New York—How much love did consumers have for fine jewelry this Valentine’s Day?

Not a ton, according to the 10 jewelers National Jeweler contacted on Friday, though that might have to do more with the declining importance of the holiday overall than with consumers’ interest in fine jewelry.

In late January, the National Retail Federation reported that while consumers celebrating Valentine’s Day were expected to spend more this year—including a total of $3.9 billion on jewelry—the number of people who actually observe the holiday is on the decline.

According to the NRF, only about half of Americans planned to do something for Feb. 14 this year, down from 55 percent last year and 63 percent a decade ago.

The NRF’s findings reflect what many retailers told National Jeweler—that Valentine’s Day isn’t as important as it used to be.

Read on for more insights, and feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section below.

NORTHEAST: Yes and No

“When the weather is nice, it’s like Christmas. People are just pounding down the door,” said Daniel Niebauer, the vice president of operations at Ralph Miller Jewelers & Gallery in Erie, Pennsylvania.

And this year?

It was windy and cold early in the week but cleared up on Thursday, and business was brisk at both Ralph Miller stores and online. (The 121-year-old retailer, which has picked up business as other area independents have closed, opened a second store on the west side of Erie in August.)

Eschewing traditional outlets like TV and newspaper, the store drew in customers using social media, advertising its Valentine’s Day special—14 percent off any piece in rose gold and/or set with pink, white or red gemstones—on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  

And, it worked, as people came into its stores to shop.

Yellow gold fashion pieces meant for layering were the top sellers, as were hearts inscribed with special messages. People spent anywhere from $250 to $3,900, the store’s top Valentine’s Day sale.

“It (Feb. 14) was a warm day and so you could get out and walk around,” Niebauer said. “We actually had lots of business.”

“Jewelry is not quite as high on the list of the gifts to receive (for Valentine’s Day) now, I think, as it was in past decades.” — Steve Duvarney, Duvarney Jewelers

This was not the case, however, at Steve Duvarney’s stores in Massachusetts, and it hasn’t been for several years.

“Spending a lot of money to promote lower-price-point things never seemed to work. In the end, it just seemed that our cost to do that, and then with the inventory that was left over, it just didn’t seem to be that successful for us.

“It is better just to go with our regular inventory,” he said.

Overall, Valentine’s Day is no longer a big holiday for Duvarney Jewelers, which is located in Fitchburg and Clinton, Massachusetts and has been in business since 1854.

And its owner doesn’t think he is the only jeweler who will tell you that.

“Jewelry is not quite as high on the list of the gifts to receive now, I think, as it was in past decades,” Duvarney said.

SOUTHEAST: Less Love

For Windsor Fine Jewelers in Augusta, Georgia, this Valentine’s Day was better than last year but still not as successful as it’s been in the past.

Customers flocked to silver jewelry this holiday, particularly pieces by David Yurman and John Hardy, according to General Manager Ryan Walsh.

The two-story jewelry store, which stocks other well-known brands like Mikimoto and Rolex, has been operating in Georgia since 1975.

Its website featured a Valentine’s Day gift ideas segment for customers to peruse, including Judith Ripka sterling silver and 18-karat yellow gold dangle pearl earrings for $925 and an 18-karat yellow gold arrow pendant necklace from Roberto Coin’s Tiny Treasures collection for $480.

Marc Jacobson of Cumberland Diamond Exchange told a similar story when National Jeweler contacted his Smyrna, Georgia jewelry store Friday.

While the store saw a handful of high-ticket sales, traffic was “significantly less.” He estimated foot traffic was nearly half of what it was last year despite reaching out via direct mail, social media, billboards, and cable TV advertising.

The customers who did visit were drawn to bridal jewelry, specifically engagement rings, and high-value bracelets. Gabriel & Co. and Vahan jewelry did particularly well.

Given its 37-year history, Jacobson said the store has its fair share of older clients, who may already have all the jewelry they need for the time being.

Jacobson also wondered if the chaos on Capitol Hill was trickling down South and affecting his sales.

MIDWEST: Hot and Cold

Bill Longnecker of Longnecker Jewelry in McCook, Nebraska, has run a jewelry store in his home state for the last 22 years.

His verdict? The surrounding agrarian community just isn’t big on Valentine’s Day.

While his sales were up for the year, his Valentine’s Day sales were down about 15 percent from last year.

When his main competitor closed, he figured his “last man standing” status would garner him more clients, but that wasn’t the case.

Longnecker had flyers distributed to 8,000 people for Valentine’s Day—a tactic he said aided in his record-breaking holiday sales—advertising a free box of chocolates with a $100 purchase.

He said he gave away just about eight boxes of chocolate.

His closing ratio was high, but foot traffic was low. Citizen watches were the big draw of the day, though the sales were not enough to cover the advertising costs.

