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Late Rush Arrives to Rescue the Holiday Season

Check out results from our final mini-survey of the holiday season.

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A GREAT LAST WEEK helped turn what had been shaping up as a disappointing holiday season into a good one for many jewelers. Overall, however, the season could be best described as a mixed bag as record sales throughout 2018 fueled high expectations ahead of the peak selling period, only for December to fail to deliver.

The share of jewelers who described the season as either “better than expected” or “terrific” – 37 percent – just edged the proportion who said it was either “worse than expected” or “dismal” – 35 percent. That marked a solid improvement from our previous survey done in mid-December, when only 25 percent of jewelers rated their season up to that point positively and 37 percent said it was looking like a bust.

“It was very late getting started but we pulled it out. Not our best Christmas but good,” said Valerie Savvenas, of Manoli’s Jewelers in Springfield, MO.

“I was truly broken and worried by the 12th because sales had see-sawed the first half of the month,” said Denise Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL. “Then the steady, sweet daily tallies started rolling in and then just roared to a stop on Christmas Eve when we shut the doors,” she said, adding that she ultimately finished with her best December on record.

HOW WAS CUSTOMER TRAFFIC COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

WHAT WAS YOUR AVERAGE SALE THIS HOLIDAY PERIOD?

HOW WAS YOUR AVERAGE TICKET COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

PLEASE RATE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON FOR YOUR STORE

For many other jewelers, though, 2018 simply ended with a whimper.

“Our year was very strong, at a 30 percent increase, so we projected our December to keep track” said one respondent who answered the survey anonymously. “But we were very disappointed to just keep up with December 2017. Our ARS declined as we saw people spending less, and some of our larger spenders didn’t come.”

For those who missed their targets, there was no shortage of culprits from online sellers to stock market turmoil, to the government shutdown, rising interest rates and even the full moon.

“Tell the Fed not to raise interest rates during Christmas. And take our president’s phone away,” pleaded Georgie Gleim of Gleim the Jeweler in Palo Alto, CA, who said she actually had a surprisingly strong holiday season despite all the chaos being reflected in the news headlines.

Following on from the trend seen in recent weeks (and years), store traffic continued to fall while average tickets increased and custom design jewelry went from strength to strength.

If there was a recurring word in the jewelers’ comments to describe the season, it was “weird.”

“Christmas 2018 was strange,” said Susan Kauffman of Black Dog Jewelers in Lewisburg, PA, “Traffic was way down but the people who did come in bought without a sale price or without asking for a deal. I closed my store on the 26th and we went around to some malls and the parking lots were full; more so than in the beginning of December. I have been in this biz for 30 years and really couldn’t figure the season out.“

Marc Majors, owner of Sam L. Majors in Midland, TX concurred: “We had a strong rush on Saturday and Christmas Eve and that was it. Other than those two days there was no sense of urgency. This holiday season was the strangest I’ve been through yet in my 15-year career and I wouldn’t mind if I never saw one like this again.”

Lisa McConnell of Lisa McConnell Design Studio in Fort Worth, TX said her holiday season was dominated by repairs – really big ones. “Slowest holiday ever. I repaired some of the most expensive jewelry I’ve seen in a long time. Several four-carat solitaire diamond rings, 10-carat solitaire diamond rings and one 23-carat pear shape diamond ring. Lots of high pressure jobs but few big-dollar jobs. Not sure what to think.”

Weird or not, jewelers said they were looking forward to tackling the new year with what they’ve learned over the last two months, including making tweaks to their hours, marketing and inventory.

“We have done a no-strings-attached gift certificate for the last five years. We will not do those going forward,” said Joel Wiland of J.David’s Jewelry in Broken Arrow, OK. “The people that came in to only claim the face value of the card this year definitely ruined it.”

Tom Ozment Jr. of Fincher & Ozment Jewelers in Tuscaloosa, AL, said it appeared customers “still want deals’ so we’ll be having a massive sale next December to give them what they want.”

Wadeana Beveridge, of Community Jewelry in Brandon, FL said many of her customers appeared to be looking at the $150-or-less bracket, mostly earrings. “So I think next year we need to make a point of having a lot of options for birthstones and diamonds.”

In contrast, Jo Goralski, owner of The Jewelry Mechanic in Oconomowoc, WI, said she’d be aiming higher. “I am done with selling trinkets. Purchased goods sales have been sliding for a decade, so with fewer and fewer shoppers in the store, and fewer and fewer years left to be in this business, we are finally going to focus on what we have always wanted to be: studio jewelers,” she said. “We have so many designs yet to create that we are going to focus on what we do best, make things.”

More than 300 jewelers from around the United States and Canada answered the survey, which was sent out on the morning of Dec. 26.

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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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