Surveys

‘Tis the Season … To Get Engaged, According to These Jewelers

SurveysDec 16, 2020

‘Tis the Season … To Get Engaged, According to These Jewelers

Ten retailers from across the United States discuss their bestsellers, keeping customers comfortable, and more in our second holiday sales roundup.

New York—National Jeweler reached out to another round of jewelers this week to see how the holiday season is going for them.

Quite a few of the retailers echoed what their peers said at the start of the month: Business is better than expected given the difficult circumstances of the year, with money that can’t be spent elsewhere being funneled to fine jewelry.

Read on for more from 10 jewelers across five regions of the United States: the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, South Central and West.

Northeast: Strong Start to the Holiday Season

At The Mexican Shack in Somers, New York, holiday sales have been strong while foot traffic has been steady.

The trick, says owner Steve Delzio, has been keeping in touch with existing clientele and partners, especially through social media.

“During lockdown, we kept in touch with our customers and we strengthened relationships that we had with them,” he says. “They seem to come back and be supporting us now.”

Sales are up from last year and Delzio expects to finish the year on a high note.

Having inventory on hand has been advantageous, he says.

The store specializes in jewelry from the American Southwest, but diamond engagement rings were the big sellers this season.

The store sold more engagement rings than ever this year, says Delzio, adding that diamond studs have also been popular.

The store has been stringent about following COVID-19 safety guidelines, but Delzio worries that social distancing measures may take a toll on business as the holidays get closer.

“The main concern is that there’s no lockdown. If we stay open, we’ll be fine,” he says.

“This is a year that I’m learning as I go.” 
— Roberto Chiappelloni, Manfredi Jewels
In Greenwich, Connecticut, cancelled plans have translated into strong sales at Manfredi Jewels.

“We find that our clients, being stuck at home, with almost all their plans and celebrations canceled, shopping and gift-giving seems to be a good option. It’s turning into some very generous gifts,” says owner Roberto Chiappelloni.

December sales have been strong, up 8 to 10 percent over last year.

“Foot traffic is a little down, but much more purposeful,” says Chiappelloni, noting that there’s less casual browsing than usual. The customers who visit intend to make a purchase.

Diamonds have been the top-sellers at Manfredi Jewels as well, especially diamond engagement rings.

The “tried-and-true” gifts of diamond tennis bracelets and studs have also been popular, as has Messika jewelry.

“This is a year that
I’m learning as I go,” he says, noting that he’s generally feeling positive about the holiday season.

Chiappelloni also says he’s grateful Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has allowed businesses to stay open as of May 20, noting that just 30 miles away in New York City, it may soon be a different story as another lockdown looms.

Southeast: A Merry and Bright Holiday

It’s been a strong December so far for Windsor Fine Jewelers in Augusta, Georgia.

Business has been “extraordinary,” says Michael Zibman, general manager. “Really, really strong, surprisingly so.”

Sales are about 25 percent higher than last year, he says, adding the store has been going strong since reopening in May, with both foot traffic and average ticket on the rise.

As for bestsellers, the bridal category has been “very strong” as have classics like diamond stud earrings and solitaire pendants.

“We almost can’t keep up with certain sizes in diamond studs,” he says.

David Yurman and Gabriel & Co. are also top sellers.

“We anticipated and hoped for a very strong season and, since we’re seeing it to this point, we anticipate that we will end that way, with a very strong season,” Zibman says.
“People are just looking for something to wake up the senses after being locked down.” 
— Ellen Humphreys, Humphreys & Son
In Daytona Beach, Florida, Humphreys & Son is also celebrating a strong holiday season.

Owner Ellen Humphreys had just finished wrapping up a diamond necklace and selling two engagement rings before picking up the phone to speak with National Jeweler.

Bracelets have also been popular.

“People are just looking for something to wake up the senses after being locked down,” she says.

In addition to jewelry, gold coins are a top seller for the store, which specializes in commemorative tokens and custom pieces.

Located just minutes from the Daytona International Speedway and right on the path of Daytona Bike Week, the store has created pieces inspired by Evel Knievel and Paul Newman, and trophies for the race track, which has earned it a varied clientele.

“The nice thing is that because people come from all over the world for Bike Week, then they remember us,” says Humphreys, who has shipped gifts as far away as Colorado and Germany.

Midwest: Ready for a Strong Finish

For Wink’s Fine Jewelry in Brookings, South Dakota, this year’s season is different for more reasons than just the obvious.

Last year, the retailer held a large sale in mid-November to mark the transition of ownership from Jerry Miller to his granddaughter, Samantha Tupper, she tells National Jeweler.

“This year was already going to be completely different for us,” she says.

It was hard to compete with those sales, she notes, but the Thanksgiving weekend did see fairly good foot traffic that pleasantly surprised them.

Wink’s also offered 30 percent off one item to anyone who brought in the mailer they sent out, a promotion that garnered a positive response.

Business in the store has since slowed down, as it always tends to do in the couple of weeks after Thanksgiving, Tupper says.

On Monday, the momentum seemed to be picking back up as the day was proving to be a busy one, she says, energy she expects will stay with them through Christmas as customers realize they are in the home stretch for holiday shopping.

She’s been surprised by how many diamonds-by-the-yard pieces shoppers have bought this year and how much they’ve been spending in general. She attributes the uptick in average ticket to the lack of being able to travel or give other experiential gifts this year.

Add to that the fact that the week leading up to Christmas is always a big one for the store, and Tupper predicts: “I think we’ll finish (the year) strong, for sure.”

She also says they have not had any issues with people not wanting to come in to the store and, although it offers delivery, no one has taken them up on that option, choosing to visit in person instead.

