||Jewelers Score a Solid Mother's Day
While the majority of jewelers say their Mother's Day sales were above or on par with last year, a number noted that the type of jewelry normally favored for the day -- personalized gemstone pieces -- weren't the top sellers this year.
Retailers say they sold more diamond fashion jewelry than anything else, producing a higher average ticket. The reports from jewelers interviewed by National Jeweler line up with predictions from the National Retail Federation, which forecasted an increase in the average amount spent on jewelry this Mother's Day.
National Jeweler publishes sales roundups during the November-December holiday season as well as for jewelry-buying occasions throughout the year. The roundups are compiled using interviews with independent retailers from five regions of the country: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, South Central and West.
Mother's Day sales were up about 20 percent at Ralph Miller Jewelers & Gallery in Erie, Pa., said owner Daniel Niebauer. He said the store experienced an increase in both number of items sold as well as the average ticket price, which this year ranged from $390 to $425.
"We weren't expecting it at all," he says.
He says customers turned away from traditional Mother's Day jewelry, such as birthstone rings, in favor of diamond earrings and pendants -- with diamonds the overall top seller -- as well as colored gemstone jewelry and sterling silver. "They just wanted to spend more," he says of his customers.
Niebauer says the store's main marketing push for the holiday took place on Twitter and Facebook, as well as other traditional advertising outside of television, which is no longer as effective in his market.
Sales of traditional Mother's Day jewelry also fell flat at Evan James Ltd. in Brattleboro, Vt., though sales were up overall as compared to last year, says owner Evan James Deutsch.
"I think that dog just doesn't hunt anymore," he says. "(It's) a different world now."
He said while foot traffic was down, those who came into the store were spending more, forgoing sterling silver and mother's birthstone rings for diamond fashion jewelry in the $200 to $500 range.
Deutsch says his traffic pattern also was different this year, with more shoppers coming in on Thursday and Friday to buy Mother's Day presents, as opposed to Saturday and Sunday (the store was open Sunday to accommodate last-minute shoppers.)
At DeNatale Jewelers in New York City, Jim DeNatale says his Mother's Day sales were on par with last year. "I didn’t see much improvement," he says.
They sold gold Rembrandt charms as well as two gemstone rings from vendor Color Story.
"It met our expectations," he says of Mother's Day sales, noting that the holiday has not been a prolific one for his Wall Street-area store for a couple of years.
A clearance sale designed to move dated merchandise buoyed Mother's Day sales for Goodman & Sons Jewelers in Hampton and Williamsburg, Va., says Stuart Goodman.
Store management drafted a plan for a Mother's Day clearance sale during their annual planning session, allocating marketing dollars toward radio, 6,000 direct-mail postcards and a small amount of cable and print. He says they also advertised the sale on the store's Facebook page.
"It looked like that paid off. We did really well," he says, noting that he was pleasantly surprised by the numbers the sale generated in a year when sales are down.
In addition to the mix of product included in the clearance sale, Goodman says Pandora was a strong seller for Mother's Day, noting that he has swapped out aged Pandora merchandise for new as part of the company's stock-balancing program this year.
Cammie McCloud of Gause & Sons Jewelers, with two stores in Ocala, Fla., also reported an increase in Mother's Day sales. Sales were up at the company's mall location due to an increase in foot traffic, while revenues increased at their downtown store because of more big-ticket buys.
"We're starting to see an increase in real estate (activity)," she says, noting that home sales and construction are on the rise. "We're definitely seeing a turnaround, which is good."
Diamond hoops and studs were strong sellers for Mother's Day, as was Scott Kay sterling silver jewelry. The store also sold a few ladies; Rolex watches.
McCloud says some of the higher-end items sold were combination Mother's Day and anniversary gifts, leading customers to spend more than they would on a Mother's Day present alone.
Like a number of other retailers, Gene Gragg, owner of Metal Works Fine Jewelry Inc. in Yorktown, Ind., didn't see customers rushing to pick up traditional Mother's Day rings and pendants.
