“Affluent retail customers are steering away from high-end dressy jewelry and focusing on purchasing fewer, finer things that are rare and will hold value. Even if the pieces are very expensive, they want to wear them more often and don’t want ‘vault’ jewelry. This is influencing our buying habits. On our buying trips, we will bring home a handful of truly special stones to entice our clients, versus filling our showcases with over-the-top diamond necklaces and bracelets. We are managing our vendors and categories very carefully in terms of turn. Online is another ongoing challenge. The big boxes are rolling out new technologies at lightning speed to make shopping online more personable, like in a store. Trying to keep up is no easy task, but it is a necessary one. Service has always been the independents’ strength, so you have to find ways to out-service the big boxes. And that requires a willingness to invest heavily in the digital world.”
—Sean Dunn, vice president, J.R. Dunn Jewelers, Lighthouse Point, Fla.
“As retailers…we’re competing against our vendors these days. On one hand, they’re our partners. But they’re sometimes also our competitors. There are some vendors I’ve elected to stop doing business with as a result. There are others I don’t know the right solution for—they’re selling online directly, and I’m selling in the store. Where are customers buying? If retailers would start to push back collectively, I don’t think vendors would want to lose the business. But the reality is that’s not going to happen. We’re all too worried about giving up that business. But somewhere down the road, this is going to be a bigger challenge. What I’m doing is looking to grow our online experience—we’re rebuilding our website to make it bigger, stronger, better. And we’ll be trying to compete at least within our own market.”
—Jeffrey L. Mann, president, Jeffrey Mann Fine Jewelers, Toledo, Ohio
“There are years when there are very clear trends—like everyone wants cultured pearls or diamond studs. We also have those years where there are no dominating trends—that’s the dilemma I see for us this year. Things have changed culturally. Women are not going home to change for some special occasion at night anymore. And in some ways nighttime is more casual than daytime now. So the fancy evening jewelry is really not part of the lifestyle of most people today. I think this whole cultural change is really influencing things. When I came out of last Christmas I was racking my brain, saying, ‘What is the big coming trend?’ I came to the [conclusion] that people are buying ‘cool.’ ‘Traditional’ is not selling well. ‘Classic’ is a loser. ‘Cool’ fits into a casual lifestyle.”
—Jim Rosenheim, owner and chairman, Tiny Jewel Box, Washington, D.C.
“The biggest challenge in 2016 will be the economy, or at least the public’s perception of economic health. The key economic indicators are strong, but there is still pessimistic public perception…because of China’s problems, the election year, oil being down, and the stock market’s worst start in history. This all hurts jewelry buyers’ willingness to go out and spend discretionary dollars on jewelry. We overcome this by creating a fun-loving environment to shop in. Customers don’t feel a recession in our store.”
—Trey Bailey, director of operations, Bailey’s Fine Jewelry, Raleigh, N.C.