Black Friday disappointed this year at the mall, but jewelers surveyed by JCK had generally good things to say about the traditional retail kickoff.
As usual, many one-store independents said the day after Thanksgiving simply isn’t built for their kind of store. Still, a few did give thanks for their weekend business, citing engagement rings, Gems One’s Rhythm of Love line (as well as other floating diamonds), and Alex and Ani as the day’s big sellers. Significantly, JCK’s editors didn’t speak to one store owner who said sales were down on the day.
In a bit of switch, a handful of mom-and-pops are beginning to jump on the big Black bandwagon.
S.E. Needham Jewelers has experimented with Black Friday promotions for years. This year, Gene Needham, owner of the Logan, Utah–based store, issued a flier and offered shoppers a gift with purchase, including cameras, headphones, earbuds, and the iPhone 6. And business is building.
“This year was as good as we’ve seen in years,” he says.
For the last few years, Northeastern Fine Jewelry, a three-store chain based in Albany, N.Y., has done a similar tech promotion. This time, it offered a GoPro camera with a $1,399 purchase and a Samsung TV for those spending $3,499.
“We use it as a loss leader to get new faces in the door and hope to generate a relationship,” says vice president Gregg Kelly. “This year we saw a lot of new faces, which is a good sign.”
Overall, Black Friday was flat, but “traffic was there in medium to higher price points,” Kelly says.
Corinne Jewelers in Toms River, N.J., enticed customers with tiered discounts, including a hefty $500 cut for those who spent more than $2,500. And it paid off: The store was busy on Black Friday, leading owner Ryan Blumenthal to predict a very merry Christmas ahead.
“We are finding a very upbeat customer who is ready to treat herself to something special,” he says. “Customers, for the most part, are no longer inundated with doom and gloom on the news. We are expecting the biggest holiday season in our 50-year history.”
There were also big smiles at Levy’s Fine Jewelry in Birmingham, Ala., where sales jumped 14 to 17 percent over last year.
Co-owner Jared Levy says the store sold diamond studs, “decent-size” engagement rings, one-of-a-kind estate pendants, and yellow gold.
“Every pair of gold hoops we’ve put in the store has sold instantly,” he says. “We also had better-than-usual multiple tickets—I think because my staff was working pretty hard at suggestive selling.”
Also on the upswing: online sales. “I have noticed considerably more action on the website,” Levy says. “At 3 a.m., I can see that people are on the site. I had to make sure it wasn’t people on my staff.”
Brian Goff, owner, Goff Jewelers, Staten Island, N.Y., offered free 0.1 ct. silver diamond studs with purchases over $399. But Black Friday was flat.
“We sold a couple of bridal pieces,” he says, “and some other high-end pieces,” including two $10,000 items. He also did nice business with Angelica bracelets from Royal Chain.
But he has mixed feelings about the holiday. “Going into September, we were up 25 percent,” he says. “Then November was crummy, so now we are up only about 10 percent.”
Jodi Winters, owner, J.L. Winters Jewelers, in Muncy, Pa., didn’t do any Black Friday promotion but plans to hit the day harder next year, after scoring big with Rhythm of Love and engagement rings.
“People are ready to spend money on jewelry on Black Friday,” she says.
Other jewelers aren’t so sure, saying the day mostly draws consumers to malls and big-box stores.
For Debbie Fox, owner of Fox Fine Jewelry, Ventura, Calif., Black Friday was just a regular day.
“It’s pretty normal, aside from people who are out of town who bring people in,” she says.
And while her downtown area touted Small Business Saturday, that didn’t take hold, she says.
Still, her store, which recently relocated, has been up 25 percent to 75 percent all year, with bridal and jewelry with animal pictures doing well.
Bulfer’s Fine Jewelry of La Jolla, La Jolla, Calif., similarly had a “zero day,” says owner Gary Bulfer.
“Our customer typically is a man who comes in and delays this thing till a week or two weeks before [Christmas],” he says. “Thanksgiving weekend for us—and it has been this way for 24 years—is real slow. It’s just people walking off their huge dinners, and then they kind of disappear. We get a few looky-loos, but it’s pretty much a zero day every year.”
Despite all the upbeat talk about the economy, he is not so sure it will be a blockbuster.
“My customers have money, and they’re holding on to it,” he says. “Last year was absolutely the worst year I ever had. I’ll be surprised if I have a good Christmas, but to be honest with you, I’m not expecting one. I have inventory, I really do—but I’m not terribly optimistic.”
His store still does strong business in wedding rings and custom design.
Ron Boyd, the owner of Duncan & Boyd Jewelers, Amarillo, Texas, also isn’t a big Black Friday fan.
“Most customers go to the mall,” he says. “We’re a destination store.”
He didn’t do anything special to take advantage of the day.
“I did that one time and tried it once or twice, and we sold some low-end stuff,” he says. “It’s like beating my head against a wall. You have to decide who you are and who you’re going to deal with. We’re about personal service and going above and beyond for customers.”
As far as what’s been selling, Boyd singles out Roberto Coin, diamond crosses, diamond hoops, and diamond studs. But now that the price of oil is falling, the consumer mood in his area is going down with it.
People “get really nervous and finicky when that happens,” he says. “I had one customer in Tulsa tell me, ‘Look, Ron, people in the oil and gas business were filthy rich—now they’re just rich.’ ”
Reporting by Emili Vesilind, Jennifer Heebner, Victoria Gomelsky, and Logan Sachon.