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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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