By Brecken Branstrator, Ashley Davis & Lenore Fedow
New York—On Monday and Tuesday, National Jeweler’s editors reached out to independent jewelers nationwide to see what they’re selling, what they’re stocking and what they expect from the holiday season.

The editors interviewed a total of 10 jewelers from five regions of the country: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, South Central, and West.

Read on to learn what they had to say, and see how it compares to your holiday so far.

Northeast: A Happy Holiday in the Making

The Mexican Shack in Somers, New York saw both old and new faces over the holiday weekend after going all-in on promoting the store via social media.

For the first time in 44 years, the store began working with a social media coordinator to attract new customers and the result has been “phenomenal,” said owner Steven Delzio.

Delzio opened a 600-square-foot store in the 1970s after venturing out West, looking to immerse himself in Mexican and Native American culture, and returning with handmade jewelry and collectibles from Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico.

The business grew over the years, moving into a 4,000-square-foot space in 1990.

This year, The Mexican Shack welcomed holiday shoppers with mimosas, cider and donuts as well as a chance to win a $100 gift certificate. The lucky winner was announced via video on the store’s Facebook page.

The store saw an increase in foot traffic as well as social media engagement, boasting 84 recommendations on Facebook and several five-star reviews.

Traditional word-of-mouth is also still a driving factor for business, said Delzio.

“I’m not bragging, but we’re good and they come to us,” he said.

As for what the store is stocking up on for the holidays, shoppers can expect to see something “unusual” and lots of color.

In New England, Cohasset Jewelers in Cohasset, Massachusetts also had a “very busy” weekend.

President Mark Cirone said there was an uptick in foot traffic but didn’t have specific percentages. He said he prefers to “look at the checkbook” to measure the success of the weekend.

Overall, Cirone expects to break even on customer count year-over-year, which he said he chalks up as a win considering the competition with online sellers.

Looking back to the previous holiday, Cirone recalled an “unbelievable year” until the stock market took a hit amid the government shutdown just before Christmas.

As for this year, he said: “Demand is still high. Consumers are out there with money in their pockets.”

The sales will be awarded to the retailers who can provide a service, Cirone said, calling it “the only saving grace” for independent jewelers.

“If we’re going to survive as jewelers, not as retailers, we have to differentiate ourselves by selling higher-quality things,” he added.

Southeast: Strong Start but Mixed Predictions

As is the case for many independent jewelers, Black Friday isn’t a big deal for Tiny Jewel Box in downtown Washington, D.C.

Small Business Saturday also didn’t bring in an influx of customers.

Matthew Rosenheim said he asked the store’s staff about it, and none could identify a customer saying they came in specifically for the occasion.

Still, the first weekend kicking off the holiday season was a good one for the well-known retailer. Sales were up “significantly,” Rosenheim said.

With traffic up only slightly, it’s showcasing a trend the store has seen all year—a “dramatic” increase in the average sale per customer.

Those visiting the store are doing so more intentionally, and they are ready to spend.

What’s more, Rosenheim said rather than the big-box crowds many retailers see over the holiday weekend, Tiny Jewel Box has clients who bring along family and friends who are in town visiting, giving the store more opportunities to make sales.

With a strong third quarter leading into a strong Thanksgiving weekend, Rosenheim said he feels optimistic about the remainder of the season.

Tony Goodman of Goodman & Sons in Williamsburg and Hampton, Virginia had a similar story about the weekend—foot traffic was flat, but sales were up 7 percent.

He added that customers were driven more by price points, looking for items from the likes of Pandora and Kendra Scott. He said John Hardy did “pretty well” for them too.

When it came to Small Business Saturday, Goodman said they didn’t really notice any difference in turnout, but also noted the retailer didn’t run any specific sales for the day.

Foot traffic was flat Saturday, as were online sales.

Goodman anticipates sales will be down 10 percent this holiday season, despite a strong start.

He said his prediction is based on a combination of the way sales have been trending at the retailer for the past year and the shorter holiday season leading to a slower December.

“We didn’t cut back on marketing and we really focused on diversity of product and price points, so I am hoping I am wrong,” he said.

He added that his stores have also seen year-over-year declines in Pandora sales for the past five years, so he is forecasting that to be down a bit in 2019 as well.

Midwest: Mixed Sales but Trending Positive

Windsor Jewelry in downtown Indianapolis was “really busy” on Small Business Saturday, said owner Greg Bires.

The store, located in the city since 1919, relies on the foot traffic of the people who live and work nearby, he said. The area has seen “tremendous growth” in the number of residents, which has translated into an uptick in shopping and eating local.

The holiday season overall is “trending toward very positive,” said Bires, noting the months leading up to its fourth quarter have been “decent.”

In anticipation for holiday shoppers, the store stocked up on stackable bracelets, particularly pieces from Gabriel & Co.

