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Holiday Season Mini Survey

Mixed Start to the Holiday Season for Independent Jewelers

Bracelets and lab-grown diamonds selling well, jewelers tell the 2023 INSTORE Holiday Season Mini Survey.

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WITH JUST A little more than a week to go until Christmas, the 2023 holiday season has so far been a mixed bag for independent jewelers, delivering positive surprises for some and disappointment for others.

Almost 40% of the respondents in the first 2023 INSTORE Holiday Season Mini Survey described their sales to date as either “disappointing” or “dismal”, compared to 35% who said they were “better than expected” or “terrific”. The rest said they were in line.

In contrast, 57% said they had gone into the holidays with expectations the 2023 season would be a good one.

“Traffic count is down. Average ticket is up slightly but fewer tickets. Staff is happy but no pajama day this year — we have not met our numbers,” said Denise Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL.

Mixed Start to the Holiday Season for Independent Jewelers Mixed Start to the Holiday Season for Independent Jewelers

The bumpy sales season was attributed to a number of factors including the weather in places like Iowa and Florida, higher prices due to inflation and competition from other luxury segments.

“With everyone excited to travel again, and I get it, I am one of them, my expectations for the holiday season were not high,” noted Jo Goralski, owner of The Jewelry Mechanic in Oconomowoc, WI. “That said I restructured my business after the Great Recession to have the holiday season to be a nice bump, but not the be all and end all of my year. I unlock the door, I am busy.”

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The run-up in gold prices was an added factor for jewelers to deal with this year, making some jewelry pieces more expensive and dragging staff off the sales floor to deal with people looking to sell their old jewelry.

Mixed Start to the Holiday Season for Independent Jewelers Mixed Start to the Holiday Season for Independent Jewelers

The two big hot sellers of the year so far appear to be bracelets and lab grown diamonds (and all the better when you can combine the two!).

“Bracelets, bracelets, bracelets! $7K link bracelets with fabulous boulder opals, black diamond bracelets, men’s custom bracelets of elegantly set agates, and chain bracelets of Keshi pearls and diamonds. I’d say it’s the year of the bracelet,” said Eve J. Alfille, owner of Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio in Evanston, IL. “Makes sense as people are marked by the pandemic and still insist ‘we don’t go anywhere fancy!’ A necklace is ‘fancy’, a bracelet you wear for yourself,” she added.

Similar thinking appeared to guide the popularity of lab-grown diamond jewelry, which was cited by about one in four jewelers as their best-selling category. “Lab grown diamond studs! People are really not looking to spend a lot so they get a lot more band for their buck,” said Becky Bettencourt, Blue River Diamonds in Peabody MA.

Mixed Start to the Holiday Season for Independent Jewelers

While there is only a week to go until Christmas, jewelers in our Brain Squad remained mildly upbeat, noting the selling season seems to get later every year.

“Yogi Berra was a relative by marriage. A famous quote was ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’ Always has been my philosophy at Christmas,” said Kas Jacquot of Kas A Designs in Jefferson City, MO.

Responses to the first 2023 Holiday Season survey were collected over Dec 16-17. A total of 102 jewelry store owners or managers from across the country responded to the online survey.

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