National Jeweler Network

Retail Surveys

For many jewelers, Saturday was super indeed

By Hannah Connorton and Brecken Branstrator

December 23, 2013


New York--“Super” Saturday is the marketing moniker given to the last Saturday for shopping before Dec. 25.

For a number of jewelers, the day lived up to its billing this year, perhaps due to pent-up demand and an economy that is recovering, albeit slowly. Retailers told National Jeweler that diamond basics continued to fare well this holiday season, and a few also noted strong sales of colored gemstone pieces.

National Jeweler publishes a weekly holiday sales roundup every Monday throughout the holiday season.

The roundups encompass interviews with independent retailers in five regions: the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, South Central and West.

Read on for a brief report from each region.

NORTHEAST
After warm weather returned to the area this weekend, sales and traffic both were up at Ralph Miller Jewelers & Gallery in Erie, Pa. Vice President of Operations Daniel Niebauer says, and the weekend was better than last year.

“We had tons of traffic on Saturday, and sales were wonderful,” he says, adding that diamond pieces have been selling well at the store, as well as the store’s custom big or unusual statement pieces.

The store is also offering special promotions this season to its VIP customers, those that spend a certain amount throughout the year, running from Dec. 1 to Jan. 6.

“December has been very strong despite the weather. Our store is full of customers and we think we’re going to do very well this season,” Niebauer says.

David Rotenberg, of David Craig Jewelers in Langhorne, Pa., meanwhile, says that the weekend was less than stellar for the store.

“Up until the weekend, we were going strong,” Rotenberg says. “But Saturday weakened up. Sales and traffic were both slower than we’d hoped.”

Fortunately, David Craig Jewelers already hit its sales total from last year, and the store continues to sell at the higher end. “I think we’ll wind up ahead this season, but not as far ahead as we’d like,” Rotenberg says.

He reports that diamond pieces, especially diamond earrings and rings, have been strong sellers at the store.

SOUTHEAST
Michael Zibman, of Windsor Fine Jewelers in Augusta, Ga., says that while sales and traffic were strong on Saturday and met last year’s performance, they would’ve liked to do more.

“We did a lot of marketing ahead of the weekend like we usually do, but not for any special pieces or promotions. We just advertised diamond merchandised and basic pieces.”

Indeed, diamond pieces were popular for the store, as well as simple pendants and David Yurman. Zibman notes that the hot price points were between $500 and 2,000.

“We had a very strong October and November, so we think that the season overall will be very strong. We were up 8 percent in October and 12 percent in November. December itself is struggling to get to the numbers we anticipated it would,” Zibman says. “There’s still the possibility that we’ll make the numbers that we want to make, but it’ll be a challenge because they are big numbers.”

In Smyrna, Ga., Mark Jacobson of Cumberland Diamond Exchange says that the store is enjoying the best Christmas in its history.

“As of right now, we’re 32 percent ahead of last year. We’ve positioned ourselves well in every category, and we’re seeing pretty even growth among every category of jewelry,” Jacobson says. “In the higher end, we’ve made more sales in the $10,000 to $30,000 price range than in pre-recessionary years.”

He gives credit to pent-up demand and money made in the stock market for the retailer’s great year, as well as a strengthening Atlanta market.

Echoing retailers from National Jeweler’s previous sales reports this season, Jacobson says that people are coming into Cumberland Diamond Exchange looking specifically for Forevermark, adding that these shoppers don’t seem to be turned off by a higher price point.

TAG Heuer also brings in a steady crowd, though Jacobson reiterates that all of the jewelry categories are doing well and even pieces like tennis bracelets, that didn’t do as well last year, have picked up the pace.

“With fewer days to sell this season, we’ve really had to catch up, but I’m just thrilled that we’ve created the market we have,” he says.

MIDWEST
Jim Alperin at James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, says the weekend was “good” at his store in terms of both foot traffic and purchasers.

“I’ve had a lousy year but the weekend was very good, Saturday was good. People came in and they bought,” he says.

Sales ran the gamut this weekend for Alperin; he sold a sapphire and diamond pendant for $2,500 and a sapphire necklace for $4,000, as well as a pair of pearl and diamond earrings, an engagement ring, a wedding band, an emerald pendant and a diamond necklace.

He also sold “a lot of gold,” including hoop earrings and smaller jewelry designs.

While this weekend was busier than the same weekend last year, it’s unclear how the season will ultimately turn out, the jeweler says.

