By Michelle Graff, Hannah Connorton, Brecken Branstra
New York--Retailers, what sold in your store over the weekend?

For the jewelers who spoke with National Jeweler on Monday morning, it was the usual holiday season suspects: Pandora performed well, fueled by a free bracelet promotion, and there were quite a few engagement ring sales too.

Jewelers can read on to see how their store stacked up against other retailers from their region.

Steven Duvarney of Duvarney Jewelers in Fitchburg, Mass. said that total dollar sales were up a little over last year and the average ticket price also was up a bit, despite slower foot traffic this year.

This is particularly notable for this retailer, who didn’t do much ahead of the Black Friday weekend in terms of promotions and advertising except for a little on social media.

He told National Jeweler that bridal in particular has been performing well so far this holiday season for customers who want to get ahead on those purchases.
“To me, when you analyze the season, unless you’re doing something very promotional to incentivize coming in early--and we’re not that kind of jewelry store--it’s very difficult because you’re trying to compete with other retailers in general,” Duvarney said.

Still, he said this holiday season overall could be better than last year, when he saw a noticeable uptick in foot traffic. Duvarney said he would be “thrilled” even to match last year’s performance.

With heating oil and gas prices low in the Northeast right now, he said it appears to him that consumers feel that the economy is a little better and are more comfortable spending their money.

For Evan James Ltd. in Brattleboro, Vt., the holiday weekend got off to a slow start but then picked up on Friday afternoon, when most of the weekend’s sales were made. The store also promoted Small Business Saturday, which helped bring in foot traffic despite cooler weather and rain, said owner Evan James Deutsch.

He did note that shoppers didn’t seem as enthusiastic this year, which could be because of overexposure to Black Friday deals and advertising from retail in general.

Just like Duvarney reported, Deutsch said that engagement rings did really well for them over Black Friday weekend, a category that doesn’t usually sell that well this early in the season.

In addition, they sold colored stone jewelry, Alex and Ani pieces and made a four-figure sale of sterling silver baby items, all of which is an indication for Deutsch that the season could be a good one.

He said that they are “cautiously optimistic” about the rest of the year, as it remains to be seen how the closure of a local power plant that led to the loss of hundreds of higher-paying jobs in the area  will affect the store’s fourth quarter.

Steve Allen of Allen’s Jewelers in Albany, Ga., said that this year’s Black Friday weekend was pretty normal in that it was “very slow.”

The store isn’t located in a main shopping area. Given that the big chains start their advertising so early, it’s harder for the jeweler to compete, Allen said, with the store seeing some business Friday but Saturday slowing down.

Still, Allen said that he’s hopeful that it will be a good holiday season. While Black Friday isn’t normally a big weekend for them, they usually notice an uptick in business in the couple of weeks before Christmas. The last few months have also been strong for the store as people return to buying, a trend he feels will carry well into the holiday shopping season.

For Cumberland Diamond Exchange in Smyrna, Ga., the busiest shopping day of the holiday weekend actually proved to be Wednesday as clients were looking for engagement rings for proposals on Thanksgiving Day.

Overall, the weekend came out about even in sales and slightly up in foot traffic, Mark Jacobson said, with a few more pending deals from the period now coming to fruition as well.

Customers purchases pieces at a wide variety of price points, he told National Jeweler, and in terms of styles, there were some requests for Forevermark as people increasingly recognize the brand.

Cumberland also is coming off its strongest fiscal year (ended Aug. 31) yet, so Jacobson said that though they are a 12-month operation rather than being more seasonal, they are hoping to carry that momentum into the new year and “hit a few home runs for the rest of the season.”

“I’m very thankful for how things have been going,” he said.

Black Friday sales were up 27 percent year-over-year at Peter & Co. Jewelers in Avon Lake, Ohio, owner Theresia Oreskovic said Monday morning.

“It was, in my opinion, a really good mix of traffic,” she said. “In years past customers would make a beeline for Pandora, and you’d think, ‘What do I have to do to get them to look at something else?’ But this time, people were taking the time to look around the store and at other collections.”

Oreskovic said her customers still did buy Pandora this weekend, thanks to the brand’s promotion of giving away a free bangle with a $125 purchase, but also spent money on diamond jewelry. Watches sold better this year than last, with Tissot coming in as the “big seller” on Black Friday.

