of Linardi’s Jewelers in Plantation, FL.

“Who knew we’d be the beneficiaries of the pandemic?” added Eileen Eichhorn, of Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN. “With people not spending on vacations, dinner out and a myriad of other things, jewelry reigns. Praise God!”

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Some of the trends seen in our first mini survey after the Black Friday weekend become more prominent in the last week with fewer shoppers coming in to stores but those who did buying more expensive items. Fifty-two percent of the survey respondents reported that in-store traffic was down from the same period last year, while 61 percent said their average ticket was over $500. Meanwhile, 36 percent said online traffic was up as the COVID-19 pandemic upended usual holiday routines.

“People aren’t going to be doing big family events where they need to buy so many gifts, and in general won’t be traveling, so I think couples will be planning on really treating each other this year,” offered Becky Bettencourt of Blue River Diamonds in Peabody, MA.

Alex Weil, owner of Martin’s Jewelry in Torrance, CA, attributed the more positive sentiment to the start of vaccination rollout across the country. “Vaccines are starting to go into people’s arms. That is not only a game-changer but one with hope attached.”

Garrett Karmazin, of Darolds Jewelers in Lincoln, NE, concurred: “People are hopeful and really appreciating their relationships with each other.”

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To be sure, a significant portion of jewelers are struggling with the upheaval caused by the pandemic. Saro Abrahamian, owner of Town Jewelers in Chevy Chase, MD said his sales had been disappointing. “It’s the season to close down business and cry!” he lamented. William G Lehnert, owner of Alexander Lehnert in Asheville, NC was more blunt. “It sucks,” was how he described his season.

For other jewelers, the experience had been a mix of the good, bad and weird.

“I just don’t know what to expect day to day,” said Marc Majors of Sam L. Majors in Midland, TX. “We’ve had some nice early sales and traffic has been decent. Some days it’s pretty barren and other days we’re slammed. Weird season to end a weird year.”

Christopher Sarich, of Noah Gabriel & Co. Jewelers in Wexford, PA, said his experience had been similar. “It has been a strange December so far. We have had several huge days and quiet days in between. Basically days of boredom and then hours of fury.”

With more of the sales action shifting online, jewelers have had to adapt and push new channels to make sales. “Podium chats, emails, online purchases on our website, phone calls, and customers that visit our showroom. Even when the showroom seems slow, there are transactions happening on different platforms. Very different from previous holiday seasons,” said Joy Thollot, co-owner of Thollot Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in Thornton, CO.

Lucy Conklin, manager of Toner Jewelers in Overland Park, KS, said the new environment had made reaching out to existing customers crucial. She estimated 75 percent of their holiday business had come from direct clienteling, as opposed to new traffic and marketing. “Our sales team has been reaching out in every way possible. The best responses have been from texting through Podium. Direct messages with suggestions based on past purchases and wish lists seem to be the most likely to get responses from the clients.”

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Other jewelers said they were promoting heavily on social media and doing more live Facebook events.

Custom designed jewelry was reported to be doing particularly well, along with diamond stud earrings, both natural and lab-created.

Several jewelers noted that with the most crucial days of the year were still lay ahead of them. An almost universal observation was that a better year awaits in 2021.

“My 91-year-old mother beat COVID, a friend’s son in-law has been in the ICU for a number of weeks close to death and is improving, none of my staff have caught the virus, my store is surviving and the vaccine is starting to be delivered. In other words, I and a lot of us have a lot to be thankful for,” said Edwin Menk, owner of E. L. Menk Jewelers, in Brainerd, MN. “I have been told that the Chinese have a saying ‘Life should be interesting, but not too interesting.’ This last year has been too interesting and I have great hopes that 2021 will be interesting but not too interesting.”

The Second 2020 Holiday Season Mini survey was taken on Monday by 130 independent jewelers who are part of our Brain Squad readers group. We will send out more surveys over the course of the holiday season. Look out for the results each Tuesday.

Chris Burslem is Group Managing Editor at SmartWork Media.

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