Rapaport Magazine
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Retail Rap

By Phyllis Schiller
ARE CUSTOMERS MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT BUYING?


John Apel
The 4Cs are not the only things that make a piece of diamond jewelry a sales winner. In an ongoing series, Rapaport Magazine explores the “3Ws” — what’s selling, what’s not and why — by going straight to the people who really know — jewelry retailers. Each month, we ask a sampling of retailers to comment on the important issues that are facing the industry today. Here is what they had to say when asked: “Are customers feeling more optimistic about the economy and is that translating into sales?”


ALICE HERRING, CO-OWNER

FORD, GITTINGS AND KANE JEWELERS
ROME, GEORGIA
   
“We are having a very positive year. But I think sales have more to do with the retailers themselves. If they are projecting that things are more positive and that things are looking up, I think they’re going to hear more of that from their customers and see more of that in their clientele’s behavior. Sometimes, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if you talk about how bad things are going.
   “We are seeing consumer confidence and that they are purchasing for their loved ones. Our customers consider the items that we have as something that they can put their money in that their children and grandchildren will have. They are confident in spending money on something that’s going to last. They see the value of nice pieces. Our core customers are still here and faithful, but we’re seeing a lot of new people, which is a positive sign.”

Chris Wattsson, OWNER
Wattsson & Wattsson JEWELERS
Marquette, Michigan
   
“Yes, I have seen that. It’s a combination between more locals coming in and a lot of first-time customers for engagement. My clientele is more price point, not the big, big items. Based on what I’ve seen in the past few months, I expect this to continue.”

MARK COLEMAN, CO-OWNER
NELSON COLEMAN JEWELERS
TOWSON, MARYLAND
   
“I would say that it’s similar to 2012. I wouldn’t say it’s stronger. We’re seeing consistent activity in bridal. But it’s July, which is our quietest month.”

CYNTHIA WOO, VICE PRESIDENT
CAPRI JEWELERS
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
   
“Yes. We’re seeing more new customers, younger customers looking for engagement rings, although they are still concerned about price points. They are interested in name brands. We hope it’s a trend that’s ongoing.”

JIM WATTERS, PRESIDENT
BRUCE WATTERS JEWELERS
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
   
“Sales have been good, but I don’t know exactly what to attribute it to — whether it’s that they made a few bucks in the market lately or who knows what. I’m just happy that it is. We do have a larger amount of traffic and I think a lot of it has to do with our location. We’ve situated ourselves in one of the hottest areas of St. Petersburg, on the nicest drive, with the nicest restaurants. The number of people who are out and about in the evenings has never, ever been like this, even back before the bust. It may be a little bit of a lifestyle change, where people are spending more time doing things with friends and family…but we’re selling more to those people in later hours that we ever did before. We’ve been staying open evening hours and people have been coming in and discovering us.
   “I would say what they’re buying is absolutely across the board. We have more price-point items and we sell a lot of bridal, which continues to stay strong, and we sell some high, high end, also. We recently sold a fancy yellow diamond in the $70,000 range.”

BRAD KOEN, CO-OWNER
JOE KOEN & SON JEWELER
AUSTIN, TEXAS
   
“We’re in one of the hottest towns in the country. Austin is growing by leaps and bounds, so we are seeing an improvement in our business because of the growth of the city. Real estate is up and so is jewelry. Customers are starting to pick up those items that before they used to get as a splurge purchase, like buying a pair of earrings on their break from work. They’re starting to do that again. I think this is going to be a continuing trend.”

DENVER TOONE, STORE MANAGER
JEWELRY DESIGN CENTER
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON
   
“Consumers are less pessimistic than before and the optimism in the economy is definitely better. Customers are still cautious in what they spend, but we have seen an increase this year. If you go about it the right way, you can translate the optimism into a bigger market share and attract new customers.”

KEITH NORRIS, OWNER
K. NORRIS JEWELERS
RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA
   
“I definitely think we’re feeling a more positive input. In our market, the reason for that is that real estate is rebounding and that’s helping people feel good about things again, with the value of their home coming back to where it was. They don’t have that dark cloud of owing more than they could sell their house for. I think that’s carrying over to a little more positive feeling about everything. People had gotten into the mode of not spending money and now that’s turning around and they’re saying, ‘Let’s get on with life; let’s make that purchase that we’ve been putting off.’ The desire had been there but the practical aspect had been holding them back; whereas now, they’re feeling more positive.
   “We’re blessed because we’re a strong bridal store and if a guy asks a gal to marry him, she wants a nice ring, regardless of what’s going on in the economy. And then, the other thing that we’re feeling good about is the important occasions: You only have one 25th anniversary, so you want to do something special about it. And people are now wanting to do that.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2013. To subscribe click here.

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