Connecting for the Holidays

The National Retail Federation reported in January that total U.S. sales for the November-December holiday period hit $616 billion in 2014. The growth was in line with the group’s predictions that retail sales for the two-month period would increase 4 percent year-over-year. Non-store sales, an indicator of online and e-commerce sales increased 7 percent to nearly $102 billion.

In fact, MasterCard’s holiday sales report hails jewelry a key category leading the increase in retail sales last year, with consumers looking to purchase an experience or a more lasting gift. “This holiday season was a social one,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president at MasterCard Advisors. “While certain retail categories saw steady performance from prior months, the focus on creating experiences stayed at the top of many lists. From dining out to planning trips to memorable pieces of jewelry, we saw increases in those categories that will drive future stories beyond just a package exchanged with friend or family.”

Research shows a continued shift toward an earlier start for the season, with consumers wanting to get a jump on holiday gifts and retailers’ desire to elongate the shopping season. The JCK Las Vegas Show is the place to plan your strategy for Holidays 2015, and it’s never too early to start strategizing! Here are some insights jewelers should keep on their radar.

Personal Touch
“I can think of hundreds of items to call out for the holidays,” hails Karen Crowe, marketing/merchandising for Quality Gold, Fairfield, Ohio. “We have so many brands and collections, not to mention our gigantic gold and silver books, and complete catalog for gift items to choose from.” It really comes down to knowing your customers and offering them variety in both style and price points. She notes that smart jewelers will offer an array of gift-with-purchase and items to run with promotions that get people through the door.

Personalized jewelry made in the company’s manufacturing facility in Ohio has kept the department especially busy, says Crowe. “Our new mounting and bridal catalogs allow couples to personalize wedding bands with choices in metals, diamonds and gemstones. Personalizing cross pendants has been popular for the same reason. To keep up with demand for monograms our designers are creating new styles to expand custom options.”

A huge theme at JCK Las Vegas, shoppers will see more brands and brand building manufacturers offering customizable jewelry. Let’s face it, personalized jewelry makes a great, heartfelt gift for any season, says Laura Gladfelter, brand manager, Alison and Ivy, division of the Chicago-based Fantasy Diamond. “It’s special because people know you took the time to personalize it for them.” She cites as examples Allison and Ivy’s Roman Numeral Date Jewelry and Sophia Diamond Collection.

From initials and charms to birthstones and pieces with engraving, the holidays are the perfect time celebrate personal stories with jewelry, tells Victoria Gomelsky editor in chief JCK Magazine/ She also notes that collections aligned with charities or having some element of give back resonate with consumers, especially for Millennials and particularly at this time of year, even more so in bridal.

Marry Me
When it comes to bridal, June may be the most popular month for weddings, but December registers in many polls as the leading month for marriage proposals. The holidays are a great time of year to introduce new engagement ring and wedding band lines and undoubtedly JCK Las Vegas is the perfect venue to see the latest and greatest the market has to offer.

Capitalizing on its success with its stock programs and brands Steal Her Heart™ and Heartbeat™, Simply Diamonds, a division of Jewelmark, is launching at JCK Las Vegas its Steal Her Heart Bridal collection. With over 45 designs to choose from, the collection retails for under $1,500 including the matching band.

Stuller, too, will have a new bridal launch, and a strong tech statement linked to it, cites Maren Rosen, vice president of Bridal and Jewelry, Stuller, Lafayette, Louisiana. The company, she says, is fulfilling demand for customization with on trend items.

Allison Goodman, director of merchandising, Frederick Goldman, New York, hails one of the most popular trends in engagement rings for 2015, yellow gold. “It’s experiencing a major comeback since its popularity in the ‘80s, and it’s largely because brides are looking for the classic, traditional style of the yellow gold ring to complement the yellow gold trend in the fashion jewelry world. Yellow gold engagement rings are timeless, stylish and beautiful, and give women a subtle way to have a ring that stands out. The romantic glow complements the luminous tone of a white diamond and looks great against a variety of skin tones!”

Other bridal trends to keep on the radar: engagement rings with braid rope and twist details. “The beautiful and intricate detailing provides for a unique setting, and it’s also a fabulous way to highlight the center stone,” says Goodman. “Stackable rings always rise to the top as bestsellers during the holidays. It’s a great gift to celebrate those special moments, and they can also be worn as everyday fashion rings. It provides a lot of bang for the buck in its versatility.” Popular designs mix gold colors and feature sapphire and color diamonds.

Gomelsky notes that there’s a lot less focus on traditional solitaires and a lot more on an anything goes sensibility in the bridal category. It could be the Millennials; they’re into stacking, smaller and simpler, less focus on big showy rocks, more interest in design and symbolism, and open to color and fancy shapes.” She also cites greater demand in this demographic for recycled metals, transparency in the supply chain, and give back connection.

Best of Show
Gearing up for the holidays, jewelers should consider changing out displays and replacing old pieces, advises Patti Levi, vice president sales Gem Pak of Quality Gold. “It’s a simple thing to do that makes a huge difference. Good displays make people want to ask about the merchandise.” She cites leatherette the fabric of choice because it’s easy to clean and comes in many colors and textures.

Levi cites a trend for jewelers is to do more in packaging. “It used to be one color, one box, but no longer. Depending on the product category jewelers are using different qualities of packaging, even a variety of color schemes while keeping consistent with their brand identity.” Gem Pak uses a lot of European papers in a spectrum of colors to wrap its jewelry boxes. “It’s beautiful and soft to the touch, like suede, and not too expensive.” She sees more investments by jewelers in their brand image, and cites JCK Las Vegas the place to be inspired.