Black Friday may not be just for the big-box stores anymore.
Even though the day after Thanksgiving traditionally is not a huge draw at jewelers, JCK found that quite a few local retailers racked up some nice business that day, leaving them optimistic about the coming Christmas season.
Still, even many who did well couldn’t pick out a single product that dominated early buying, though there were repeated shout-outs for silver and colored stones.
Lantz Smith, co-owner of Huntington Fine Jewelers in Oklahoma City, was among the happy retailers, with his Black Friday sales double those of last year.
“My wife, Lisa, and I both agree that this was our best Black Friday ever,” he says.
Customers were buying “Pandora, Rhythm of Love, watches, wedding sets—just a good variety of things,” he says.
He credits his success to a Black Friday promotional flier, which touted special prices and a gift with purchase.
“We opened at 8 a.m. but we had customers sitting in front of our parking lot at starting at 6,” he marvels. “People just thought they should get there early.”
Dan Hufford, president of Huffords Jewelry in St. Louis, says his sales were up 400 percent over last year.
“We look at Black Friday as the start of our holiday season—not a make-it-or-break-it day,” he says. “It is not something we have ever made plans to promote. We feel like it’s cheesy.”
Still, he adds, the “whole week was surprisingly Christmas-like”—though he’s not sure why.
“I can’t say it was a brilliant marketing initiative we did or a Black Friday promotion,” he muses.
At Plumb Gold in Racine, Wis., sales were also “excellent,” says president Judy K. Olsen.
“They were up quite a bit, and the whole weekend was super-busy,” she says. “We sent out invitations to our best customers asking them to come in and see everything.”
Among her best sellers: custom designs, pendants, Ethiopian opals, and Breuning.
Evan James Deutsch, founder and president of Evan James Ltd. in Brattleboro, Vt., was surprised to see a 10 percent jump in Black Friday sales.
“For the last five years, we advertised on Black Friday but never saw any sales from it,” he says. “This year we didn’t advertise and sales are actually up.”
Hot tickets include Alex and Ani bracelets, diamonds, and engagement rings.
Meanwhile, Amy Beeghly, creative director for Beeghly and Co. Jewelers in Greensburg, Pa., had better luck one day later with Small Business Saturday.
“We advertised it extensively in newspapers, emails, with American Express, with paid promoted posts on Facebook, and with roadside signs the week before,” she says. The store also held sales on watches and charms, and, for the first time, installed a discount case.
Looking at the entire weekend, “we were definitely up,” she says. “Every little bit you can do helps.”
Brad Lawrence, owner of Gold Casters in Bloomington, Ind., also had a better Saturday than Friday, with Saturday receipts jumping a whopping 160 percent from 2012.
Lawrence heavily promoted some special gifts with purchase—including a free 46-inch flat screen TV for customers who spent more than $2,499 and a Pebble smartwatch for those who spent $799.
“Last year was the first year we did this, and we more than doubled our business from 2011,” he says.
So this year, he doubled the promotion. “We extended the specials to Saturday,” he says. “It worked. That was very worth it for us.”
Not everyone, however, had bang-up days. Some jewelers feel that America’s big retail holiday simply isn’t for them.
Black Friday sales were “flat” for Trisha Joseph, co-owner of Josephs Jewelers in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Our big football team, the Hawkeyes, played the Cornhuskers in Nebraska in the middle of the day, so we were really busy in the morning and really busy in the late afternoon,” she says.
The store sold a lot of silver fashion, colored stones, and diamond engagement rings in platinum and white gold.
Walter Childress, owner of Childress Fine Jewelry in Lexington, Ky., says he had a good Black Friday, but it was no stronger than the rest of the month.
“November has just been up, up, up,” he says. “I’m having to cut off work for Christmas now. We got a couple of stores closing here in Lexington, and I’m an old-timer so everyone is coming to me.”
His biggest sellers have been semi-mounts, diamonds, and special-order pieces.
And Ann Hart, chairman of Tobin Jewelers in Springfield, Ill., also says the weekend “isn’t a big thing” for her store.
“We did fine,” she says, but to her, Black Friday is “more of a big-box day.” Still, her store scored some nice sales of Hearts On Fire rings, from around $2,000 to $35,000.
And Brent Polacheck, president and owner of Polacheck’s Jewelers in Calabasas, Calif., says his Black Friday sales were “nonexistent” for a few specific reasons.
“We had a home versus home UCLA-USC game that took a lot of people out of our area,” he says. “The high-end customer usually goes away for Thanksgiving, and comes back on Sunday night.… In general, we never get going until the 10th of December.”
Still, he sounded upbeat about the coming season. “The year so far has been terrific, and we’re expecting that to roll on through the holidays,” he says.
Angela Bevill, sales associate at Smith & Bevill Jewelers in Beaverton, Ore., says business this year was only a “little better” than last year. “We never really do a lot of Black Friday business,” she says.
Jade, vintage pieces, and “those damn halo rings” were her best sellers.
“I think the holiday is going to be good,” she adds. “Last year was fine—nothing great—but this year it seems like people are starting to shop a little earlier.”
Debra Schultz, co-owner of Dodson’s Jewelers in Spokane, Wash., says “we had a good weekend, but it wasn’t an exceptional weekend.”
Strong sellers include colored stones, silver fashion, diamond jewelry, and estate pieces.
“We have no idea what’ll be the hot item this Christmas,” she says. “We hope it’s colored stones because we love them.”
Schultz expects better sales this week, when the store has a number of holiday events scheduled.
“Our customer base is primarily men and they wait until the last minute,” she says. “The beginning of December is when we start hitting hard.”
She also has her “fingers crossed” for the holiday.
“Last Christmas we were up hugely and we entered our season close to 10 percent above where we were last year,” she says.
Meanwhile, at Kasson Jewelers in Southport, Conn., sales were “down a little bit,” says president Alan Kasson.
“I don’t expect a lot from Black Friday or Saturday, and didn’t advertise,” he says.
Still, he says the month overall was “somewhat better than last year” and thinks the holiday season will be “fairly good.”
(Additional reporting by Emma Beck, Victoria Gomelsky, Jennifer Heebner, and Emili Vesilind)