Rapaport Magazine
Markets & Pricing

Digital outreach yields strong sales

Jewelers are hopeful that the momentum of last year’s successes will continue.

By Lara Ewen
While the Omicron variant meant in-store holiday events were limited, store owners used appointments and virtual engagement to stay connected to customers throughout the season. Retailers reported limited traffic, but said customers had spent more on their purchases, buying larger stones and more extravagant gifts. Overall, cautious optimism prevailed.

Holiday 2021 report

December sales were up across the jewelry industry.

The holidays were “big” for Marc Feder, owner of Jay Feder Jewelers, which has one store in Denver, Colorado, one store in Boca Raton, Florida, and a wholesale operation in New York. “[We had] less foot traffic but much bigger-dollar tickets. We sold more stones over $100,000 this season than I can ever remember. There was such an appetite built up for people to spend a little money and do stuff they wanted to do. It was apparent people wanted to buy.”

Feder sold a lot of ring upgrades, but women’s fashion sales and transactions in the $5,000 range were slower. That said, watches and men’s jewelry, such as diamond tennis necklaces, did well.

Holiday sales were equally strong in Nashville, Tennessee, where Lorraine Barker, co-owner of Barker Diamond Company, declared 2021 one of the best years she’d had in a long time. “People didn’t have other places to spend their money,” she explained, echoing Feder’s sentiment. “The jewelry business was the beneficiary.”

Her store, which focuses on bridal, saw more customers looking for larger diamonds. “We’ve noticed a bigger dollar amount being spent on engagement rings, for bigger stones,” she said. “We’ve also sold more tennis bracelets in the last two years than we did in the last 10 all together.” However, she noted that products priced under $1,000 were not selling as well.

The year also ended on a high note for Doug Jones, owner of Dale’s Jewelers in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He, too, attributed it to the fact that “people weren’t traveling, so they wanted to get out and shop.” Natural diamonds weren’t as popular as they had once been, he added. “What was conspicuously absent in holiday sales was large natural diamonds. Lab is doing better because of price.”

Another strong seller for Jones was his store’s personal line, Stewart Douglas Designs. “There’s a unique product to my region, called elk ivory, which is the back two teeth of an elk. They make a pretty piece of jewelry, and people like it because it’s ours, and it’s not what they’ll find everywhere, and it has a story to tell.”

Changing marketing strategies

Across the board, retailers were shifting marketing strategies away from traditional media.

“My marketing is all digital,” said Jones. “I have someone who posts daily, and we do a blog daily. It’s not cheap, and it’s a lot of work, but I’m not interested in radio and television. Digital has such a laser focus, and we have good reviews.”

For Feder, 2021 marketing was a combination of digital and in-person. “We didn’t spend money on television and radio ads,” he revealed. “We did some social media and a little print ad in the Boca Observer, and we did two big parties just before Omicron hit. We just thought that people who knew us would come, and new people wouldn’t come to us just because of an ad.”

Barker found that referrals were the best way for her store to get new customers. “We have not done any marketing for the last two years. We have our website, and that’s it. It’s all Google referrals or customer referrals or returning customers, or they refer their friends or family.”

Cautious predictions

Feder was hopeful about the coming year, but he was also cautious. “It’s hard not to be optimistic after what I’ve seen over the last six months,” he said. “Prices keep going up, but I don’t want to be overly excited and then be let down.”

For Barker, the gains from 2020 and 2021 weren’t enough to quell her fears about the future. “We’re all so tired and stressed out from dealing with this uncertainty, and so I don’t know. I have no predictions for 2022.”

Yet Jones remained upbeat. “I don’t want to brag, but we’re up 50% over 2020, and that was 25% over 2019,” he said. “So I’m buying merchandise, and if this goes south, at least I’ll have a showcase full of merchandise.”

By the numbers
  • The number of shoppers visiting physical stores on the last Saturday before Christmas increased 19% year on year, despite concerns over Omicron.

  • In November 2021, shipments of Swiss watches to the US grew 22% compared to the same month in 2019, coming to CHF 301.1 million ($325.7 million).

  • Jewelry was the US’s best-performing retail category in December vis-à-vis pre-pandemic levels. Revenue from the segment was 27% higher than in December 2019 and up 31% year on year.

  • E-commerce revenues for the 2021 holiday period jumped 8.6% year on year to $204.5 billion. Online jewelry sales for November and December were more than twice their pre-season levels.

  • Total US retail sales rose 14% during the holiday season. Shoppers spent an unprecedented $886.7 billion over the November-December period.

Sources: Sensormatic Solutions, Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Mastercard SpendingPulse, Adobe Analytics, National Retail Federation (NRF)/US Census Bureau

"There was such an appetite built up for people to spend a little money and do stuff they wanted to do"

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - February 2022. To subscribe click here.

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Tags: Lara Ewen