The foot traffic carried over from Black Friday into the weekend, with a range of clients: self-purchasers, couples shopping together and checking out engagement rings, and fathers coming in with kids to pick out gifts.

“We (performed) really nicely across the board,” Oreskovic said. “I felt it was a good weekend.”

At James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio, a big-ticket item saved the weekend.

“Saturday, we did one battery change, and someone came in later in the day and returned an item for $575,” he said. “But another woman had come in earlier in the day and looked at a sapphire pendant, and she came back later and bought it for just under $4,000. Psychologically, (the day) was like torture.”

Overall, however, both Black Friday and the Saturday after (Alperin is closed on Sundays) was quiet, which the jeweler said is typical for this weekend as shoppers hit up big-box retailers.

“My shopping center was quiet enough but I went to another shopping center with a T.J. Maxx and almost couldn’t get a spot in the parking lot,” he said.

When asked if he thinks shoppers were buying fine jewelry at T.J. Maxx on Friday, Alperin said, “I think people go there to buy gold earrings. I don’t think they go there (with the intention of) buying jewelry, but buy it when they’re there. I think they’ll go to Costco knowing Costco sells jewelry and wanting to buy it there.”

While they didn’t see a lot of foot traffic at the store on Black Friday and the day after, Laura Stanley of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist in North Little Rock, Ark. said they had good numbers.

“We saw fewer people than normal. Black Friday is not usually a big day for us anyway, but we had several big sales,” she said. “We were happy.”

Among the big sales was an engagement ring that held a total of 5 carats a diamonds, a pair of diamond earrings that weighed a total of 2 1/2 carats and a few used Rolex watches.

“People came in for particular reasons,” Stanley said. “We sold only big items; there weren’t any little sales. We’re on our fifth solid day of cold and rainy weather, which doesn’t help, but we were on days two and three of that weather Friday and Saturday, so I don’t know if that was a factor or not.”

Craig Underwood, president at Underwood’s Fine Jewelers in Fayetteville, Ark., said Saturday was a bigger traffic and sales day for his store than Black Friday, which tends to happen each year.

“We’re a freestanding store and (Black Friday) typically is a big-box day and a lot of people go to Best Buy, Walmart and Sam’s (Club),” he said.

Saturday was another story. Underwood said he not only saw a lot of foot traffic, but people were actually buying.

“We don’t run discounts or sales, but we promote affordable pieces during the holidays, price-oriented pieces that we advertise in the newspaper--silver necklaces, cuff bracelets,” he said. “Those are good for us. It gets people in the door.”

In addition to price-point items being purchased, there were some “nice” diamond sales as well, Underwood said, and he thinks this holiday season is going to be good for jewelers.

“I think it’s going to be a good year, but I’m already concerned about next year,” he said. “Next year will be an election year, and most election years there is a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty. But once you get past it, things settle down.”

Like Avon Lake, Ohio, jeweler Theresia Oreskovic, Debbie Fox of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, Calif., did well with the Pandora free bracelet promotion.

She said it was “insane” at her store because of the deal.

Excluding those who were there for Pandora, she still described the weekend as busy, with moderate sales but a lot of browsers who will, hopefully, become buyers.

Her store, which moved into a new building in the spring of 2014, is located in the center of Ventura’s main shopping drag, and proved to be an attraction for those who had family in town for Thanksgiving and wanted to spend time together shopping.

Unlike many other jewelers, Stephenie Bjorkman, CEO of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, Ariz., said she always does well on Black Friday weekend.

That held true again this year, both in-store and online.

Bjorkman set an e-blast to go out on Thanksgiving--a day she figured many people would be sitting around looking at their smartphones while waiting for the turkey to finish--advertising the store’s American-mined colored gemstones.

The e-blast generated $1,500 of online sales in a single day and brought people into her store over the weekend as well. Also aiding in traffic was the continuation of the store’s Black Friday weekend gold-buying event, where people can get cash for their gold or trade old pieces in for something new and different.

Despite the fact that gold prices are no longer sky-high, Bjorkman said the event continues to be a draw.

“(Sales) were really good as normal,” she said of the weekend.

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