With the time he had on his hands, Longnecker said he designed a few new pieces of jewelry.

As for next Valentine’s Day, he said he won’t be going all out.

In Ohio, Peter & Co. Jewelers fared well this Valentine’s Day.

Vice President of Sales Tamara Geraci, lovingly known as the “vice president of awesomeness,” said the store saw increased foot traffic compared with last year.

“It was only two days’ worth of foot traffic but leading up to it we had a sale for Super Bowl weekend,” she said.

As for the best sellers, the store sold several diamond jewelry pieces in the $2,000-and-above range as well as a dozen pieces in the under-$500 price range, including silver hearts and other love motif jewelry.

The store reached out to customers old and new via email blasts as well as social media, including Instagram posts and sponsored ads on Facebook.

SOUTH CENTRAL: Only for You

Valentine’s Day sales at Susan Eisen’s eponymous store in El Paso, Texas, mirrored the holiday season in that the average ticket price was much higher.

The Texas jeweler said traffic on Valentine’s Day was light, with most of the sales happening in the five days before the holiday, though Eisen noted that shopping has been getting later and later every year, for all holidays.

The store decided against running TV or radio ads, opting instead to focus on billboards and social media, the latter of which Eisen thinks is what brought people to them.

She said the store sold more unique products and “custom-type” items, including a new endeavor at Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches in which the store makes the setting ahead of time and lets the customer choose the gemstones or other accents.

This allows customers to feel like they’re getting a personalized piece of jewelry but can be turned around quickly for gift-giving.

One customer came in with diamonds from family members that she didn’t know what to do with, and when Eisen told her about the custom project, “she was thrilled.”

In fact, Eisen said they had about six to 10 customers bring in their own stones and have them set in “quasi-production” pieces like this. It’s an area the store will focus on in the future.

20190218 Eisen caseSusan Eisen said agility is one of the advantages a small business has. When the Texas jeweler wanted to make her showcases look more “organic” (seen here), she did it. Now, the store has created a new custom program for customers, which was a hit for Valentine’s Day.

Meanwhile, Valentine’s Day sales and foot traffic both were much slower this year for C. Aaron Peñaloza Jewelers in San Antonio, Texas.

The jeweler ran a sale from the end of January through Valentine’s Day, but even those discounts “didn’t bring anything in that we can see,” Aaron Peñaloza told National Jeweler. He said they had two or three customers come in to buy $300-$500 gifts for the holiday.

He said he doesn’t know why Valentine’s Day was slower this year but added that he’s noticed the holiday seems to have gotten less and less important, at least in terms of jewelry gifts, over the last few years.

His store also has been shifting more into estate jewelry of late.

And there’s the obvious that could be affecting shopping: the political turmoil has caused an atmosphere of “uncertainty,” Peñaloza said, and has affected the mood across much of the country.

WEST: Not a Lot of Love

In Eugene, Oregon, family-run jewelry store Beaudet Jewelry didn’t try to sugarcoat lackluster Valentine’s Day sales.

When asked how Valentine’s Day sales were, store president Andrew Beaudet replied, “They weren’t.”

But that wasn’t much of a disappointment. Asked if sales were higher than last year’s, Beaudet said simply, “No, not really.”

“Valentine’s Day is not a huge thing here,” he explained. “It’s more of a chocolate and flowers (holiday), not a $10,000 diamond earring (holiday).”

He said Christmas is the biggest time of year for jewelry shopping in Eugene, with bridal sales and jewelry gifting at their highest. The rest of the year, the store relies on custom orders and repairs.

Despite the low hopes for Valentine’s Day, Beaudet said that he did some advertising on Facebook and to his store’s customer e-mail list.

A couple of Salt Lake City, Utah retailers echoed Beaudet’s general sentiments, noting their businesses are more focused on engagement ring and wedding band sales to young couples, with less of an emphasis on gifting for holidays like Valentine’s Day.

“I have no idea why whatsoever. We were expecting it to be better.” —Capri Jewelry President Gary Arkel on his store’s slow Valentine’s Day

In Los Angeles, Capri Jewelry President Gary Arkel was expecting solid sales for the holiday but was disappointed.

“It was much slower than last year,” he said.

Located downtown near the jewelry district, Capri Jewelry sells lots of bridal styles to couples that come from all over California and even from out of state.

The Christmas holiday season is their busiest time of year, and 2018 was only slightly down from 2017, he said, so it came as a surprise that Valentine’s Day was down about 35 percent from last year.  

“I have no idea why whatsoever,” Arkel said. “We were expecting it to be better.”

He didn’t hold any promotions or conduct any advertising, but he typically doesn’t. For Valentine’s Days past, he’s sold lots of engagement ring and wedding band sets, heart pendants and small fashion fine jewelry gift items.


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