A Surprisingly Festive 2017 Holiday Jewelry Sales Season

For an industry that has often seemed to be wallowing in nonstop gloom, the 2017 holiday provided an unexpectedly merry respite.

Jewelry spending grew 5.9 percent this season compared with the prior year, according to Mastercard’s consumer analytics tool SpendingPulse, with many sales coming in at the very last minute. Overall, SpendingPulse found that U.S. holiday sales rose 4.9 percent—the largest increase since 2011—which meant the jewelry sector outpaced retail as a whole.

On an individual basis, results were a little more mixed. Tiffany & Co. posted strong holiday sales, with comp sales rising 5 percent over the two-month holiday season. Sales were particularly strong in the high, fine solitaire, and fashion jewelry categories, the company said.

Signet Jewelers did not have such good news to share. America’s largest jeweler reported that comps declined 5.3 percent, which the company blamed on its ongoing transition to outsourced credit (see “3 Questions for…Gina Drosos”). While comps plunged at both its Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry nameplates (down 10.8 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively), Signet pointed out that Zales, which did not have to deal with a credit disruption, saw same-store sales rise 4 percent.

JC Penney modern bride rings
Engagement rings from J.C. Penney’s Modern Bride collection

Meanwhile, the department store sector seemed to stage an unexpected comeback this holiday, with strong results for Kohl’s (comps up 6.9 percent), Target (up 3.4 percent), J.C. Penney Co. (up 3.4 percent), and Macy’s (up 1 percent). Both J.C. Penney and Macy’s singled out fine jewelry as a strong seller.

Even so, despite this good news for retail, analysts expect stores to continue to close this year. Macy’s announced it will shutter 19 stores in 2018. And Fred Meyer Jewelers is closing a slew of its mall stores; a ­supplier puts the number at 31. “We are closing underperforming mall stores [under both Fred Meyer Jewelers and Littman Jewelers brands] whose leases are ending,” says spokesperson Kirsten Darrow.

Top: 14k yellow gold diamond pendant, $4,950, 14k white gold diamond pendant, $2,745; Effy; 212-944-0020; effyjewelry.com

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