He says he sold mostly earrings in both gold and sterling silver that were priced at $400 and under. How many of them were gifts meant for moms on their dedicated day is unclear.
"Sales were good, but I'm not sure how much I can attribute to Mother's Day," he says.
He added that he didn't have any expectations about sales levels around the holiday. "The economy is still not great around here. I was sort of prepared for the worst. I guess it was surprising a bit that it was as good as it was," he says.
Gragg says he also sold pieces from bead line Reflections, though he sees interest in bead jewelry waning.
He recently spotted an advertisement for sterling silver-plated beads from a mint that produces and sells "collectibles," such as coins, dolls, sculptures and jewelry. "To me, that's the beginning of the end. That trend is on its way out," he says. "It's going to dilute the brand so much that nobody's going to sell any of them."
Mother's Day was "no great shakes," for Jill Garfinkle at Garfinkles Fine Jewelry in Highland Park, Ill., who says the holiday fell short of expectations.
"We had business but I don't think it was for Mother's Day," she says.
The one vendor that did perform well for Mother's Day was personalized jewelry designer Heather Moore.
"It wasn't terrible. I thought it would be better," Garfield says. "I don't know what to expect anymore."
"It was crazy," says Kelly Newton, owner of Newton's Jewelers in Fort Smith, Ark. "The last three weeks have been crazy, to be honest, just nuts."
Newton said he's had to add staff members, especially on weekends, to handle the volume of people coming into the store. While much of the traffic can be attributed to a spring bridal promotion, he says many also were shopping for mom.
Price points at the store ranged from $350 to a few thousand, Newton says, not including a Rolex sale. Many shoppers opted for white gold pieces, and cases for the jeweler's sterling silver lines, Alwand Vahan and Thistle & Bee, "were nearly emptied," he says.
Newton said a few mothers came in to select their own gifts, but the majority of shoppers were husbands and children. He said he believes this Mother's Day trumped last year's but notes that "May is always a big month for us."
Business was slow to pick up at Cunningham Jewelers in Tulsa, Okla., says owner Vicki Cunningham, but customers did begin filtering into the shop on Saturday.
"It wasn't as busy as it usually is," she says.
Cunningham carries Pandora beads, which she says were a major draw for husbands and children. A few pairs of diamond studs were purchased, as well as silver pieces and some white gold jewelry.
The average price point ranged between $100 and $150, Cunningham says, and less than $100 for Pandora beads.
Sales went "very well" at Hart Jewelers in Grants Pass, Ore., says owner Tom Hart, who said Saturday was the busiest day.
"We sold a little bit of everything," the jeweler says. "Diamond earrings, gemstone rings -- there was no one category that stood out."
Hart says the store had a successful diamond bracelet sale on Friday, and sold sterling silver pieces earlier in the week. When it comes to gold, he says customers generally pick white gold over yellow, but he caters to an older clientele, "so there were still customers preferring yellow gold."
With an average sale of $600, Hart says this Mother's Day is comparable to last year.
Cheryl Burchell, goldsmith and owner of Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, says she "really didn't have a Mother’s Day this year" at her store, but offered insight on the lack of customers.
"We've created in this country a feeling that a traditional jewelry store that's here to service and take care of its customers is expensive," she said, "so everyone goes to department stores, the mall, T.J. Maxx, and they buy there. Even though I have the same earrings or diamond necklaces at affordable prices, the perception is that the traditional store costs more."
Burchell, whose store specializes in custom pieces, says many consumers in her area buy their jewelry at Costco or Kroger Co.-owner Fred Meyer Jewelers, which is located in one of the city's grocery stores.
"The guys are already there shopping, so they just stop at that jewelry store," she says.
Despite the slow weekend, Burchell says January and February were better than December, and Valentine's Day was successful. She says once customers come into her store, they see the difference between independent retailers and big-box chain stores.
"It's laid out nice, there's not a gazillion pieces sitting in a case; there's presentation to it," she says.
(Source: National Jeweler, 05/15/12)