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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?

Late Rush Arrives to Rescue the Holiday Season

WHAT WAS YOUR AVERAGE SALE THIS HOLIDAY PERIOD?

Late Rush Arrives to Rescue the Holiday Season

HOW WAS YOUR AVERAGE TICKET COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

Late Rush Arrives to Rescue the Holiday Season

PLEASE RATE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON FOR YOUR STORE

Late Rush Arrives to Rescue the Holiday Season

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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Jaki Cowan, the owner of Sollberger’s in Ridgeland, MS, decided the time was right to close up shop. The experience, she says, was like going into the great unknown. There were so many questions about the way to handle the store’s going-out-of-business sale. Luckily for Cowan, Wilkerson made the transition easier and managed everything, from marketing to markdowns.

“They think of everything that you don’t have the time to think of,” she says of the Wilkerson team that was assigned to manage the sale. And it was a total success, with financial goals met by Christmas with another sale month left to go.

Wilkerson even had a plan to manage things while Covid-19 restrictions were still in place. This included limiting the number of shoppers, masking and taking temperatures upon entrance. “We did everything we could to make the staff and public feel as safe as possible.”

Does she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers thinking of retiring, liquidating or selling excess merchandise? Absolutely. “If you are considering going out of business, it’s obviously an emotional journey. But truly rest assured that you’re in good hands with Wilkerson.”

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