By Brecken Branstrator and Michelle Graff
New York--Who needs 140 characters? 

National Jeweler asked jewelers to describe how the holiday season played out at their stores in a single word. Responses ran the gamut, from average to exciting to unusual. 

Read on to see how your store’s performance stacked up against that of your peers. 

Other words that jewelers used to describe this sentiment included “OK” and “average,” but it all meant the same thing: the holiday season was good, but not great. 

Debbie Fox of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, Calif. chose this word for a number of reasons--because the early part of the season, between Thanksgiving and Dec. 20, was significantly slower than normal, and the average dollar sale dipped slightly. Additionally, they sold very few higher-end pieces, instead selling mostly $200 to $600 pieces and Pandora. 

“In the end we were up, but that was due to more transactions in the last five days,” Fox said. “I’ve heard, from other jewelers in (the Independent Jewelers Organization), similar stories. My guess is because more people are shopping on the Internet, but I am wondering about data on this.”

Bobby Wallo, of JRobert’s Fine Jewelry in Jacksonville, Fla. also described the holiday season as average. He said online retailers detract from brick-and-mortar business while wearable technology, devices like FitBits, are luring a younger generation away from jewelry.

Also hurting is the shrinking middle class. “I don’t think we have a middle class anymore,” he said, noting that shoppers who used to spend $3,000 are now “going to be a $1,000 shopper at best.” 

Wallo said jewelers’ best bet today is to be honest and take good care of their customers.

“You better be on the money with what you are saying and doing and have excellent customer service.” 

Sean Dunn of J.R. Dunn Jewelers in Lighthouse Point, Fla., said that these days, the store’s clients are seeking rare pieces that provide long-term value. 

This holiday season, the retailer did very well with nice sapphires, rare tourmalines and special opals. 

They will be merchandising from this perspective at Baselworld and Tucson in 2015, and also will be creating more one-of-a-kind pieces produced by the store’s designer, Robert Pelliccia.

Kelly Newton of Newton’s Jewelers in Fort Smith, Ark., said it was both the happiest and the busiest holiday season that the store has seen in a while. 

Consumers not only seemed more comfortable buying, but also were buying on a “much larger scale,” and sales and especially foot traffic were up greatly over last year. “If I had gone into the season with any expectations, this year would’ve crushed them.”

Cheerful also would describe the atmosphere at Longnecker Jewelry in McCook, Neb. and Ralph Miller Jewelers & Gallery in Erie, Pa., said Daniel Niebauer, the store’s vice president of operations. 

Ralph Miller Jewelers topped last year’s record holiday sales, aided by the early fall release of the iPhone 6--meaning the smartphone wasn’t necessarily detracting from consumers’ holiday budgets--and lower gas prices. 

“It’s (the lower gas price) giving a lot of energy to the economy and I think people were a little more carefree (with their spending),” he said.  

In Nebraska, Bill Longnecker said while they had some slow days, the “numbers came in,” enough to push the store’s total up over last year, which, incidentally, was the best year they’ve ever had. 

“We are doing an excellent job of taking care of our customers, and it’s paying off,” he said, noting the store offers, among other services, free sizing and adjustments like tightening stones for the lifetime of any ring they sell. 

Also helping the store is the fact that it’s located in an affluent rural community, where residents would have to drive an hour to a major city to find the same services Longnecker offers at his store.

A trend noted by many retailers who spoke with National Jeweler this holiday season was the seemingly unpredictable foot traffic patterns. Many jewelers reported being surprised by the volume of sales early in the season, only to have it drop off and the store be less busy on days that it’s traditionally a madhouse. 

Jake Spigelman, of Jay Roberts Jewelers in Marlton, N.J., in the eastern Philadelphia suburbs, said,  

“Traffic … came at odd times.”

He wasn’t mobbed like he normally is in the last 10 days before Christmas and yet the store ended up hitting its numbers for the holiday season. 

“It was very erratic in the way it came but the numbers in the end were fine,” Spigelman said. 

Susan Eisen, who runs her eponymous jewelry store and gallery in El Paso, Texas, said she couldn’t narrow it down to one word because of all that the season brought. 

She noted that while this season was just “good” for the store and not extremely strong, she likes having such years because it forces jewelers to take a look at the way they are doing business.

“It’s good to have these situations sometimes, because it forces you to change and re-evaluate what it is you’re going to do for the year ahead. You’re afforded a chance for evaluation,” Eisen said. 

While Jim Alperin, owner of James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio, would describe the holidays as just “OK,” that’s better than he expected. That’s why he picked the word pleased for his single term describing the season.

A rising stock market helped to lift the spirits of the store’s wealthiest customers and while the store made fewer sales, they were larger. 

Alperin said he sold a 5-carat-plus sapphire ring for $22,000, a ruby ring for $6,000 and an $8,000 pair of diamond stud earrings. 

For Weber Jewelers in Kettering, Ohio, the 2014 season has been a marked difference in spending and investment, according to Stephanie Weber

Last year, the store held a large retirement event for Weber’s father and also spent a lot more on advertising and marketing.

But this year, Weber said that they ran the business in a different manner--they spent less and were also more careful about the pieces that they were buying and the product mix that they were putting together in the store. 

As a result, gross profit went up and margins were stronger for Weber Jewelers in 2014. 

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.