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Holiday Season Mini Survey

Surprisingly Strong Holiday Season on Track to Top 2019

Many jewelers say they expect to have record years despite year of turmoil.

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FOR ALL THE awfulness that has preceded it, the 2020 holiday season is shaping up to be a strong one for many independent jewelers as shoppers show they are eager to bring this dramatic year to an end with expressions of shiny, bright love for those close to them.

INSTORE Mini survey chart-expectations

With just three days to go until Christmas, 54 percent of jewelers who responded to the latest INSTORE 2020 Holiday Season Mini Survey described the season so far as “better than expected” or “terrific”.

Even more surprising, almost as many said this holiday season was on track to be better than last year’s, before the coronavirus had arrived on America’s shores, causing so much grief and disruption.

“With the four biggest days to go I foresee a record year, which was simply unimaginable the end of March,” said Tom Nelson, owner of Nelson Jewelry in Spencer, IA, calling it “a very surreal year.”

“So many struggling yet so many in our industry having a very good year. Truly mind boggling.”

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Jon Walp, general manager of Long Jewelers in Virginia Beach, VA, said he was feeling similarly whip-sawed. “This has been the most ‘see-saw’ season I’ve ever experienced, but 3.5 days out, I like the trend I am seeing. Fingers crossed.”

INSTORE Mini survey chart-sales

Jewelers attributed their strong sales to a combination of factors including cash-flush consumers who can’t travel, a new desire among consumers to shop local, and people looking to add some sparkle to their pandemic-stressed lives.

“Remember a few years ago when ‘orange was the new black’? I think now ‘jewelry is the new vacation’,” said Stacey Horcheror of Ireiss in Lincolnwood, IL.

Karen Hollis, of K. Hollis Jewelers in nearby Batavia, IL, agreed: “I believe people that are used to traveling, big celebrations, and events have money to spend and are shopping local and spending more.”

“People want to feel good about something this year and jewelry is a great gift,” added Anne Marie Marker of Rolland’s Jewelers in Libertyville, IL. ”Everyone needs a bit more sparkle in their life this year.”

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As it has since the start of the holiday season, shopper behavior has been marked by less browsing and more intentional buying of higher-priced goods than last year. More than half of the jewelers in our survey said their average ticket was up this holiday season, with almost two-thirds saying it was over $500.

INSTORE Mini survey chart-average ticker vs. 2019

Diamond jewelry dominated best seller lists.

“Diamond studs, OMG diamond studs!” said Ira Kramer, owner of Diamond Exchange of North Florida, in Tallahassee, FL.

“(We’ve) reverted to the 80s,” said Gene Arthur, owner of Arthur’s Jewelry in Reidsville, NC, citing his sales of gold chains and yes, diamond studs.

Hearts On Fire, in particular, was mentioned by our survey respondents as doing well this season.

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Another factor behind the improved performance this holiday season has been the accelerated shift to online shopping as a result of the pandemic, forcing jewelers to update their selling skills and offer more sales channels to customers. Almost half of the jewelers in a survey said their online sales were higher this year compared to the 2019 period.

INSTORE Mini survey chart-average sale

INSTORE Mini survey chart-instore traffic

INSTORE Mini survey chart-online traffic

“Never in 55 years in business did I ever imagine customers shopping with us for diamonds 24/7 via emails and texts,” said Eileen Eichhorn, owner of Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, adding her overall sales were up more than 20 percent compared to last year.

Debbie Fox, of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, CA said the pandemic had motivated her team to step up their online clienteling. “We’ve made at least two dozen sales that we instigated via text. It’ll be a permanent part of our toolkit.”

Meanwhile, Shawn Baldwin of Sierra Moon Goldsmiths in Auburn, CA, said his store had launched a Shopify site “just in time” for the holidays. “Our clients are loving shopping online and then coming in to buy.”

Of course, there was also no shortage of stories from North American jewelers for whom the pandemic has been an unmitigated negative. Some, such as Amanda Lanteigne, of Gold-N-Memories in Steinbach, Manitoba in central Canada, have been forced to close, while others were living with the uncertainty they could be shut at any time.

Many of the rest are hoping that the next three days will allow them to end the year if not on a high, then even.

“We are running a bit behind last year by 9 percent or so but it is possible that we will have strong last-minute buying as people are realizing that Amazon-FedEx-UPS are not able to deliver everything expected by Christmas. We have gifts ‘in stock’”, said Mark Clodius, owner of Clodius & Co. Jewelers, Rockford, IL

And if that last minute surge doesn’t come, there is always 2021.

“COVID has limited my store capacity and my sales team has been split into two teams, so I know we are missing sales, because of COVID restrictions. Oh well, there is always next year!” said Tom Duma, owner of Thom Duma Fine Jewelers in Warren, OH.

The INSTORE Holiday Season Mini Survey #3 was taken by more than 150 independent jewelery store owners or managers who are part of our Brain Squad readers group, on Monday Dec. 21.

Chris Burslem is Group Managing Editor at SmartWork Media.

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