Valentine’s Day sales at jewelry stores across the United States were strong, following on the heels of a strong 2003 holiday season and further bolstering the sense of renewed optimism expressed at the spring jewelry trade shows. Not surprisingly, diamonds led the list of best-selling products, but jewelers reported both high unit sales and high dollar sales.
Lou Guarino, president of Louis Anthony Jewelers, a high-end store in Pittsburgh, said sales in his store were strong during the entire week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Popular items ranged from relatively affordable fashion merchandise—such as David Yurman bracelets—to big-ticket pieces. “We thought it might be a one-day holiday, with Valentine’s Day being on a Saturday, but people came in and bought all week long,” he said.
Elizabeth Parker of Curt Parker Jewelers in St. Louis said, “This was the first year in 27 years that I felt like Valentine’s Day was a jewelry-buying event.” White metals were a big seller at Parker’s store, especially platinum and white gold diamond studs, diamond hoops, and diamond pendants. Sales tickets ranged from $250 to $3,500, with an average of $1,000.
Shelley Kelch, administrative assistant at Bremer Jewelry in Peoria, Ill., said a blitz of billboard and newspaper advertising the week before Valentine’s Day made for a very good selling period. The big seller at Bremer’s was an advertised three-stone collection made by Dangler, including three-stone earrings and pendants with the marriage symbol. Kelch noted that all three-stone rings did well, along with other diamond jewelry—especially earrings—and loose stones sold for solitaires. Typical sales were between $500 and $1,200.
John Palumbo, owner of Engel Jewelers in Kokomo, Ind., also had a good week. “Probably 70% of sales were diamonds, many of which were a three-stone style, along with diamond bracelets and engagement rings,” he reported. “Gold also was strong, in bracelets, chains, and anything with hearts.” Average sales were between $125 and $500. Engel’s advertising included radio, television, and a mailer. Palumbo said a number of customers walked in with the mailer, which advertised several items including sweetheart rings for $100 and a few bracelets priced as high as $5,000 to $6,000. He followed up the mailer by advertising the featured items in the newspaper for the 15 days preceding Valentine’s Day and tied it in with radio and TV as well.
Maurice Badler, a high-end catalog retailer, had “lots of orders,” said company president Jeffrey Badler. “Nothing huge, but consistent volume. An employee in my shipping department who joined us in the middle of last year said, ‘I thought you promised it would slow down after Christmas!’ Oops, guess I was wrong! But who’s complaining?”
Charles M. Beaudet of Beaudet Design Jewelry, Eugene, Ore., also reported a “great” Valentine’s Day season and was one of the few jewelers whose best sellers weren’t diamonds. “It was mostly large sales and a few small ones in between,” he reported. “Because Valentine’s Day coincides with our return from the Tucson gem shows, we always have a good number of people waiting to see what we bought and also a number who had us make special purchases for them.”
Most interesting was that three customers gave their gifts to the recipients while still in his store. They asked the jeweler to put their chosen pieces in the case, with notes attached saying “Surprise, this is yours!”
“One gentleman had us put a fine demantoid pair [of stones] for earrings in the case with such a note and suggested to her that they should just look in our store for ideas,” said Beaudet. “When he saw them in the case he said he had heard about demantoids and asked to see them. He handed them to her and said, ‘I wonder what the price is?’ When she turned the box over to look she found the note that they were hers and she almost fell over with how sneaky we were. We mounted them while they waited and they went off with everyone in the store wishing them a happy Valentine’s Day.”
According to Mark David of Ben David Jewelers in Danville, Va., “Valentine’s Day’s engagement and bridal jewelry sales were very high for us. Traffic was up, and our business was up very much.” He attributed this partly to a moving sale going on since January. “But we also have something no one else has in our market: ‘Love Story’ jewelry. We’re part of the Leading Jewelers Guild, and we sell the ‘Love Story’ bridal collections, which are exclusive in our market and which [Leading Jewelers Guild members] own.” The collection does well all year round, he said, but the name “Love Story” denotes romance … and “Valentine’s Day, especially, is when people get engaged.”
Chad Schreibman, owner of Alison Jewelers in Cleveland, said, “Valentine’s Day was great, and February has been great overall. We had some nice sales, some nice unit sales. There has been consistency in higher-ticket sales in all categories. We sold a little of everything—some nice anniversary bands, some three-stone pieces, some nice bracelets we made up.”
At Carl’s Jewelers in San Diego, “We did quite a bit more than last year—up by probably about 10%—and it was mostly a good mix of all our inventory,” said owner Adele Garland. She reported that average price points ranged from $175 to $200, “a little bit higher than last year.”
Valerie Lopez, an employee at A.J. Souza & Co. Inc., a small store in San Jose, Calif., had the same good news: “We did better than last year. I believe we did well because we were open an extra day. We’re in a new location, which helped, but we kept our same old clients and drew new ones.” According to Lopez, gems in a variety of colors sold well, along with various types of hearts, floating diamond pavé, gold tennis bracelets, colored rings, and earrings. “And of course,” she added, “the diamonds went well. We sold a lot of diamond engagement rings.”
Richard Holmes, owner of Duke’s Jewelers in Springville, Utah, said his sales were “about the same as last year,” noting that he probably sold more colored stone jewelry this year than diamonds. Although price points averaged less than $500, “We were happy with Valentine’s Day,” he said.
Two jewelers reported a slower Valentine’s Day than last year, and one said sales were “just okay.” Scott Jaffe of Jaffe Jewelers in Toledo, Ohio, said sales were about 3% off last year’s figures. “People spent a lot of money at Christmas, and I think now they’re just slowing down. But bridal was good.”
Sam Rubin, owner of R&A Jewelers in Monroe, La., blamed the poor performance on the weather. “It rained and was cold the week through Valentine’s Day, and the week was very slow,” he said. “I spoke to other jewelers and florists, and they said the same thing—most jewelers didn’t do well, and the florists didn’t do well. We were down maybe 10% over last year.” His best-sellers were diamond heart pendants and some engagement rings, with price points in the $800-$1,000 range.
Barry Pizzolato, president of Designs In Jewelry in Metairie, La., said his situation is unusual because of Mardi Gras. “Disposable dollars get weird here during Valentine’s Day. But, sales were better this year than last year. We had some critical sales—an engagement ring and a pair of diamond stud earrings for $6,000—that sold on the last day. I’ll finish any day like that.” Best-selling products in his store were “diamond hearts, naturally. It didn’t matter if they were on ankle bracelets, if they were on pendants, or if they were two-tone, white, or yellow. It’s Valentine’s Day! Diamond hearts won’t change. We’ll always sell a few engagement rings and diamond earrings, but we always sell diamond hearts the most.” Best-selling price points were between $100 and $200—”We had $150 sales all day long during the Valentine’s Day period,” he noted—but Pizzolato said he sold some thousand-dollar items, too.
Nationally, retail chain store sales overall increased 1.4% for the week ending Feb. 14 in comparison to the week ending Feb. 7, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers-UBS Weekly U.S. Retail Chain Store Sales Index. In a year-over-year sales comparison, for the week, the sales pace rose 7.5% compared with 5.9% in the prior week.
“With Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday, consumers were much more inclined to go shopping for that ‘someone special,’ especially on Valentine’s Day itself,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research. “Both discounters and department stores benefited from Valentine’s Day sales, and, as a result, the monthly sales performance is now tracking at about +5% on a year-over-year basis,” he added.