Jewelers Celebrate a Solid Christmas

For the industry, holiday 2011 scored a solid triple—but not the joyous home run many were expecting.

While most jewelers told JCK that sales were up, in some cases significantly, a sizable percentage found business flat or even down from last year.

Still, most were smiling when all was said and done.

Chrysa Cohen, owner of Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, Del., says store sales had already jumped 10 percent over last year’s—and she expects sales to be 15 percent up by the end of the week.

“People seem to be more ‘up’ this year, and settled into the ‘new normal,’” Cohen says. “They’re spending less than they would have five years ago, but seem less worried overall.”

Her two big sellers: bridal jewelry and Pandora. She also saw a rise in estate jewelry.

“We’ve seen less custom design requests this year,” she says. “When normally we would be rushing to get all the design work done in the store during the holidays, this year has been smooth sailing.”

Shannon Waits, assistant manger of Clater Jewelers in Louisville, Kent., also recorded “excellent” sales—and gives part of the credit to social media.

“On our Facebook page, we did an A to Z countdown before Christmas,” she says. “That really got people in. A lot of people came in and said, ‘I saw you on Facebook.’”

In contrast to previous years, this wasn’t really a last minute Christmas, she found.

“We had really terrible weather last year,” she says. “People really took notice of it this year and said let’s get things done early.”

In Oklahoma City, Okla., total sales for B.C. Clark Jewelers’ three stores were “up double digits,” according to Mitchell Clark, the company’s executive vice president and marketing director.

“We had some big diamond sales and did well in sales with our designer lines, watches, and engagement rings,” Clark says. “Price points for us ranged from $2,000 to $5,000.”

Hill’s In-House Jewelers in Laurel, Miss., also enjoyed a “great” season with sales up from 2010, the store’s first year in business.

“Not one thing sold, it was a combination of things,” says owner Jeffrey Hill. “It was necklaces, earrings, studs—the basics, bread and butter stuff.”

The holiday also brought “very good” news for Markman’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in Knoxville, Tenn., says chief operating officer Randy Williams, adding that, even after Christmas, his two stores have been extremely busy.

Williams says inventory sold well across the board, but singled out watches, diamonds, silver, Roberto Coin, and John Hardy.

“There weren’t a lot of special orders,” he says. “Consumers were interested in buying what we had in the case.”

He adds: “The last few years, everything has been either high-end or low-end. But now it’s more evenly distributed. It seems things are coming back to normal.”

One change Williams noticed was that he didn’t sell as many large pieces as usual. “People weren’t really prepared to pull the trigger on those yet,” he says.

Jon Landon, owner of Carolina Fine Jewelry in Columbia, S.C., dubbed it a “strange Christmas.”

“We sold a lot of big ticket items,” he says. “We probably sold more $5,000 and up items than $500 and below. But everything from $500 to $3,000 were slow movers. If we didn’t have those big ticket sales it would have been a tough Christmas.”

He also didn’t sell as many studs as usual, and found that consumers generally sought unique items.

Some jewelers, particularly those in the Midwest, were impacted by weather-related issues.

Mark Clodius, president of Clodius & Co. Jewelers in Rockford, Ill., thinks “the lack of snow affected people’s moods,” and resulted in an unusually compressed holiday season, with most sales taking place the week before the holiday.

Overall, he says, “sales were about even with last season, which was up 40 percent. So we’re pleased.”

Diamond basics were a big hit for Clodius this holiday season, especially diamond stud earrings under $250. “We sold about 20 pairs,” says Clodius. “Sales for these earrings were so good we had to make up some extras.”

At another Midwest store, Miner’s North Jewelers in Traverse City, Mich., the mild winter weather seemed to help. Dec. 23 was the busiest day in the store’s 35-year history.

“We estimate about 500 to 600 customers were in the store that day,” says spokesman Jeff Guntzviller.

Overall, the store’s December sales were up 9 percent compared to last year. Diamond studs were particularly strong, especially finer pairs of stud earrings starting at $1,500. Pandora beads and engagement rings remained solid sellers, according to Guntzviller.

Other jewelers, however, didn’t find Christmas particularly merry. Cindy Lang, principal for Ellis Jewelers in North Little Rock, Ark., says sales were even with last year’s.

“It could have been worse, it could have been better,” she says. “We had some boom days and some ho-hum days.”

A lot of people wanted custom design pieces, she said, particularly at the last minute.

“I was truly amazed at the people who a week before Christmas said: ‘I want a custom piece. Can you do that?’” she says.

Other hot items included Chamilia beads and Mexican fire opal. “Two guys who bought [fire opal] didn’t even know that tangerine was the hot color of the year next year,” she says.

Randall Peterson, owner of Peterson’s Jewelers in Heppner, Ore., says sales “were down a little bit.”

Mark Billmeier, owner of Billmeier Jewelers, in Saginaw, Mich., also reports that sales dropped.

“That’s typical of the Midwest, and of the country in general,” he says.

The better sellers included silver and engagement rings.

Jen Hankin, director of public relations and marketing for Joint Venture Estate Jewelers in Cary, N.C., found consumers “not as cheery as in years past.”

“Customers that typically spent thousands were spending hundreds, and customers who typically spend hundreds chose to go in a different direction,” she says. “Customers were buying because they had to and not because they wanted to spend the money.”

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