Jewelers Buoyed by Bright Black Friday

Jewelers generally reported solid Black Friday sales—and hope that indicates a healthy holiday. 

“Sales were much higher than last year,” says Richard Frank, owner of Goldstein’s Jewelry in Mobile, Ala. “We did as much on Friday as we did the whole weekend last year. Black Friday is not traditionally a big day for us but this was a really good day for Black Friday.”

Frank said that Pandora charms, diamond jewelry, and watches were among the most popular items.

Paris Henderson, store manager of Robertson’s Fine Jewelry in Little Rock, Ark., says her store saw close to a 30 percent increase in sales compared to last year. “We had a huge Friday and Saturday,” she says. “We’re just crossing our fingers that it continues through the rest of the year.”

Robertson’s didn’t do any aggressive marketing, but did engage customers on Facebook leading up to Black Friday. Rather than posting products or catchy slogans, the store asked questions about customers’ holiday plans. “We didn’t have a lot of people respond on Facebook, but we had a lot of people calling up that would mention what we posted,” says Henderson.

Nicholas Pronko of Steve Pronko Diamonds in Dickerson City, Pa., says his store was “definitely busier than last year.” In fact, he adds, “it might end up being our busiest Black Friday ever.”

The store did more television and email blast advertising this year and cut back on radio advertising. Most of that advertising was in support of the store’s recent opening of a second location, which Pronko believes helped boost sales over the holiday weekend.

Peggy Coleman, general manager for Nelson Coleman Jewelers in Towson, Md., says that Black Friday isn’t usually a huge deal for the store, but that sales were even, if not better, than last year. “We offered a few gifts with purchases through Facebook that brought a few people in,” she says. “We’re happy.”

Still, some reported more mixed results.

“Our strip mall store did well, there was a lot of traffic,” says John Ballew, owner of two-store Ballew Jewelers, based in Freehold, N.J. “In the downtown store, not so good, but Black Friday has never been a big deal in the downtown store.”

He says the consumer mood was good, but notes it’s still early in the season. “They are tire kickers at this point,” he says. “It was mostly people looking to see what is out there, starting to get ideas. It’s one of the few times when you see a man and a woman shopping together. Any time that happens, it’s a good thing, because the guy is making a mental note or he’s winking.”

He thinks shoppers still want basics but are also venturing into higher price points. “In the last year, the $5,000 and up price points are getting more attention than last year,” he says. “For me, the biggest disappointment over the last few years hasn’t been in the $300 and under range. It’s been the $5,000 range. But I’m seeing people at least looking at the price range.”

He adds: “Three years ago when the market went to hell you could bring a home a blender for your wife and get away with it. But it’s going to be a little different this year. People have sacrificed, and they are tired of not spending. I think if you come home with a toaster this year, you are going to be in trouble.”

Not everyone, however, was smiling. Linda Goodale, co-owner of F.D. Goodale Jeweler, Camden, S.C., says her Black Friday sales were “lousy.”

“Black Friday used to be a huge day years ago, but now people go to all the big box stores,” she says. “We might as well not even show up.” In general, she says, sales have been slow since August.

“But that is pretty typical since it’s back to school time,” she says. “Our sales will be pick up later in December hopefully.”

Both the National Retail Federation and Shopper Trak issued positive reports on the first shopping day of the holiday season.

According to the NRF, a record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend (which runs from Thursday through Saturday), up from 212 million last year. NRF says the average holiday shopper spent $398.62 over the weekend, up from $365.34 last year.   

The group’s survey says that 21.8 percent of shoppers bought jewelry on Black Friday.

Shopper Trak, which measures sales and foot traffic, reports this year’s Black Friday set a new record, with sales increasing 6.6 percent over the same day last year.  

“This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006,” said founder Bill Martin in a statement. “Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season. ”

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