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Commentary: The Business

Jewelers Can Count on Love and Christmas, Says Rockford Store Owner

Everything else is uncertain.

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WHAT A YEAR. We have never known this level of uncertainty. Yes, 2019 had its challenges, but oh my, the drama of 2020. January is always slow, business hit the brakes in February, then we had two months of forced closing, curbside only.

During the first week of walk-in sales, bam, we had a burglary. And we were closed for another week.

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Sales were excellent after we fully reopened in mid-June … that is until the $600 extra unemployment checks stopped in August. Sales went from excellent to OK.

Meanwhile, that sore back of mine? A vertebra, broken years ago, started slipping and impinging on nerves. And Monika’s diagnosis from a freak-accident fall, evolved from concussion to traumatic brain injury. Sigh. Surgeries and doctors in a pandemic.

So INSTORE calls and asks, “How do you think Christmas is going to be?” Well, my crystal ball (yes, I have one sitting on the shelf behind me) is not telling me much. I do know there will be a Christmas; I don’t know how big, whether early or late, in person, curbside or by mail only.

I’m writing this just days before the election. Love is a certainty, so is Christmas, but politics is not. If we have a big mess in Washington and COVID-19 running rampant, then it might slow up Christmas sales, but there will always be extra business. It is Christmas, after all.

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What I hear from other jewelers points to a big divide that I think of as a digital divide. Higher-end jewelers, with a great digital presence and an upscale clientele, are doing well, even very well. Smaller stores in areas with higher unemployment and minimal digital outreach are struggling. There will be more store closings.

Us? We’re somewhere in the middle. Our store is positioned “middle market.” Local unemployment is 14 percent, bridal has been good, but traffic counts are off by 30 to 40 percent. We have been pruning expenses and not buying anything much extra for Christmas. We are prudently optimistic.

Predictions for 2021? Babies born, engagements and weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. A vaccine will slowly become available, and by next fall, we will be returning to a new normal. Thankfully, jewelry shopping resists virtual shopping better than other retail, but it will be up to us to work for, and with, our customer base to make a trip here worthwhile and important enough to do so.

We’re thankful to work in a business we love, knowing that right now is a present* and the future will bring changes. (*“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”)

Monika and I wish everyone a good season and health to your families and loved ones.

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Mark and Monika Clodius own Clodius & Co. Jewelers in Rockford, IL.

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