It was a low–price point, diamond-heavy Valentine’s Day, jewelers told JCK—but not everybody felt the love.
After speaking to nearly two dozen jewelers, JCK found many who echoed Michael Littman, co-president of Gary Michaels Fine Jewelry in Manalapan, N.J., who said he had one of his best Valentine’s days in years.
The holiday had receded in importance for his store over the last few years, he says, but this year “turned out better than I expected—romance is back in the air.”
While the balance tipped toward the positive, many jewelers still found it a challenging environment. Among the most-mentioned comments:
Traffic was sporadic. Even retailers who scored big this holiday said the days leading up to Feb. 14 were suffused with nail-biting waits.
It was a last-minute holiday for Providence Diamond in Providence, R.I., but that made all the difference. “We were really jamming on the 13th and 14th,” says co-owner Suzanne Pritsker Salomon. “Those days we doubled and maybe tripled our sales over last year.”
Likewise, Debbie Fox, owner of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, Calif., found that an amazing 85 percent of her Valentine’s sales came in the final two days.
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Ludwigs Jewelers in Chambersburg, Pa., however, found just the opposite. “The week of Valentine’s Day we were busy with a lot of Valentine’s presents, but the day-of, Saturday, we didn’t have the rush of last-minute buyers that we normally do, so it was kind of odd,” says president Ann Wagner. “The total figures look fine; maybe it means the men weren’t waiting for the last minute this year.”
Social networking was strong. One of Salomon’s best promotional gambits came when she posted to Instagram “cool sterling silver love-knot studs from a Boston-based company called Dobbs. The young girls came in and bought them like crazy.”
Bill Lowery, owner of Lowery Jewelers in Shelbyville, Tenn., added Facebook to his promotional mix, spotlighting a different piece every day in the run-up to the holiday. “It kept our name out there,” Lowery says.
The consumer mood is still mixed. Even if news broadcasts are correct and the economy has indeed turned the corner, many consumers don’t quite believe it.
“The average person, since the recession started, hasn’t really recovered,” says Doug Burton, owner of Burton Jewelers in Anacortes, Wash. “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.”
Jim Triantafilou, manager of Joe Rosenberg Jewelers in Lexington, Ky., also coped with mixed traffic, thanks in part to predictions of heavy snow. “January was a good month, but February kind of fell off,” he says. “You will see moments where [the consumer mood] breaks out and then it goes back to normal.”
Low price points still rule. “Tickets were a little bit smaller, but we had more of them,” says Ann Glasscock, owner of MorLyn’s Fine Jewelry, Gifts and Antiques in Clanton, Ala.
“People were really excited to buy this year,” agrees Salomon. “They don’t want to spend too, too much, but they spent.”
Gift-with-purchase promotions worked. Fox’s most successful promotion was a $25 gift certificate from 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.
Diamond Creations by Ramona in El Cajon, Calif., offered a free 24k rose to those who spent $500 or more, says Melody Skipper, sales and marketing associate.
And Glasscock hit the bull’s-eye with a now-annual promotion offering a rifle with every $2,500 purchase. “We are in the Bible Belt, where people like to hunt,” she explains. (For those with less affinity for shooting who spent more than $150 at MorLyn’s Fine Jewelry, the store also offered a steak dinner.)
The basics are still strong. Paul Buchkosky, owner of Buchkosky Jewelers in Roseville, Minn., generated a lot of business from what he calls “the usual suspects”—diamond studs and gemstone jewelry.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Gomelsky, Jennifer Heebner, Logan Sachon, Brittany Siminitz, and Emili Vesilind)