By Brecken Branstrator and Michelle Graff
Skinny pieces good for layering and 14-karat gold, like this “Love U” bracelet from Alison Lou ($2,400 retail), were among two of the trends retailers reported seeing this Valentine’s Day.
New York--While the National Retail Federation said more than one in five shoppers were expected to buy jewelry this Valentine’s Day, jewelers across the country saw mixed sales results last week.

Those particularly surprised by the volume of in-store sales on Valentine’s Day were retailers in the Northeast, which has been brutalized by snow and sub-zero temperatures. 

So, what was the secret: More promotions, or perhaps the right product mix? It seems there’s no clear-cut answer, other than just taking care of the customer.

At Lux Bond & Green, which has stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts, President and CEO John Green said they’re always busiest early on Valentine’s Day but he thought that might not be the case this year. He expected customers would be at the supermarket, stocking up on bread and milk before the next round of snow. 

But, “A lot of people came out, from Boston to Greenwich (Conn.) We were pleasantly surprised.” 

Green said they sold both silver and gold, David Yurman, and small necklaces and bracelets that can be layered or stacked with other pieces. What did not sell was heart-shaped jewelry, which Green said is on a downward trend for his stores. 

“Five years ago, we could advertise anything with a heart for Valentine’s Day and it would sell. I just think it’s going through its normal cycle,” he said, adding that hearts will probably be back in fashion in another five years. 

Jeff Corey, owner of Day’s Jewelers, and Dave Rossi, whose store is in DuBois, Pa., also reported having a strong Valentine’s Day in the midst of foul weather, even though one promoted and one didn’t. 

Corey said his Valentine’s Day sales were up 10.5 percent year-over-year due to a paid posts on Pinterest (the equivalent of a boosted post on Facebook), heavy promotion of Forevermark, posting of individual pieces on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, and newspaper advertisements, which drew in customers 45 and older. 

“We have to promote as an industry,” Corey said. “We’re not competing with the jeweler down the street. We’re competing with technology, fragrance and clothing, so many other things. We need to be in people’s faces.” 

Rossi, who owns Dave Rossi’s Jewelry & Designs in the DuBois Mall, said he wasn’t expecting a strong Valentine’s Day, as an unexpected trip to Florida left him unable to put together a marketing package for his store. 

But, customers came and they spent without much prodding, buying diamond pendants and earrings and brown diamond jewelry. 

“I like it, but I don’t get it, and I don’t like not getting it,” said Rossi. “We all want to understand it so we can figure it out. If it were that easy, we’d all be Tiffany’s.”  

Similarly, Eddie Guerboian, who owns Readers Fine Jewelers in Santa Monica, Calif. with his wife Evelyn, said they didn’t do any promoting but managed to top last year’s Valentine’s Day sales. 

He said he believes his window displays drew in customers, as does his store’s high ranking on Google and strong Yelp reviews. 

Also helping in this day and age, both Guerboian and Rossi agreed, is being a long-standing, family-owned business. 

“People feel comfortable with a family-owned business,” Guerboian said. 

David Rotenberg of David Craig Jewelers in Langhorne, Pa. said that traffic in the store in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day was pretty light for them.

On Friday, many people in the store were purchasing items under $500 he said, with most purchases falling under $200. Then on Saturday, a lot of customers were in the story buying up until about 3 p.m. when it dropped off a little, but sales were stronger for the day, with many tickets between $3,000 and $4,000.

Popular sellers this Valentine’s Day at the store were pieces from Heather B. Moore and classic diamond pieces, with most pieces in 14-karat gold and fewer in sterling silver.

“As a whole, Valentine’s Day wasn’t what it was in 2014. Even if I discount the weather that we had last year, it was a bit of a feeding frenzy. It just wasn’t that way this year.”

For Evan James Deutsch of Evan James Ltd. in Brattleboro, Vt., the weather hurt foot traffic but the average ticket was much higher than last year, leading total sales to come out ahead of last year’s.

“If we had had normal traffic levels, it would’ve been like Christmas for us,” he said.

Deutsch said that the store did minimal advertising. They see Valentine’s Day as a “two-day holiday,” so the store held off until two days before and then started running ads on Thursday, via radio, print, and social media.

Diamond studs, diamond heart pendants and engagement rings were top-sellers for Evan James Ltd., with most of the tickets falling between $300 and $1,000, excluding bridal. Alex and Ani’s popularity also continued for them. “Those sales didn’t make or save the day, but they certainly helped drive traffic to the store,” Deutsch said.

Steve Allen of Allen’s Jewelers in Albany, Ga., also said that the store did really well this Valentine’s Day. The store decided to stop carrying Pandora last year and, without that inventory on the floor, the average ticket price was up this year, Allen said.

Most consumers were buying pieces priced between $500 and $1,500.

Their top sellers were diamond halo pendants, similar to what many other jewelers across the country were seeing. Though Allen said they didn’t see much activity in colored gemstones, they did sell a few ruby pieces and also a few engagement rings, which he said isn’t common for them at this time of the year.

They also sold a good amount of Alwand Vahan bracelets in sterling silver, priced between $200 and $300.

But where Allen’s store had a great Valentine’s Day, James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio, had a different story. 

“We had very little business for Valentine’s Day,” owner Jim Alperin said. “I think this was in part due to our community; I just don’t think people want jewelry as much these days.”

He added that he believes most people are looking for cheaper presents for the holiday, generally around $50 or less, which means they don’t think to go to their local jewelry store to buy a gift.

“Last year, we ran an ad featuring a $115 bracelet around Christmastime, and we sold out all of them. We ran the same ad for Valentine’s Day, just changing the wording, and we didn’t sell one of them. What was a good Christmas present was an expensive gift at Valentine’s Day.” 

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