“Christmas Eve is always our busiest day or it’s dead, and you just never know. I think the season is going to end up, for me, on the soft side. Unless I have a bang-up day today and tomorrow we may end up behind the eight ball,” Alperin says.

While Sunday night snow may deter customers from shopping at Longnecker Fine Jewelry in McCook, Neb. on Monday, owner Bill Longnecker says he’s hopeful to see a lot of customers on Christmas Eve.

“We got about three inches, and around here that’s rare, it’s one of those things that slows people down and they prefer not to shop. When snow comes in it throws off everything, but we’ll probably make it up tomorrow with last-minute shoppers,” he says.

The jeweler says he has at least $10,000 coming in today for sure, but “has plenty to make up before we make a profit. So it’s going to be one of those days.”

The weekend was a mix, with a very busy Saturday and a very slow Sunday.

“We’re still waiting to see how the season ends up. I was expecting a lot bigger Christmas than what we’ve had so far. Today and tomorrow we have people picking things up, but with the weather, tomorrow (Christmas Eve) should be doubly busy,” Longnecker says.

SOUTH CENTRAL
“The weekend was really good, even better than last year,” says Chelsea Walsh, marketing manager at Murphy’s Jewelers in Magnolia, Ark. “There was a lot of foot traffic, and there were a lot of purchases.”

Customers bought “basic” diamond items, she says, mostly stud earrings, tennis bracelets, hoops and pendants, spending an average of $2,000 to $3,000.

“There are a lot of guys that are scared to buy something different,” Walsh says.

Overall, she says the store is faring “absolutely better than last season,” and that they were preparing to have a busy day on Monday.

“A lot of people were afraid of the economy last year but it seems like people are shopping later and later (into the season). It’s made for a great year.”

Kelly Newton of Newton’s Jewelers in Fort Smith, Ark. had a “quite busy” weekend at his store, even on Sunday, which he said was unusual but likely because of out-of-towners who couldn’t make it to the store during the week.

Customers were buying Rolex and diamond jewelry, he says, especially solitaire diamond earrings, which he says he cannot keep in inventory. The most popular size at the store has been 1 carat and more, although he jeweler says he sold a 2-carat pair over the weekend.

Sales have averaged $5,000 and up this season, Newton says.

“It’s way better than last year, there is no comparison whatsoever. Lots of people have voiced concern over insurance and the (national) medical situation, but I think (the sales are a result of) pent-up (demand),” he says.

Newton says he expecting a busy day Monday and Tuesday, as has already had a number of customers calling to see what time the store closes on Christmas Eve. Sales-wise, the jeweler says he’s already done better than last year even with the shorter holiday season.

WEST
The weekend, including “Super” Saturday, was generally strong, two West Coast jewelers say.

At Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, Ariz., the store had a birthday party for its namesake and now-retired founder Sami, says her daughter and store CEO Stephenie Bjorkman.

And? “It was awesome,” she says.

Saturday, the day of the open-house birthday bash, was one of the best in the store’s history. Two big sales, including one impromptu sale to a customer who came for the party and left with a 4-carat diamond, combined with sales of smaller diamonds, Hearts on Fire, Arizona amethyst and gold added up to a strong “Super” Saturday for the store.

“Our day was big,” Bjorkman says. “It was kind of everything.”

Overall, she says the store is ahead of sales as compared with last holiday season, and she attributes the growth to being more organized. They mapped out their entire holiday advertising and marketing strategy in in the summer, and the entire staff understood exactly what the plan was.

“Being organized makes a difference,” Bjorkman says. “You can’t just throw a postcard or a direct mail piece out there and hope it happens.”

Though Sunday was dead at Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the store’s owner, goldsmith Cheryl Burchell said Saturday was good. The store sold silver and small diamond pendants, as well as a number of colored gemstone pieces, with prices ranging from $150 to $500.

Overall, though, she says holiday sales are down as compared with last year. “People are spending money on food,” Burchell says. “We are in a middle class area. The billionaires that live around here, they are gone,” a reference to the fact that Coeur d’Alene is a summer resort town for wealthier individuals.

“Our middle class folks are watching their pocket books.”

But, she adds, she is not upset by the holiday results because Christmas is no a do-or-die holiday for the store.

She is hopeful she will be busy Monday, leading the way into what she believes will be a strong 2014.

“I think it’s going to be a good year,” Burchell says. “I just have a feeling.”

--Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff contributed to this report.