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Markets & Pricing

Store owners see strong start to Season

Jewelers hope to build on their gains from Thanksgiving weekend.

By Lara Ewen
Retailers saw positive results on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which they hoped would bode well for the rest of their holiday returns. Self-purchasing women and online shoppers made the biggest impacts. While traffic was slightly down, the average ticket price was up. Store owners expected to see these trends continue through December.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

John Hayes, president of Goodman’s Jewelers in Madison, Wisconsin, said his 2019 Black Friday had been fairly steady, although he doesn’t do online sales and had fewer customers than some mall-based stores in his area. “We had nice bridal business through the weekend,” he commented. In early December, his store was ahead of 2018’s numbers by about 5%, with most of the sales coming from bridal and engagement rings, he added. Earrings — especially hoops, gold and colored studs — were popular as well.

Sales were also strong in the southeast. “[Black Friday] was really good for us,” reported Jessica Rossomme, director of operations at Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry in Peachtree City, Georgia. “Traffic was brisk, and up for us over previous years.”

Rossomme said she’d worked with an emerging local designer and focused on trying to get millennials and Gen Z-ers in the store for giftable gemstones, sterling silver, and gold-filled necklaces and bracelets priced at $200. “Many times, jewelers put out a loss-leader to entice traffic, but miss the real significance of Black Friday,” she said. “It’s not just about dollars and cents. It’s about giving your brand an energy shot in the arm.”

Online jeweler Brian Gavin, owner of Brian Gavin Diamonds, also reported a strong Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend. “It was excellent for us,” he declared. “We had a roughly 14% increase over [2018]. [That’s because] it’s a way of life. The internet has been around for over 20 years. So now, if you asked me to run down to the Galleria in Houston and park my car and shop, I just wouldn’t do it. So that’s why we did as well as we did.”

What sold, who bought

Hayes’s average customers were between 30 and 50 years old, although he also had his share of older clients. “We had two different gentlemen in their 60s who bought gifts for their wives and daughters,” he said. “And our average holiday tickets are around $500, a little up from the rest of the year, which is more like $300.”

While Gavin’s main business is loose diamonds, bridal and engagement rings, his store featured special offers for customers over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, such as low-priced mountings and deals on hoop earrings. His clientele, which was a mix of younger and older customers, also wanted to spend more. “When you look at the volume in terms of units, it’s not much more,” he said. “But percentage-wise, we saw a 20% jump in average price.”

Rossomme’s Black Friday crowd featured some men buying gifts, but the majority of her traffic was women who were either self-purchasing or in the market for gifts. “They want things to go with specific outfits, and go with trends,” she said. “It’s not tennis bracelets.”

Lessons learned

As of early December, Gavin was ahead. “I would like to see it continue, but I felt a little slowdown in the past couple of days,” he said. Still, “tomorrow, all hell could break loose. My prediction is that we’ll do better [this year] than last year. But I heard through the grapevine that [major online jewelers] James Allen and Blue Nile aren’t having such a hot season. That’s based on what I’m hearing on the street in New York City. And [Signet Jewelers-owned retailer] Sterling lost a lot of money. So I have to count my blessings.”

The middle market is diminishing, according to Rossomme, who was expecting fewer clients through the door overall in December. Still, she predicted a good holiday, because the high-end jewelry market was strong and because well-priced, wearable fashion continued to sell.

As long as the weather holds, jewelers say, the year should end on a high note. “I think Christmas will be good,” said Hayes. “We have the right momentum, and we just hope for no snowstorms or ice storms.”

By the numbers
  • Only 23% of consumers actively seek out products or companies that are in line with their personal values, beliefs, ethics and morals.

  • Brick-and-mortar shopping on Black Friday was down 6% compared to 2018.

  • During Cyber Week — the period of Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday — US e-commerce sales hit $31 billion, up 15% from last year.

  • Macy’s and J.C. Penney noted strong jewelry sales in the third fiscal quarter, despite disappointing overall results.

  • Sales of secondhand luxury goods increased to an estimated EUR 26 billion ($28.67 billion) in 2019, with pre-owned watches and jewelry performing well.

  • Sources: A.T. Kearney, ShopperTrak, Salesforce, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Bain & Company

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