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U.S. December Jewelry & Watch Sales -2%

Jewelry Revenue Growth Flat, Watches Improve Slightly in 2014

Feb 2, 2015 10:22 AM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... U.S. jewelry and watch sales across all channels closed out the year with disappointing results in December  as sales fell 1.6 percent year on year to $15.245 billion, according to preliminary data. Furthermore, the government revised October and November sales lower to reflect sales declines for both of those months. retail sales

Jewelry sales rose about 1.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014, but then growth picked up from May through August with solid year-on-year increases of between 3 percent and 4 percent.

However, the sector experienced softness in September as sales rose just 1.2 percent to $4.769 billion, followed by a 1.3 percent decline in October to $4.761 billion. As the Christmas-season was heating up, jewelry sales fell 0.6 percent in November to $6.134 billion, a trend that carried through December as sales dropped 1.5 percent to $13.419 billion.

For the year, jewelry sales were basically flat, or down 0.1 percent year on year, at $69.188 billion, according to preliminary data.

Watch sales were on a tear for the first eight months of 2014 as monthly growth rates measured between 2 percent and 5 percent, with the exception of March when revenue increased just 1.4 percent. However, in September, the consumer mood shifted as sales of watches were flat at $650 million, but then, in October, they contracted 2.8 percent to $649 million and  they dropped 2.2 percent in November to $837 million, followed by a 2.5 percent decline in December at $1.83 billion.

Strong sales earlier in the year, however, sustained watch sales growth through a disappointing Christmas season as the sector ended 2014 with revenue increasing  1.4 percent year on year to $9.461 billion.retail sales charts 

December data for U.S. specialty jewelry stores will be released later, but widespread declines were observed at those establishments in November where sales fell 7.1 percent year on year to $2.734 billion. Specialty jewelry store sales had managed to increase 2.2 percent year on year to $27.472 billion for the first 11 months of 2014.

U.S. department stores didn't have much reason to celebrate Christmas either, as sales in December fell 0.3 percent year on year to $23.821 billion, while total retail and food services sales rose 3.2 percent to $442.9 billion. Retail trade sales increased 2.6 percent in December.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), which predicted that Christmas season retail sales would increase 4.1 percent for the months of November and December combined,  concluded that sales rose 4 percent year on year to $616.1 billion.

Sterne Agee's chief economist, Lindsey M. Piegza, observed that December's retail sales fell 0.9 percent compared with November, marking the largest monthly decline since January 2014. November sales were revised down from 0.7 percent to 0.4 percent. With such a large decline at the end of the year, and a smaller-than-previously reported increase in November, fourth-quarter sales declined at an average pace of negative 0.1 percent relative to a positive 0.3 percent pace in third-quarter, Piegza wrote in a note to clients. 

The problem lies with strapped consumers, Piegza noted, because lower gasoline prices are not enough to compensate for rising costs elsewhere, including health care and low earnings growth. "The trend in consumer spending remains positive but far from robust spelling trouble for the more optimistic forecasts for growth at the end of the year, and early 2015 for that matter," she said. 

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Tags: analysis, annual, christmas, Consumer Spending, december, Jeff Miller, Jewelry, retail, sales, watches
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