JCK Special survey: War affects business but doesn’t stop it

Austin, Texas—Five out of six retailers responding to a JCK survey of attendees at the American Gem Society Conclave reported the war in Iraq has affected their businesses to some degree. Two-thirds who responded “yes” noted a decline in traffic in their stores, but the good news is that of those, two out of three said that once consumers are in the store, they are still willing to spend. There was no significant decrease reported in the average ticket sale.

By a two-to-one margin, retailers reported their revenues have dropped since the war began, but one-third saw their year-over-year comps for the period since the war began increase. 33% of those had an increase of more than 20%, approximately 31% had an increase between 10% and 20%, and approximately 34% had an increase between 2% and 10%.

Retailers reported the war is a frequent topic of conversation among customers. The most frequent comments they’ve heard from customers related to support for the troops, a wish for a quick end to the war, and fears of terrorism or economic effects of the war. Several commented about news overload, and said customers were happy to get away from hearing all war, all the time.

The war has affected travel plans for a few retailers, but the majority said it didn’t change their plans. Of the roughly 20% who did indicate “yes,” the overwhelming change reported was “no overseas travel,” with more than a third of those indicating they had canceled plans to attend the Basel fair. Others canceled buying trips to Belgium, South Africa, or other destinations, and two said the fear of SARS was more of a factor than fears resulting from the war.

Five out of six suppliers polled at AGS said the biggest effect of the war has been retailers feeling cautious and holding off on ordering new merchandise. More than two-thirds, however, said no retailers have canceled orders already placed. And, luckily, a whopping 95% of suppliers said the war has had virtually no impact on either their relationships with overseas sources or on their ability to acquire merchandise from overseas in a timely manner.