National Jeweler Network

Retail Surveys

Retailers hopeful for a strong finish

By Hannah Connorton and Michelle Graff

December 16, 2013

New York--With little more than a week of saleable days left, retailers say business at their stores remains strong and many believe the best is yet to come.

Retailers who spoke with National Jeweler Monday say diamonds, price-point pieces in silver and watches, particularly those from luxury brand Rolex, are what’s selling in their stores. As one jeweler put it: “It’s definitely a Rolex Christmas.”

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.

Roberto Chiappelloni of Manfredi Jewels in Greenwich, Conn. says even though the weekend snow put a little bit of a damper on the foot traffic, those that did venture out in the weather did so with a purpose.

“Sales this weekend turned out to be very good,” Chiappelloni says. “A lot of our customers were taking next weekend off to be out of town or go on vacation, so they felt that this weekend was the last Saturday they had before Christmas to buy gifts.”

Chiappelloni says watches and diamond studs were both hot sellers at the store this weekend. Many of the Manfredi shoppers were making investments in longer-lasting pieces, with the most popular price points at $10,000 and more.

“The holiday season has been very good so far. We’re up 12 percent over last year. People seem to be more peaceful, less stressed, and feel more comfortable with spending,” Chiappelloni says. “We’re feeling positive not only about the holiday season, but we’re hoping we’ll have a good year next year.”

Winter weather also hit Evan James Ltd. in Brattleboro, Vt., though it seemed to have more of an effect on traffic and sales for the store.

Evan James Deutsch says business was going well Saturday morning, but slowed drastically in the afternoon as well as on Sunday.

“Saturday morning was really good, but when the snow really got going in the afternoon, it was like everyone was hiding. Nobody was coming in. It wasn’t a terrible weekend, but it wasn’t great either.”

During the time when people were buying on Saturday morning, Deutsch says that small diamond pieces were among the bestsellers, especially at the $500 price point and under.

He also says there’s been a continued demand from customers for the Alex and Ani bracelets priced around $20 to $30.

Nick Gizzarelli, Jr., store manager at Diamonds Direct in St. Petersburg, Fla., says diamond earrings and solitaire engagement rings have been hot so far this season, as well as Pandora beads and bracelets.

“Pandora has been staying busy, it’s mostly bracelets and charms for moms and girlfriends and people starting bracelets,” he says. “(Sales of) gold aren’t as crazy because everyone thinks they can buy gold chains, but there’s some sticker shock still.”

The store is holding a moving sale this holiday season and is offering varying discounts, from 60 to 80 percent off, on certain items.

“People are still looking, they aren’t committing yet and seem to be price-conscious this year. We’re staying busy and hoping to meet expectations, I think it’s going to come down to the last week,” Gizzarelli says.

Gizzarelli, who worked at a different jewelry store last year, says people seem to be shopping all month this season as compared to just a few weeks last year.

“We’re optimistic. We have to be optimistic. We’re working on some big stuff, $20,000 to $30,000, but that’s going to come down to the wire. People are holding off until the last minute on jewelry sales. They’re still shopping prices,” he says.

Phil Silverstein, co-founder of Phil’s Jewelers in Anderson, S.C., says people have made the transition from shopping to buying at his store, but the price point for items other than bridal are averaging around $250.

“We’ve been selling some gold jewelry, not bracelets or chains but fancy rings and pendants with diamonds, but it’s mainly silver and engagement rings,” he says. “We’ve had maybe one big ticket sale over $10,000.”

Silverstein says so far, the holiday shopping season is about the same as last year’s, in terms of foot traffic and purchasing.

“Our busiest day is usually around the 23rd, it’s customers that have been shopping and are coming in to finally make the purchase. My expectations for the season overall are moderate,” he says.

The weekend was “good and steady” at the Diamond Vault of Troy in Michigan, CEO Randy Cole says.

