By Michelle Graff
New York--U.S. fine jewelry and watch sales fell 2 percent year-over-year in April to an estimated $5.8 billion, the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows.

This marks the seventh consecutive month that jewelry sales have been down year-over-year, as jewelry continues to lag behind other categories of retail in terms of sales growth.

There are, however, a few bright spots in April’s data.

According to an analysis provided by Ken Gassman, sales fell “only” 2 percent for specialty jewelers--those retailers that sell fine jewelry and watches and little or nothing else--in April. That is an improvement over the last six months, a period during which specialty jewelers’ sales have been down by no less than 3 percent and even tumbled as much as 6 percent (November and January).

In addition, Gassman noted that economic indicators are on the upswing, and could mean year-over-year sales improvement in the possibly merry month of May.

Gassman said that early reports from a sampling of specialty jewelers indicate that May jewelry sales could be flat or even increase 1 percent, reversing a seven-month trend of sales declines. However, he noted that there is “significant dichotomy” in the results so far, with certain jewelers reporting very weak sales.

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Big-picture economic signs bode well for the industry as well, with robust job growth, growing personal wealth and consumers using more revolving credit. Clothing sales also were strong in May, as were auto and building supply sales, indicating that consumers are making longer-term commitments.

The third “bright spot” cited by Gassman was platinum jewelry sales, which have growth by solid double-digit rates this year, with both suppliers and retailers reporting strong demand.

“Today’s shoppers are looking for something different, and platinum jewelry represents a distinctive category found almost exclusively in specialty jewelers’ stores,” he stated.

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