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Holiday Season Goes From Dismal to Successful in 48 Hours

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“How much later can a shopper wait?” wondered James Sickinger in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 holiday season.

It was a question jewelers across the country were asking themselves, as a late surge of buying turned the season into a surprisingly merry one for many store owners.

In the case of Sickinger’s Jewelry in Lowell, IN, the holiday period went from “dismal to successful” in a matter of 48 hours, Sickinger said.

Many other jewelers had similar stories.

“Our biggest day was Dec. 23rd, and the 24th was also the best we’ve ever had,” said James Pesis, owner of Continental Diamond in Minneapolis, MN.

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Jeffrey Hurwitz, whose store Colonial Jewelers in Frederick, MD, has been in business for more than 65 years called it “the most last-minute season in our history.”

Added Richard Frank, owner of Goldstein’s Jewelry in Mobile, AL: “Interesting that 25 percent of our year happens in December, and over 20 percent of that is in the last two days. No pressure at all.”

Overall, 32 percent of jewelers who took our final holiday mini survey last week described the 2014 holidays as better than they had expected while 14 percent said they were out-and-out “terrific.” Only 2 percent experienced “dismal” sales while 24 percent said they were “disappointing.” The rest, or 28 percent, said the season had been in line with their expectations.

Tally up the categories and you get a very positive result — with 46% experiencing better-than-expected holiday seasons, and only 26% doing worse than expectations.

Several of the jewelers who reported soft holiday numbers came from oil states, such as Texas and Nebraska, where the dramatic slide in crude prices hurt consumer sentiment. But in several cases, the holidays ended happily regardless.

“As an oil-patch store, we immediately felt the effects of the drop in oil the first week of December, and sales went from being way ahead to falling off 30 percent. Then we caught up and exceeded last December by 2 percent, and last December was our best in 20 years, higher than the previous year by 35-percent plus,” said Rex Solomon, owner of Houston Jewelry, in Houston, TX.

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Across the country, jewelers reported improvements in customer traffic, average ticket and overall sales.

Almost half, or 49 percent, of the jewelers in our survey group reported that their average ticket was up over the 2013 season while only 19 percent said it was down. Interestingly, 40 percent said their average sale was over $350, the highest price range we offered in our survey.

James Sickinger (far right) and the team at Sickinger’s Jewelry in Lowell, IN were buoyed by last-minute shoppers this holiday season.

“Money seems to be traveling up the food chain,” noted John Anthony, of John Anthony Jewellers in Kitchener, ON, adding that he sold fewer units in 2014 but at higher price points.

This trend certainly seemed to be reflected in the types of jewelry that store-owners nominated as their Christmas best sellers. While Pandora remained the single most cited brand, as it has been each of the last five holiday seasons, this year it only just edged out a diamond collection, Gems One’s Rhythm of Love collection by one mention (8 to 7).

Indeed, this was the season that appeared to mark the return of diamond jewelry in a big way.

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Almost 40 percent of jewelers named diamonds as their big seller of the season, almost twice as many as those who mentioned silver goods. Interestingly, several jewelers noted they were also selling bigger diamond jewelry, notably pendants.

“It was earrings and not studs this year,” said Manny Millman, of Shelle Jewelers in Northbrook, IL.

The other big sellers were trends we have been seeing all year — custom, shimmering diamonds and colored stones.

Two other noteworthy trends from our survey: The first, spotted by Ed Menk, of E. L. Menk Jewelers in Brainerd, MN, was the amount of jewelry purchased on the Internet and then brought in to be resized. “Some are silver/goofy alloy and heavily plated and some are very expensive but designed to look good in a picture but not designed to be worn.”

Despite the gains made by online retailers in the holiday season (sales were up 15 percent according to some estimates), consumers will still be needing brick-and-mortar service for some time to come.

The second observation, on our part, was that after so many tough years jewelers seem to be regaining their confidence, and from their comments, there was a noticeable willingness to try new things in 2015.

“What seems to be working for me is being deliberate in marketing to the type of business I want to do and acting like the store I want to be,” said Cindi Haddad-Drew, owner of Cindi’s Diamond & Jewelry Gallery in Foxborough, MA. “For years I just went along with business to make ends meet. Lately I have been focusing all of my attention towards becoming the store I want. I am seeing great improvements in money and clientele.”


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