Holiday Wrap-Up: Jewelers Buoyed By Strong Season

Holiday sales this season were a definite improvement over
previous years, a cross-section of jewelers from across the United States told JCK.

While retailers said customers mostly chose lower-end items—particularly beads and silver—overall they noticed a more upbeat consumer
mood. Quite a few even recorded double-digit sales gains, though they noted that
those jumps were often from a low base.

Michael Mazzoni, owner of M. Mazzoni Jewelers in Farmington,
Mich., says his holiday sales rose 35 percent; most of those sales, however,
were less than $1,000. “The economy still isn’t strong here, but people were
spending more money,” he notes. “It seems like people’s attitude was, ‘Hey, I
haven’t bought her anything in the past few years, I need to get her some
jewelry.’ ” Among his best performers: diamonds earrings, diamond bands,
and Pandora.

Pandora also proved a strong traffic driver for Smith &
Bevill Jewelers in Beaverton, Ore. “We had a very solid December,” says owner William Bevill.
“By Christmas Eve, we were up 20 percent. But overall, 2010 will be a flat or
slightly up year for us.” Regardless, the good holiday has left him upbeat about the
future: “People are more confident in the economy. I went home singing ‘Jingle
Bells.’ ”

The best result JCK
found came from David Fairclough Fine Jewelers, Toledo, Ohio, where sales
jumped 55 percent in December.

“We sold a lot of basics: diamond studs, diamond pendants,
and necklaces,” says owner David Fairclough. “We sell a lot of Chamilia, but we
also sold a lot of diamond studs, engagement rings, and high-end watches. We’re
a Rolex dealer so that did really well for us this year. That’s a positive sign
that people with disposable income are spending money on high-end items.” He reports that the store had its “second-largest year in history
this year”—and it’s been open for 36 years.

Almost as happy is Daniel P. Decker of Decker Diamond
Jewelers in Ebensburg, Pa.; he dubs his holiday sales “fantastic,” up at least
double digits. “I gauge our Christmas by the mood of our customers,” he says. “They were pleasant, happy, and enjoying themselves. This year was an
upbeat year.” He also cites Pandora as a strong performer. “People shopped the whole Pandora line,” he says. “It used
to be just the beads, but we’ve used those to help sell other stuff.”

Also recording a healthy jump was Evan James Deutsch,
founder and CEO of Evan James in Brattleboro, Vt., who estimates his holiday
sales were up 20 percent. “It wasn’t the greatest season, but there was more enthusiasm
this year,” he says. “We did a better job selling and had the right price
points—under $1,000 retail.” He says the store boosted its advertising in 2010, incorporating tie-ins with local radio stations. Still, he says Christmas arrived
“very late” at his store: “We did a whole month’s worth of business in two
days!”

While Way-Fil Jewelry in Tupelo, Miss.,
also reported a strong holiday, store owner Patti Thompson thinks her customers
were choosy, buying mostly estate diamonds, while regular diamond sales were “flat.”

“The mid-range in general was the weakest,” Thompson says.
“The $200 to $900 items did well, as did $4,000 and up. But the mid-range, $1,000 to
$4,000, is still kind of weak.”

“This was so much better than two years ago,
it’s unbelievable,” she concludes. “And it’s so much better than last year. I’m excited.” (Additional reporting by Jennifer Heebner, Paul Holewa, and Lindsey Wojcik)