Jewelers generally reported a strong holiday this season—but the good vibes weren’t felt across the board, with some consumers remaining cautious amid a still-sputtering economy.
The jewelers who did well, however, did really well, with some logging double-digit increases and making big-ticket sales.
An analyst at Mastercard Advisors even told Reuters that jewelry was “the best performing category this season.” The data service found overall U.S. retail sales rose 2.3 percent for Christmas, which it called better than expected.
Among the items jewelers cited as doing well: Pandora charms; diamond basics, particularly stud earrings; designer lines; watches; and silver.
Here is what jewelers told JCK about the 2013 season:
How were your holiday sales?
“In December we were up 37 percent. The season was smoother than in prior years. Customers were relatively stress-free and a little more relaxed; they didn’t seem to have as much financial pressure. We do have pretty strong online presence, too, but we don’t sell too much from the shopping cart, though I do have customers come in and say, ‘I saw this on your website.’”—Steve Hammalian, co-owner, Little Treasury Jewelers, Gambrills, Md.
“Our jewelry sales were up 10 to 15 percent. But overall we are down 10 percent because of gold buying. That’s down 300 to 400 percent, and that has been a huge part of our business. I think it’s run its course. If people had gold to sell they [already] did it.”—Bob Capace, owner, Worthington Jewelers, Worthington, Ohio
“We were very happy. We had an ice storm in Little Rock and that kind of put a damper on things. I was afraid people would just sit home and shop online. But they didn’t.” —Laura Stanley, vice president, Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, Little Rock, Ark.
“We don’t know what the percentage is yet, but I know it’s way better than last year. There was more foot traffic in the store and instead of relying on a few big sales to carry us through, we had more sales, which is what everybody wants: more people out shopping.”—Cindy Bernard, owner, Dell Williams Jewelers, Santa Cruz, Calif.
“Sales were up by about 10 percent. Not amazing, but as long as they’re up, I’m happy.” —Michael Tish, Michael Tish Jewelers, Lincoln, Neb.
“I would say we were flat for the season. But the average ticket price was around five to 10 percent more than last year.” —Trisha Joseph, co-owner, Joseph Jewelers, West Des Moines, Iowa
“Our sales were not up. The year end will be up from 2012, but the 2013 Christmas season was not better than the year before. That is different than every other year in business. This particular area just had a lot of people laid off and haven’t gotten jobs since, so that might be the cause.”—Tammy Northcutt, co-owner, Artisan Jewelry Co., Sharpsburg, Ga.
“We had the same number of tickets that we had last year on Christmas Eve, but sales were down as far as amounts. Forty percent down. With the government shutdown and with people either losing health care or premiums going up, we think people are just being more cautious this year.” —Lisa Hocutt, administrative manager, Ora Designers/Fine Jewelers, Raleigh, N.C.
“It was good, certainly a short selling season. But this year, more than ever, we needed the strong finish we got. How sad it is to need the last two to three days to hit your number. But that was this year for us: Monday the 23rd was our biggest day. Now I’m standing here at 11 a.m. [on Dec. 26] in Idaho and it’s a packed store. We’re slammed. We’ve still got a whole lot of business to do this month.” —Michael Haines, owner, The Diamond Shop, Lewiston, Idaho
“We’re happy this year. We were up from last year, 13 percent. The year overall is up, too, probably in the 13 to 15 percent range.” —Richard Holmes, owner, Duke’s Jewelers, Springville, Utah
“Our holiday was good. We were doing well all through, but the last four days we had an ice storm. The roads were awful, and Maine is such a remote state that people will drive for hours to buy. But we pulled off the week and exceeded last year’s numbers.” —Jeff Corey, president, Day’s Jewelers, Waterville, Maine
What sold well?
“We did a lot in silver this year. We also sold firefly pendants—these are Dancing Diamond styles but we call them Fireflies—in karat gold.” —Brenda Burris, manager, Goldrush Jewelers, Marion, Ohio
“Surprisingly, we sold a lot of diamond jewelry. With the Internet and Blue Nile, we had been seeing a lot of competition. But people wanted to see it, touch, buy it.” —Cindy Bernard, owner, Dell Williams Jewelers, Santa Cruz, Calif.
“Sideways crosses, infinity motifs, and diamond hoops were really popular. Especially sideways crosses.” —Michael Tish, Michael Tish Jewelers, Lincoln, Neb.
“We sold a lot of Pandora beads; it amazes me every year it’s as crazy as it is. We did really well with our Dancing Diamond collection that we just got in, and we sold every single piece. Pendants and stud earrings did well, but they always do.” —Eden Barnett, diamond consultant, McKenzie & Smiley Jewelers, Clarksville, Tenn.
“Diamond bracelets, diamond studs. But colored stones were definitely huge for us—anything unusual. Colored stones were a close second place to diamond jewelry.” —Trisha Joseph, co-owner, Josephs Jewelers, West Des Moines, Iowa
“At the base, we had over 1,000 Pandora customers, and that provided a nice cushion. We sell unusual watch brands like Ball, Bremont, and Alexander Shorokhoff—we are one of just three dealers in the U.S.—that are not usually found in the mid-Atlantic, so we had a huge season with those. Our Vahan bangles did really well, and we introduced the luxury pen line Montegrappa that did very well. We also introduced Longines and Michele watches, and they did well. Pandora was strong, and Hearts on Fire sales were good.” —Steve Hammalian, co-owner, Little Treasury Jewelers, Gambrills, Md.
“We did a lot in silver fashion, a lot of diamond fashion, and in bridal and estate jewelry. Color was meh—not that strong at all. Color and straight gold didn’t do very well; diamonds, silver, and estate were our best sellers.” —Bob Capace, owner, Worthington Jewelers, Worthington, Ohio
“Diamond stud and hoop earrings, diamond pendants, gemstones were weak—unless it was silver with gemstones—silver and diamonds were very good sellers, as were engagement rings and watches. We sold a lot of fashion brands like Michael Kors, Movado Bold collection pieces, and styles that were more impulse buys and not focused on intricacy of movement, but how well it would look on the wrist.” —Roger Gupta, manager, Diamond Hut Jewelers, Jersey City, N.J.
“Vahan sold well. And Pandora was very hot for us again. And then the rest was across the board. No one particular thing was super hot. A little bit of rose gold. White gold and sterling silver were the best metals for us.” —Patti Reed, co-owner, JWR Jewelers, Athens, Ga.
How were price points?
“Sales were either in the $800 to $900 range or under $100.” —Brenda Burris, manager, Goldrush Jewelers, Marion, Ohio
“They were all over the map: Watches sold in the $2,000 to $4,000 range, fine jewelry sold in $600 to $1,500.”—Steve Hammalian, co-owner, Little Treasury Jewelers, Gambrills, Md.
“Watches sold for under $1,000, but other price points ranged widely. Gemstones in silver also provided a very nice look for customers looking for gifts under $300.”—Roger Gupta, manager, Diamond Hut Jewelers, Jersey City, N.J.
“Price points were all over the board. For the most part, our average price point was $1,500.” —Gina Swift, office manager, Beauchamp Jewelers, Albuquerque, N.M.
“The people who had a lot of money to spend shopped early. The last couple of weeks were $1,000 to $2,500 items, rather than the big tickets.” —Laura Stanley, vice president, Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, Little Rock, Ark.
(Additional reporting by Emma Beck, Victoria Gomelsky, Jennifer Heebner, and Emili Vesilind)