Consumers showed a lot of love for lower-price-point items and diamonds this Valentine’s Day, but a JCK survey of jewelers around the country found business ran the gamut.
While the overall feeling was positive, there are still signs the industry has not fully turned the corner. A majority reported a solid season, but even some of the happy jewelers complained that traffic was sporadic, sometimes nerve-rackingly so. And a sizable percentage called sales on par with last year.
Among the most mentioned best sellers: floating diamonds, silver, charms (particularly Pandora), big designer names (particularly David Yurman), and—that Valentine perennial—diamond studs.
Among those who found the holiday good, some found it very, very good.
Sales were “killer” at Gary Michaels Fine Jewelry in Manalapan Township, N.J., says copresident Michael Littman.
Valentine’s Day had receded in importance for his store over the last few years, but this year “turned out better than I expected,” he says. “Romance is back in the air.” He credits Valentine’s Day falling on a weekend. “That gave last-minute guys time to get there,” he says.
His best sellers: David Yurman, Alex and Ani, diamond studs, fashion earrings, Marco Bicego, and lower-price-point watches.
Paul Buchkosky, owner, Buchkosky Jewelers, Roseville, Minn., rang up sales that likely doubled last year’s.
“I had already done my month from last year by the 14th,” he says.
Jump-starting business were the “usual suspects”—diamond studs and gemstone jewelry—and custom jobs using Stuller’s Countersketch program. “Our ability to make something special that they can’t find anywhere else is a draw,” he says.
Google Adwords also helped drive traffic. “That’s been good for the past year and a half, though we haven’t even promoted the Countersketch yet,” he says.
Sales were up more than 50 percent at Chalmers Jewelers, Middleton, Wis., says Scott Chalmer, CEO. But he also found that business ebbed and flowed, in part because of the bitter cold weather in the Midwest.
“In January, we had a 30 percent increase for the month, and then things died in the first 10 days of February,” he says. “I had a decent day before and the day of Valentine’s day, but prior to, it was kind of soft. I also didn’t see a lot of engagement-ring traffic for Valentine’s Day. We were not as strong for last-minute gifts. We do a lot of custom, but it all started prior to Valentine’s Day.”
Chalmer did have customers come in to trade up diamond earrings and sold lower-price-point items such as Larimar from Mar-a-Lago and silver from Frédéric Duclos.
Still, assuming the weather behaves, he’s upbeat and “hoping for a booming March.”
Debbie Fox, owner of Fox Fine Jewelry, Ventura, Calif., found the holiday “strong,” although 85 percent of her sales came in the last two days.
Most of her hottest sellers fell into the $100–$300 range—including Pandora—though she did make scattered engagement ring sales.
Her most successful promotion was a $25 gift certificate to a local florist with each $100 purchase. “The florist got publicity, and we got to give away something for free—a win-win,” she says.
It was also a last-minute holiday at Providence Diamond in Providence, R.I., but in the end, the numbers came out strong.
“We were really jamming on the 13th and 14th,” says co-owner Suzanne Pritsker Salomon. “On those days we doubled and maybe even tripled our sales over last year.”
Her best items were David Yurman (from $500 to $1,000) and stud earrings, which received a boost from a social network promotion.
“I Instagrammed these cool sterling silver love knot studs from a Boston-based company called Dobbs, and the young girls came in and bought them like crazy,” she says.
She concludes: “People were really excited to buy this year. They didn’t want to spend too much, but they spent.”
Doug Burton, owner of Burton Jewelers in Anacortes, Wash., calls the holiday “very good” and “up from last year.” But all in all, he calls business uneven.
“The average person, since the recession started, hasn’t really recovered,” he says. “It’s not been an easy year, that’s for sure. We had a scary Christmas. No one was interested in Christmas until the last two days.… We were open for Presidents’ Day, and it was a disaster. I guess people were still recovering from Valentine’s.”
Bill Lowery, owner, Lowery Jewelers in Shelbyville, Tenn., describes himself as “pleasantly pleased,” as he enjoyed a solid holiday despite construction in front of his store.
“This was probably the best Valentine’s Day we had since the recession,” he says. “Valentine’s Day is traditionally a low-price-point holiday, but we had some nice pieces sell.” His best sellers included Fireflies—a variation of diamonds in motion concept—and sterling silver.
This year, he added Facebook to his promotional mix, spotlighting a different piece every day in the run-up to Feb. 14. “It kept our name out there,” Lowery says.
Ann Glasscock, owner of MorLyn’s Fine Jewelry, Gifts and Antiques, in Clanton, Ala., credits a somewhat improved consumer mood for her “good” results.
“We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “Tickets were a little bit smaller, but we had more of them.”
The store did well with floating diamonds, wedding bands, bracelets, and with its now-regular promotion offering a rifle with every $2,500 purchase. “We are in the Bible Belt where people like to hunt,” she explains.
Jim Triantafilou, manager of Joe Rosenberg Jewelers in Lexington, Ky., found the holiday “kind of slow,” possibly because snow predictions “scared people off.”
Big sellers included diamond solitaires, studs, and necklaces.
“January was a good month, but February kind of fell off,” he says, adding he’s not convinced the consumer mood has improved. “You will see moments where it breaks out and then it goes back to normal.”
Mixed reports are pretty standard these days, argues Henry Weeks, a salesperson at Carolina Fine Jewelry in Columbia, S.C. “I don’t think any business owners think that it will always be smooth sailing,” he says. “Every time you have a good week or good day you appreciate it.”
His store nevertheless had a “strong” holiday, though it “didn’t set any records,” with sales led by silver, gold earrings, diamonds, and some estate pieces.
Patrick Stout, certified gemologist appraiser at T-Bird Jewels in Las Vegas, found sales on par with last year, though with an upbeat finish.
“It was slow to begin with, and the last two to three days were very strong,” he says. “It went about the way we expected it to go. We’re very fortunate; we have a very loyal following. We know practically every customer who comes in the door.”
His store did nice business in diamond earrings, silver and gold designer pieces, fashion pendants, bracelets, and engagement rings.
Other comments from jewelers surveyed:
– Sales were “about the same as last year,” says Ann Wagner, president, Ludwigs Jewelers in Chambersburg, Pa. “It was interesting, though the week of Valentine’s Day we were busy with a lot of Valentine’s presents, but the day of, on Saturday, we didn’t have the rush of last-minute buyers that we normally do, so it was kind of odd. The total figures look fine. Maybe it means the men weren’t waiting for the last minute this year.”
– “We were up 5 percent over last year, and last year was a good year,” says Joe Rarrat, manager, Thorpe & Co. Jewelers, Sioux City, Iowa. “Sarah’s Hope jewelry and Breuning were very strong for us. We just had a fantastic year for both lines.”
– “It went really well,” says Melody Skipper, sales and marketing associate at Diamond Creations by Ramona in El Cajon, Calif. “We were about the same as last year. We sold heart-shape pendants, bracelets, and tons of engagement rings.”
– Consumers were “upbeat and shopping, and sales were consistent throughout the first part of the month,” says Kevin Schreiber, general manager, Roth Jewelers, Waterloo, Iowa, which garnered nice sales from bridal and Pandora.
– Additional reporting by Victoria Gomelsky, Jennifer Heebner, Brittany Siminitz, Logan Sachon, and Emili Vesilind