Sunday, May 15, 2011

Recovering Retailers?

It was just a week ago.

Moms were being wined and dined and apparently many got some bling too:

Jewelers Encouraged by Mother's Day Results

Mother's Day sales improved for many jewelers compared to last year, retailers interviewed by National Jeweler reported.

Though the price of silver continues to climb -- it hovered around $37 an ounce earlier this week -- it remains a popular pick over gold, which continues to spike above the $1,500 mark. Many retailers also reported that diamond basics did well this Mother's Day.

Evan Deutsch, founder and chief executive officer of Evan James Ltd. in Brattleboro, Vt., said that while his Mother's Day sales were about the same as last year, his approach to the holiday and the merchandise moved was different.

"We decided to do more advertising for Mother's Day this year," Deutsch said. "We did a lot of print and radio three days prior, because that's when people are really interested."

Advertising the store's multi-gem birthstone rings known as "mothers' rings," the jeweler said the pieces were in high demand with his customers.

"I was surprised we even sold any, because we hadn't sold them in so long," Deutsch said.

Basic gold earrings and gold chains were also a popular seller, according to Deutsch, who said it was "interesting to see people interested in gold again."

Although the store's mothers' rings sell for $500 and more, Deutsch said between $200 and $400 was the common price point for Mother's Day shopping.

Steve Allen, owner and gemologist of Allen's Jewelers in Albany, Ga., said his Mother's Day sales were "definitely better than last year."

"We've had Pandora for a year now, and that's a great Mother's Day gift," the jeweler said. "It's the right price, the family can come in and pick out a bunch of beads and make mom happy."

Allen said that while Pandora was the best seller by far, diamond earrings and cross pendants were also popular.

Not all jewelers saw an increase over last year's numbers.

"It was a little weak this year," Gene Gragg, owner of Metal Works Fine Jewelry, Inc. in Yorktown, Ind., said. "I did sell some Mother's Day things, but not like in years past."

Sales were across the board, the jeweler said, from pendants and earrings, plus an emphasis on colored stones for children's birthstones. Gragg said his biggest sale for the holiday was a self-purchase, when a woman ordered a family ring for herself.

"I think the economy is still affecting us," he said. "I think around here, it was mostly about taking mom out to dinner."

Jill Garfinkle, owner of Garfinkles Fine Jewelry in Highland Park, Ill., said while she hasn't looked at her sales numbers, she thinks her store did fine.

"We did better, but I would have liked to see some more spontaneous shoppers flocking around," the jeweler said. "I wasn't displeased, and I hope it keeps getting better."

Garfinkle said while the type of jewelry purchased varied, she saw popularity in earrings and necklaces, with white gold in more of a demand compared to other metals.

Mother's Day traffic, along with bridal customers, overwhelmed the staff at Newton's Jewelers in Fort Smith, Ark., over the weekend.

"It was a completely different environment," said owner Kelly Newton in comparing this Mother's Day to Mother's Day 2010. "We could not wait on people on Saturday. We had people standing in line."

The traffic continued through Monday morning. Shortly after the store's opening, two women came in with their husbands to select gifts for Mother's Day. One received a $4,000 diamond necklace; the other, a Rolex priced at more than $8,000.

Over the weekend, silver and gold line Alwand Vahan performed well as did Rafael, a new line of colored gemstone jewelry priced between $400 and $1,000. "We just put it in the case. The case is almost empty. We're re-ordering it today," Newton said on Monday.

He said he has no explanation on the run on pricey presents his store experienced this Mother's Day. "Maybe they didn't do anything for Valentine's Day, or maybe they didn't do what they would have liked to for Christmas," he said. "It's hard to figure out the psyche of customers today."

Aaron Peñaloza said his San Antonio, Texas, store, C. Aaron Peñaloza Jewelers, also was busy over the weekend, but it was due to the Hidalgo trunk show, not the holiday.

"We didn't see very many (Mother's Day) shoppers. We did see some and, as usual, it was pretty much a low-ticket event," he said.

This is not unusual for the store, which doesn't count Mother's Day as among its most robust holidays. "We have a great Valentine's (Day) business but the only time a guy spends a lot on Mother's Day, in our experience, is if he's a new dad," Peñaloza said.

Jewelers in western states reported a strong Mother's Day. In Grants Pass, Ore., Tom Hart of Hart Jewelers said he's fairly certain the store topped its Mother's Day numbers from 2010 though he hadn't had time to check the numbers as of Monday morning on the West Coast.

"It was a good week," he said. "It wasn't outstanding, but it was a good week."

Though customers purchased some diamond earrings, the bulk of what he sold was sterling silver, with the average ticket falling under $500.

He said many customers came in wanting gold jewelry but walked out with silver to stay within their budget.

"With (the price of) gold now, it gives our customers a little sticker shock," Hart said.

At Butterfield Jewelers in Albuquerque, N.M., Mike Butterfield said the store recorded a consistent week of sales. Price points were all over the board, with both Pandora and diamond earrings and bracelets performing strongly.

"It picked up as the week went by but it was fairly consistent throughout the week. We've been having fairly strong months so we weren't really all that surprised," he said.

(Source: National Jeweler, 05/10/11)

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