“We got some great sales, nothing to complain about. We look at everyday business and we’re ahead of the total for last year, so by the time Christmas Eve comes along we’ll have engagement rings being picked up,” he says.

The Diamond Vault’s main business is engagement rings, but a pair of diamond earrings sold this weekend as well as an antique $10,000 three-stone diamond ring purchased for a mother.

Cole says his customers include both couples looking for rings and men shopping for engagement rings.

“We educate the consumer, we sit them down and explain all the things that make the diamond what it is. It makes it more personal. We listen to the customer and we get them what they want rather than just selling off the rack,” he says.

A little bit of everything sold at Longnecker Fine Jewelry in McCook, Neb. this weekend, owner Bill Longnecker says.

“We’re a smaller store so we don’t get a rush of a lot of this or a lot of that, it’s a little bit of everything. But it was a good weekend, it made up for a bad week,” the jeweler says. “It’s a shorter holiday season and so it’s more compressed, and we usually have a shopping lull and a closing week.”

Longnecker says he’s noticed two main types of customers in his store: People that need to buy jewelry and are on a strict budget, and those that don’t care and are “spending to the moon.”

The strict-budget shoppers are going for silver and spending from $100 to $200, while the “to-the- moon” spenders are doling out $1,800 and up on various types of jewelry.

Both Kelly Newton, of Newton’s Jewelers, and Jeff Fox of Barnes Jewelry say their sales are up as compared with last year.

Newton had an “unbelievable” weekend at his Fort Smith, Ark. store, selling a number of large diamonds and Rolex watches to the point he described the Rolex case as being “decimated” on Monday morning.

He said he is up more than 20 percent as compared with last year at this time--despite being closed for two days due to the snow and ice brought by winter storm Dion--but he doesn’t know why exactly.

“I wish I knew,” Newton laughs. “I’d like to take credit for it but I don’t have a clue. Maybe it’s pent-up demand and people just can’t stand it anymore.”

“I just hope it keeps going,” he says, noting that another ice storm is forecast for later in the week.

For the month of December, business at Barnes Jewelry in Amarillo, Texas is up 7 or 8 percent year-over-year, Fox says.

He says they started off the month strong then business slowed for a couple of days before picking up again Monday morning. “As with every year, it’s coming late,” he says of the holiday.

While he would love to take credit for the increase, Fox attributes it mostly to a strong local economy.

He adds that the store also adjusted its merchandise mix so it had more items in the $150 to $1,000 range, including a lot of silver. The store carries John Hardy and added Charles Krypell this year, which has been a strong seller.

It was these price-point items, mostly sterling silver and semi-precious gemstone pieces, that were the best-sellers over the weekend, along with Rolex watches.

It was a week of interesting traffic patterns at Alvin Goldfarb Jewelers in Bellevue, Wash., capped off by a Saturday that included sales of a lot of smaller-ticket items, Steve Goldfarb says.

He says while Saturday was their busiest day in terms of foot traffic, it wasn’t the best day of the week dollar-wise because the sales were smaller, which was unexpected. The store also had its first open Sunday of the year this past weekend and while they were not busy, they did do some business.

Goldfarb says Rolex watches are among his top sellers this Christmas, along with diamonds, specifically black, yellow and white diamonds set in both earrings and pendants. The store also has sold a number of larger pieces from Mikimoto but, interestingly, not many stud earrings or simple necklaces.

As of now, the store is slightly ahead of last year and Goldfarb is hoping his best days are still ahead.

“Based on how it’s been, I am feeling very good about (the rest of the season),” he says. “I think it’s going to end well. But these are big days coming, and there’s no let up.

“Every day counts in the next nine days.”

After inclement weather, warming temperatures brought customers back into Hart Jewelers in Grants Pass, Ore., says Tom Hart.

He says they were busy both Friday and Saturday. Their first open Sunday will be next week.

Hart says business is comparable to last year, and the store’s sales are varied. They are moving diamond engagement rings and earrings alongside silver items priced between $200 and $400.