“I’m seeing people getting away from occasion jewelry and wanting more everyday jewelry, regardless of price,” he said.

In Omaha, Nebraska, Malashock’s Jewelry had a slow holiday weekend.

President Bob Malashock said the weekend is never very big for the store and so it was not promoted.

There was a slight uptick in traffic, he said, but the holiday weekend conflicted with college football, with the Nebraska Cornhuskers facing the Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday.

He said overall, sales this season likely will be down for the store, as it no longer sells Rolex watches, a high-ticket holiday favorite. The store has stocked up on lower-priced gift items instead.

Nevertheless, Malashock is hopeful for a strong Christmas.

South Central: High Hopes for the Season Ahead

In the south central United States, jewelers interviewed experienced a normal post-Thanksgiving weekend.

Sales weren’t exceptional, but they never are in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday blitz.

Regardless, retailers are seeing some large holiday purchases and expect much more to come.

Kevin Mays of John Mays Jewelers in Fort Smith, Arkansas predicts the 2019 holiday season is going to be bigger than last year.

“We’re already seeing an increase in traffic, with people shopping earlier and buying earlier.”

This year, John Mays Jewelers is celebrating 20 years in business.

Publicity around their anniversary event happening this coming weekend, featuring special pieces from Hearts On Fire, TAG Heuer and B&B Fine Gems among others, plus food, drinks and festivities, has drawn attention to the store as the holidays approach.

“That’s really helped drive traffic so far,” Mays said.

Black Friday was a little slow at the store, but Small Business Saturday was “pretty busy,” Mays said, and they benefited from good weather.

Customers have been loving the Hayley Paige for Hearts On Fire collection, as well as men’s TAG Heuer watches.

Austin, Texas jeweler Brian Hoover of Avant Garde Jewelers has also been attracted to “higher-priced units from bigger designers,” lately, he said.

Hoover has been upping his store’s price points and overall designer selection and is seeing great response from customers, who are loving designs from companies like Facet Barcelona and Mastoloni, the types of brands that exhibit at jewelry trade shows like Centurion or JCK Luxury, he said.

Customers have also been snapping up The Henderson Collection bracelets.

Hoover ran an online promotion over the holiday weekend, offering 20 to 50 percent off certain items, but there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic at the store.

However, holiday shoppers who have come in so far have been spending more money on bigger pieces, causing him to anticipate a better season than last year.

“Overall, I’m very happy with what I’m seeing,” he said.

He’s also fielding a lot of lab-grown diamond requests, and he’s all for it.

The store stocks loose lab-grown diamonds for engagement rings, as well as earrings and bracelets set with man-made stones.

“[Customers] are already knowledgeable about the product,” he said. “They ask if we carry them or have them or what my thoughts are.”

West: Shopping Is Underway

In Beaverton, Oregon, not far outside Portland, Smith and Bevill Jewelers said customers had gotten an early start this year, beginning their shopping two to three weeks ago.

Granted Thanksgiving is late this year, but the store still was seeing shoppers a good 10 days earlier than is typical for their clientele.

“It’s a short season and I think people are realizing that,” owner Bill Bevill said.

He said they’ve been selling “milestone pieces and big-ticket items,” as custom, one-of-a-kind pieces are the store’s specialty.

Smith and Bevill soon will close its ordering window for custom pieces that need to be delivered by Christmas and sell exclusively “out of the case.”

Customers are buying diamond jewelry and colored gemstone jewelry, as well as a lot of antique pieces.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are never huge days for the business, but, along with several pre-Thanksgiving days, they’ve had big sales throughout the season so far.

People are coming in ready to buy, Bevill said.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, Bennion Jewelers has long taken sales and promotions into its own hands, rather than relying on occasions like Black Friday in which consumers often look to electronics deals.

Bennion’s clientele knows that one day a year the jewelry store hosts a special open house full of deals, its own version of a Black Friday blowout.

Held the Friday evening before Thanksgiving, this year the event fell on Nov. 22, and it was a smashing success.

“We did almost two months of business in four hours,” said second-generation owner Bill Bennion.

While some local competitors hold sales frequently, Bennion Jewelers only has its open-house sale once a year, leaving prices the same the other 364 days of the year.

That’s made the open house an annual, not-to-miss event, replete with food, a full bar and wine.

Started 18 years ago, this year’s open house hosted about 250 invited shoppers. A few select vendors were on hand to participate, and Bennion sold 13 watches.

“Our Christmas is already done, so the pressure is off,” he said.

“If we have a decent Christmas, we’ll have a great year. If we have a poor Christmas, we’ll still have a great year.”

Overall, Bennion has noticed shoppers gravitating toward diamond earrings, black diamond jewelry, watches and yellow gold, which is “starting to sell a little bit better,” he said.

The store has also sold a little bit of color so far this season.

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.