Rapaport Magazine
Markets & Pricing

Store owners take stock

After a largely successful summer, jewelers are cautious but hopeful as they head toward the festive period.

By Lara Ewen
As the weather began to cool across much of the US, jewelers took stock of current inventory and prepared for the holiday season. For some, that meant taking a trip to Las Vegas to attend the JCK, Luxury, and Couture events. Others, however, chose to stay away from the trade-show crowds and work with vendors who were willing to travel to them.

As to whether the summer was a good indicator of upcoming year-end sales, no one would say. In unpredictable times, the best retailers could hope for was stability.

Appraising the year

For many retailers, summer 2021 was good.

“We have seen business improve from the first of the year,” said John Hayes, owner of Goodman’s Jewelers in Madison, Wisconsin. “Going into the second quarter, we were behind 20%, but since that time, we have picked up.”

Wedding jewelry was a big seller, he added. “Bridal has made up most of the gains, with some larger diamonds purchased — mostly upgrades for anniversaries — plus some first-time engagements.”

Some retailers did so well, they seemed surprised at their own good fortune.

“We’ve been ridiculously busy,” said Keith Hurdle, owner of Hurdle’s Jewelry in Boulder, Colorado. “It feels good. I can’t explain why things are [the way they are], but I hope this will continue into the holidays.”

Yet not every store owner has been flourishing.

“In Portland, Oregon, especially downtown, there are still riots and graffiti,” related Alex Talakoub, owner of Medallion Jewelers in downtown Portland. “My store is still boarded up. We’ve been looted. We’re not open during normal business hours, and business is slow.”

His location made it hard to bring in any foot traffic, he continued. “I’m on the front line. On the perimeter, or stores a mile from me, or in the malls, [there are] no issues. But downtown is very different. People stay away.”

Still, Talakoub said he was making the best of it. “We’re doing online orders,” he explained. “We mostly sell engagement, and people like custom, so if we have something they like, we can modify it.”

Vegas takeaways

Talakoub went to JCK this year to keep up with the industry. “I go to the show to look at the trends and see how others are doing,” he explained. “I bought giftware, necklaces, pendants and semi-mounts for holiday [stock]. There were a lot of new items and new styles.”

That said, he didn’t bother with JCK’s online platform, “other than for registering.”

Hurdle went to Couture and Luxury, but didn’t stay long: “I can’t justify spending a ton of time there. We did the show in a day and a half, and skipped JCK [because] we didn’t have anybody at JCK we needed to see. Plus, I don’t wander around and look for trends. The quality level [at JCK] isn’t there. Probably only 10% of what’s in there is the quality I adhere to.”

This year felt much slower than usual, he added. “The show wasn’t busy at all. The whole Covid-19 thing is back in force, and there’s too much fear.”

Even so, he has avoided using digital platforms to shop for inventory. “I don’t like online,” he said. “You can’t see color.”

Hayes decided not to go to any shows at all this year. “I did not feel comfortable traveling, and I have stock from last year we still need to move,” he elaborated. “And I have not used the JCK online platform yet. To be honest, I didn’t realize it was there.”

He keeps on top of what’s happening in the industry, though, and works with vendors to replenish stock. “We read the fashion and trade magazines to keep abreast of trends and new styles. And we’ll be meeting with a few select vendors over the next few weeks, with our focus on bridal.”

However, he was worried about fulfillment problems. “Delivery times have been an issue lately. Some vendors are going from a two-week average delivery time to as much as six weeks or more. But everyone is having staffing and supply problems, including us.”

Seasonal outlook

Hayes expects to do well with color and traditional pieces this December. “This holiday season, I think we will see a little more color fashion,” he said. “And as always, we’ll sell basic diamond studs, bracelets, and pendants.”

He’s hopeful, yet careful about making any predictions. “Covid-19 has stopped people from traveling, so they’re spending more locally. We are optimistic about the holidays but will be cautious about how much inventory we add.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - October 2021. To subscribe click here.

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Tags: Lara Ewen