The December holiday shopping season is upon us, and for retail jewelers it’s their do-or-die month, with 20% of their annual sales expected to come in the last four to five weeks of the year. That’s about as much as jewelers make during each of the first three quarters of the year (21%, 23% and 20%, respectively), according to 2016 data in the U.S. Census Monthly Retail Trade Survey.
Forecasts for 2017 holiday sales are bright, with the National Retail Federation calling for 4% growth over 2016, Deloitte citing 4.5%, and JLL Retail 6%.
Providing a potential lift for retail this season is a boost in consumer confidence, cites Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing in Stevens, Pennsylvania, noting that the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index reported in October its highest level in nearly 17 years. Moreover, unemployment has reached historic lows, and participation in the workforce is improving. Although average hourly earnings continue to lag, the talk of major tax cuts for middle-class households holds promise of more money in their pockets next year.
Consumers have the means to spend this holiday season, says Danziger, especially the higher-income consumers who have seen their incomes rise far faster than middle-income folks, encouraged by greater consumer confidence in their future financial prospects. But the question retailers need to ask is will the shoppers with means and motive buy from them?
Prime the Pump
Writing on the topic for Forbes in November, Danziger describes December as a time for jewelry stores to shine and make the most of the increased store traffic the holidays bring, not only to achieve the projected 20% in annual sales, but also to prime the pump to grow sales next year.
Gifting surveys conducted by both the NRF and Deloitte find one-fourth of consumers plan to give or want to receive jewelry as a gift for the holidays this year, with jewelry on the wish lists of one third of the women polled. “This is the time to make connections with customers that will bring them back next year and next holiday season, too,” says Danziger.
Throughout the customer experience Danziger encourages jewelers be proactive in building a vibrant contact list. As part of the in store welcome, invite guests to sign up to receive product specials and event news. When closing a sale, offer to email or text receipts to garner contact details. Invite customers to join a gift club that incentivizes checking in with your store first for ideas.
Deloitte reveals that consumers are giving fewer holiday gifts, which translates to fewer shopping opportunities for retailers to grab shoppers’ attention. Deloitte’s holiday study shows a decline in the number of individual gifts purchased since it peaked in 2007 at 23. This year consumers expect to buy less than 15. Danziger underscores the imperative for making your shopping experience extra special.
What will be popular for consumers this holiday season? Among the top jewelry gift trends for 2017, according to Jewelers of America, are diamond studs-plus (styles like halo), Y-shape and choker necklaces, stackable rings and bracelets, drop earrings, gem-set silver, and pearls.
Jewelry with a message makes for ideal gifts, says Scott Rauch, president SHR Jewelry Group, a division of SDC Designs New York, noting that the message is not buy now and get 25% off. “The message is buy this gift of love because you love this person or it symbolizes an important occasion. The challenge is to get retailers to teach the story and the importance of selling a message.” He cites SHR’s MiracleLinks mother-child necklaces as an example of a classic look (interlocking circular pendants) backed by a powerful family story.
Classic styles with a twist are bestsellers in both bridal and fashion says Alok Mehta, CEO of IDD, New York, who cites his company’s modern cut fancy shape diamonds most popular. “Every shape tells a story, designed to reflect you!” Diamond composite settings are trending as well, with “maximalism” a key design direction. “Composite settings, like in our Harmony Collection, offer the more is more look for less.”
The trend for stackable rings remain strong, as they encourage layering and customizing looks, as well as a tradition to celebrate special occasions with a new ring, says Michael Lerche, president/CEO Goldstar Jewellery, New York. He also cites rose gold a favorite metal.
Kathy Grenier, vice president of business development for Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island notes that pearls are especially popular because of their ease in layering with other styles like chain, gems, leather, and other materials. She says women at pre-holiday trunk shows were buying gifts of pearls and treating themselves—from classic box sets to long pearl and chain necklaces, and bold rings in modern silhouettes. “I’m noticing more self-purchase and demand for price points that satisfy women buying more fashion pieces.”