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Jewelers Report Grimmer Holiday Mood

Many are lowering their sales expectations, INSTORE found in its second 2018 Holiday Season Mini Survey.

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THE MOOD OF JEWELERS turned decidedly grimmer in the second week of December, with store owners and managers sharply lowering their expectations for the 2018 holiday season. More than one in three, or 34 percent, of respondents to our second holiday mini survey described the season so far as “disappointing” or “dismal,” up from just 20 percent who were that negative in our first survey taken on Dec. 6.

The proportion of jewelers doing “better than expected” or having a “terrific” season also shrank, from 27 percent to 21 percent. The rest said sales had so far been in line with expectations.

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“I think Trump’s tariffs causing the stock market to crash, as well as the threat of recession, is hurting us. Internet sales are also becoming more of a factor,” said Michael Rumanoff of Rumanoff’s Fine Jewelry and Design, Hamden, CT.

Yet, many jewelers remain hopeful for a strong finish to the season, similar to what happened last year, with some noting that their early sales had been dominated by self-purchasers as opposed to bigger-spending gift-buyers.

“I think it’s going to be a late buying year. We’ve had some nice sales but there’s no sense of urgency yet,” said Marc Majors, owner of Sam L. Majors, a fifth-generation jeweler in Midland, TX.

HOW DO YOU RATE YOUR HOLIDAY SEASON SO FAR?

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Meanwhile, some jewelers are already plotting adjustments to their strategy in 2019, including changes to their marketing and inventory.

“Already wish I’d done a little different marketing,” said Julee Johnson, owner of Julee’s Jewelry in Mankato, MN. “But I know what to change in the coming year. Facebook can be good, but don’t rely only on it. We use it along with radio and direct mail, but our tracking shows it’s not the only answer.”

Mark Snyder, owner of Snyder Jewelers in Weymouth, MA, said his holiday season had been hectic and he was expecting to top his historical numbers. But he noted his customers’ focus was clearly on custom-designed jewelry. “We will definitely consider carrying less inventory next year. People simply want custom (at least 15-20 days out). It’s not like our inventory mix is wrong. People come through the door with a custom design in mind and their own gemstones. They aren’t looking and NOT seeing what they want, because they aren’t looking at all.”

HOW IS CUSTOMER TRAFFIC COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

In addition to the strong custom design trend, which was reported across the country, the other pattern being noted was rising average tickets but falling traffic. Almost half, or 46 percent, of survey respondents reported fewer customers were coming in their doors compared with the 2017 season, while 35 percent said their average ticket was up and a further 46 percent said it had held steady.

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

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Diamond studs, pendants, engagement rings, and other high-end items led the way.

“Diamond anything,” was how Kim Hatchell, manager of Galloway & Moseley in Sumter, SC, described her best sellers.

HOW IS YOUR AVERAGE TICKET COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

INSTORE’s 2018 Holiday Season Mini Survey No. 2 was sent to the Brain Squad on Monday and answered by more than 120 jewelers across North America. We will send a third installment after the coming weekend. If you’d like to become a member of the Brain Squad, and get access to all the respondent data, please sign up HERE.

Chris Burslem is Group Managing Editor at SmartWork Media.

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Blue Nile CEO Departs

The company has named an interim chief.

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Blue Nile CEO Jason Goldberger has left the company, GeekWire reports.

There’s been little explanation for his departure just a year-and-a-half after joining the online diamond retailer.

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The company stated that he “moved on to pursue his next challenge.”

“We are continuing to invest behind our strategic priorities and new capabilities to accelerate growth,” Blue Nile continued in a statement.

Eric Anderson is serving as interim CEO.

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Before joining Blue Nile, Goldberger served as chief digital officer and president of Target.com. He previously held roles with Gilt Groupe, Hayneedle and Amazon.

Blue Nile officially become a private company in February. It had previously traded on the Nasdaq. The Seattle-based company was acquired by an investor group in a $500 million deal. The investor group is made up of funds managed by Bain Capital Private Equity and Bow Street LLC.

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852 US Jewelry Retailers Closed Their Doors in 2018

The number of closures is up from 2017’s figure.

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The Jewelers Board of Trade reports that 852 U.S. jewelry retailers stopped doing business in 2018.

That’s slightly more than the 817 businesses that closed in 2017.

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Of those, 706 fell into the category of “ceased operations,” while 122 were listed as “consolidations (sale/merger)” and 24 were classified as “bankruptcies.”

Meanwhile, 183 jewelry retail businesses opened their doors in the U.S. in 2018. That was up significantly from 131 in 2017.

Counting wholesalers and manufacturers along with retailers, 1,013 U.S. jewelry businesses closed their doors in 2018. That’s compared with 1,022 in 2017.

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The total number of jewelry retailers listed in the U.S. is now 18,974, compared with 19,823 at the end of 2017, according to the Jewelers Board of Trade.

The total number of jewelry businesses, including wholesalers and retailers, is 25,102, compared with 26,270 at the end of 2017.

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Newly Discovered Gemstone Is Harder Than Diamond

It’s been found on Earth for the first time.

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Shefa Yamim, a precious stone exploration company in Israel, has discovered a new mineral that is harder than diamond and which has never been found on Earth before.

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The material is called carmeltazite, and it was recently approved as a new mineral by the International Mineralogical Association Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification.

The mineral was named carmeltazite because of it its discovery on Mount Carmel and due to its major chemical components: titanium, aluminum and zirconium (“TAZ”), the company stated in a press release. Shefa Yamim trademarked the name “carmel sapphire” for the material.

The mineral “is a newly discovered type of corundum similar in appearance to the corundum, but unlike any other sapphire found in the world,” according to the company. The rough carmel sapphire is typically black, blue-to-green or orange-brown. The largest stone found is 33.3 carats.

The Vintage News reports that “it was previously believed that this type of mineral was only found on extraterrestrial material.”

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It’s harder than diamond and substantially rarer, “making its value extremely high,” according to the publication.

Avi Taub, CEO of Shefa Yamim, said in the release: “We are delighted that our Carmel Sapphire has been recognised as a host to many rare minerals. In today’s world where the prices of gems are determined predominantly by their rarity, the Carmel Sapphire is a unique discovery because it has not been found anywhere else in the world and was discovered by Shefa Yamim in the soil of the Holy Land. We believe this substantially increases the potential value of our ‘Gem Box’ of precious stones. The studies of Carmel Sapphire and its new minerals mark another milestone in the Company’s journey as we continue our progress towards trial mining in Zone 1 in 2019.”

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