Liz Greene-Simmons of Evergreene Jewelers in Minnetonka, Minnesota, also says that although the store let clients know it has curbside pickup or by-appointment visits, consumers are still happy to be out shopping and supporting local businesses.

It launched curbside service in time for Mother’s Day but once the store was able to resume business inside—with safety and health protocols in place—business boomed for the retailer in June, July and August, Greene-Simmons says.
“People want to get out, shop, celebrate, and show their love, and that is definitely done through jewelry.”
— Liz Greene-Simmons, Evergreene Jewelers
She calls the Thanksgiving weekend “OK” for the store, noting it did not do aggressive marketing or promotions as the period is never a big one for them.

“It’s kind of a resting period for us before we get into our ‘Super Bowl, and lets us get our inventory in check, get dialed in on packaging, all of that,” she says.

As for what’s been hot with customers, Greene-Simmons says diamond jewelry is always popular during the holiday season—earring jackets, diamond cluster pendants and earrings, and diamond anniversary bands.

In diamond engagement, it’s been emerald cuts, ovals and other unique shapes, and “sapphire’s always in on the hunt,” she adds.

And the popularity of custom designs or repurposing pieces continues, she says.

Greene-Simmons expects the season will be strong: “People want to get out, shop, celebrate, and show their love, and that is definitely done through jewelry.”

South Central: They’ll Take It

Back in March, Houston independent Dubin’s Fine Jewelry wasn’t expecting to have much of a holiday season at all, given the fact that the pandemic had brought business to a standstill for nearly everyone.

Ten months later, the store is coming off a strong November and moving through what Jordan Dubin terms as an average December, “which we will absolutely take,” he says.

“Business since Black Friday has been average for our holiday, which, considering the climate and what we are dealing with globally, is a victory in and of itself.”

The store has been selling a lot of diamonds—diamond bracelets, diamond earrings, diamond necklaces—which are its specialty.

Dubin, like so many other jewelers, says he believes his family’s store is benefitting from the lack of travel, with money usually spent on, for example, a 50th anniversary trip to Italy, being funneled to jewelry.

The store also caught a tailwind from some positive local publicity this year, as it was named the best local jewelry store in the Houston Chronicle’s “Best of the Best Houston” list for 2020.

But there is another, more abstract reason he thinks many jewelry stores are having stronger years than expected—the emotional value of jewelry.

“Jewelry is such a sentimental purchase, surrounded by love. Love continues, pandemic or not. People are still falling in love and getting engaged,” he says. “There’s always going to be an occasion for jewelry.”
“We are very hopeful for this week and next week, and believe next year will be a fabulous year to move in new directions.”
— Susan Eisen, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches
Business is “OK” at another store in the Lone Star State, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches in El Paso.

Like other retailers, owner Susan Eisen has had to make health and safety adjustments in order to keep operating and has seen an uptick in online sales, not just to customers from El Paso but all over.

The retailer has had e-commerce capability on her website for a decade and just added a chat feature, which is monitored by someone from the store all but about six hours a day (usually midnight to 6 a.m.).

But Eisen believes people being hesitant to shop in stores as the pandemic rages on has cost her some business.

Product-wise, American-made engagement rings—particularly ovals and cushion-cut diamonds—and fashion rings are selling, which is something the store is moving toward: selling more jewelry that is made in the U.S.A.

The store is also doing lots of custom and redesign work—“love to do it,” Eisen notes—and buying off the street, potentially from people who’ve used their time at home to clean out their jewelry boxes.

“People are selling a lot of jewelry. We are trying to be selective in our buying, both for inventory and time-constraint purposes,” she says.

“We are very hopeful for this week and next week, and believe next year will be a fabulous year to move in new directions.”

West: Steady Does It

In the midst of Hanukkah and with Christmas roughly 10 days out, Hart Jewelers in Grants Pass, Oregon says holiday shopping is business as usual.

“It’s actually going kind of normal you might say,” explains owner Tom Hart. “We had a really good November and December has been very good.

Store traffic has been about the same while the average ticket is up from last year.

“We’re selling more large diamonds,” he says, and in categories “all over the map. Definitely bridal but also earrings are doing well and pendants.”

Sales have improved steadily since the store shut down in March, but with new restaurant shutdowns in the state, Hart is finding that customers are confused about what’s open and what’s not.

Many are calling the store before they come in, expecting it to be closed.

For the season overall, Hart says they are “really optimistic,” with good weather encouraging shoppers to come in too.

He attributes the store’s success in this difficult year to people taking fewer vacations and wanting “a nice gift to perk them up, and make their husband or wife or girlfriend feel better.”
“I think we’ll have a good holiday season.”
— Cheryl Burchell of Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths
In Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, which Cheryl Burchell of Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths is quick to point out isn’t simply a tourist town but a bedroom community to neighboring Spokane, Washington, holiday sales and traffic are on par with last year.

“I think we’ll have a good holiday season and I think we’ll be about the same,” she says. “It’s only about three people who make the difference with big-ticket items.”

Those big-ticket items tend to be “some sort of fashion item” with gemstones, and “none of it is bridal.”

Burchell and her team are getting creative to get customers what they need as the pandemic continues to impact the nation.

The store is encouraging customers to video chat, buying jewels in a “you-pick, we-ship” manner, and it is advertising its ability to do so across regular channels like Facebook.

“Honestly, we do have loyal customers who come buy the $250 to $500 deal,” she says. “We’ve sold a couple of bigger items that have been personal purchases, too.”

The industry-wide issue that has been a problem long before the pandemic, and that Burchell laments most, is the lack of qualified goldsmiths to employ, and the outsourcing of work to Asia.

“On a good day I have four goldsmiths,” she says, “on a reality day, you have one and a half to two.”
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.
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