By Brecken Branstrator and Michelle Graff
New York--After turning out in stores over Black Friday weekend to give fine jewelry a strong start for the holiday season, it seems consumers took to their computers and mobile devices to take part in Cyber Monday’s offerings as well.

Of the five online-only retailers that spoke with National Jeweler Tuesday, none reported a decline in Cyber Monday sales. (Website BaubleBar, which raised $10 million in funding earlier this year, declined to discuss its Cyber Monday performance while huge online players Blue Nile and Amazon--both public companies that rarely disclose financial information piecemeal--did not respond to request for comment.) 

Boston-based Gemvara, in fact, recorded the best day in its albeit-brief history Monday and uncovered what might be a new niche for the e-tailer: engagement rings for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community. 

Gemvara is a custom jewelry website launched in 2010. Customers log on and design a piece to their specifications, and it is then is made in New York and shipped to them within eight days. 

Chief Financial Officer Matt Nichols said wedding jewelry sales to the LGBT community tripled year-over-year. Overall, 50 percent of the site’s sales on Cyber Monday were engagement-related. 

The high volume of bridal jewelry sales helped boost the e-tailer’s average ticket value 23 percent year-over-year.

Overstock.com also had a very strong performance on Monday.

“We had record numbers for jewelry and watch sales this year on Cyber Monday, with 23 percent growth year-over-year. It was a huge day for us,” said Erin-Leigh Hess, Overstock’s merchandising manager for jewelry and watches. “This is a growth trend we’ve seen all year at Overstock, but it really came in for us [Monday].”

Much of the site’s growth in jewelry and watch sales was due to the new Jewelry Liquidation Vault, comprised of pieces purchased from now-defunct jewelry auction site Bidz.com. The e-tailer also sold a $30,000 piece bridal. 

RELATED CONTENT: Overstock buys Bidz.com’s inventory

Ice.com also reported year-over-year double-digit gains in Cyber Monday sales as did Stone & Strand, though the site is only a year-and-half-old, making year-over-year comps not that difficult to top. 

Jamie Kovelman, senior buyer at Max & Chloe, a Miami-based e-tailer that sells a mix of fashion (non-fine) and fine jewelry, said they took the same amount of orders as last year but the average order value fell, from $350 to $75. 

“This year, we had a lot of very small transactions,” she said.

Pearls, including pieces with both cultured and large, faux costume pearls, were popular among customers. One of the site’s best-selling items was a pair of trendy double faux pearl stud earrings. Kovelman said these retail for $18, and their popularity was part of the reason the average order value sank. 

Online sales of jewelry were part of a Cyber Monday in which sales were strong across the board. Digital metrics firm comScore reported Tuesday that sales from desktop computers exceeded $2 billion on Monday and were up 17 percent year-over-year. 

“Varying reports have … indicated weakness in the consumer economy due to flagging brick-and-mortar sales over the holiday weekend,” comScore Chairman Emeritus Gian Fulgoni said in a news release, likely referring to the National Retail Federation’s disputed claim that Black Friday weekend sales fell 11 percent. “But what we may really be seeing is an accelerating shift to online buying as mobile phones spur increased showrooming activity. The data we’re seeing suggest it may be more a change in shopping behavior than a lack of consumer demand.” 

ShopperTrak’s Bill Martin, however, offers a more balanced perspective. ShopperTrak has devices in stores worldwide that track how many people come in and how they shop.

Martin said that by his estimates, sales over the weekend fell 2 percent and, while Cyber Monday sales grew, that growth is slowing. He said online shopping is convenient but never will replace consumers’ desire to touch, feel and see merchandise before they buy it. 

“Being in the store is going to be favorable for a long time to come,” he said. 

Martin said there is still a lot of shopping to be done and, as his firm predicted earlier, the Saturday before Christmas will be the strongest day of the season. He said they are standing by their forecast of a 3.8 percent increase in holiday retail sales.





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