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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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5 Arrested in $10M Jewelry Heist

A mother and son were among those taken into custody.

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Five people have been charged in connection with an Atlanta burglary in which thieves made off with jewelry worth as much as $10 million, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Burglars may have made off with the jewelry from Icebox Diamonds & Watches in Atlanta in February after tying up the store manager and his wife in their home, authorities say.

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Police took four people into custody: Jose Hernandez Pearson, Gregory Andrews, Tameka Lashon Croskey and Meisha Sims. A fifth person, Crysell Croskey, was already in jail on unrelated charges. Authorities said Tameka Croskey and Crysell Croskey are mother and son.

The suspects face a variety of felony counts, including burglary, theft, weapons and narcotics charges, the Journal-Constitution reports. Racketeering charges are also anticipated.

Before the burglary, two gunmen wearing ski masks entered the home and demanded codes to the store safes, according to earlier reports.

The couple were not injured, although the gunmen threatened to kill them, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported. But media reports say they were bound with zip ties and duct tape.

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Two men broke into the Buckhead store at about 11:30 p.m. and spent about two hours there, police said. They emptied two safes, taking jewelry and watches.

Cash and jewelry were also reportedly stolen from the jeweler’s home.

Read more at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Jewelry Insurance Startup Firm Raises $2M

The founder is a third-generation jeweler.

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BriteCo, a jewelry-insurance startup company, announced a $2 million seed round.

The round’s investors include Brian Spaly, the founder of Trunk Club; and Jeff Taylor, the former chairman and CEO at Cole Taylor Bank.

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The firm provides verified appraisals and immediate replacement coverage by HDI global, an A-rated insurance carrier, according to a press release.

“As a third-generation jeweler, my family and I have a long history delighting customers and helping them celebrate moments of joy in their lives,” said Dustin Lemick, BriteCo founder and CEO.

“But the jewelry buyer is changing rapidly. Millennials now represent the largest jewelry buying demographic, and their expectations are different from those of prior generations. BriteCo helps jewelers by providing them with the optimal blend of online convenience and personal attention.”

Lemick and his family have owned and operated retail jewelry locations in the Chicagoland area for over 60 years.

BriteCo explains that its coverage has no deductible, automatically updates protection each year using advanced price analytics and predictive models, and offers a streamlined claims experience. It also “offers an easy to use, cloud-based Appraisal Management System (AMS) that is faster and more accurate than the jewelry industry’s traditional manual processes,” according to the release.

“What Dustin and his team have accomplished in such a short period of time is amazing,” said Jeff Taylor, one of the company’s investors. “Getting BriteCo licensed in virtually every state before officially launching is a testament to their hard work and the professionalism with which they’re approaching this big challenge.

“I’m excited to be a part of their push to modernize the jewelry insurance and appraisal process and to help millions of people across the US protect their most valuable possessions.”

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Fugitive Jeweler Arrested in $2B Fraud Case

India is seeking to extradite him.

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Nirav Modi, the billionaire jeweler who’s suspected in a $2 billion fraud case in India, has been arrested in London, The Telegraph reports.

He was arrested on behalf of Indian authorities, and he appeared Westminster Magistrates’ Court to fight extradition to India, according to the newspaper.

In court, he “spoke only to confirm his details and to refuse to submit to extradition” related to embezzlement allegations, The Telegraph reports.

He’s due in court again on March 29.

Modi had been staying in a high-dollar apartment in London’s West End, according to the newspaper.

Last year, The New York Times described Modi as being “on the run” and noted that figuring out his location had become something of a “national pastime” in India.

He remained at-large despite Interpol’s issuance of a reed notice for his arrest in July, according to The Telegraph.

Modi is at the center of a fraud case involving Punjab National Bank, where employees are “suspected to have steered fraudulent loans” to Modi’s businesses, Reuters has reported.

Modi has apparently been involved in a new new diamond business in the UK, according to The Telegraph.

Read more at The Telegraph

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