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Merrick, NY—Business at prestige jewelry stores was a little bit slower in the second week of the 2012 holiday season than the first, but overall still remains strongly in positive territory.

For the week of December 3 through December 9, almost two-thirds of respondents reported sales gains over the same week in 2011. 35.3% of respondents (purple slice in the first chart below) said sales grew between 6% and 10%, while 29.4% (salmon slice in the same chart) saw sales gains in double digits.

For the total season so far, taking both the first and second weeks into account, nearly two-thirds of respondents also are ahead of last year. Almost 30% of respondents reported their total holiday sales so far this year to be more than 10% ahead of last year at this time; likewise the same number of respondents are up between 5% and 10% for the season so far.

But slightly more than one-third of respondents saw a bit of a lull in the second week of the season (December 3-9 figures). 23.5% reported the week was off slightly from the same period last year (green slice, below, down between 1% and 5%), and just under 6% each reported bigger drops in sales of between 6% and 10% or more than 10% off (tan and aqua slices).

One respondent whose sales dipped wrote that traffic has been very slow, while another who has tracked December sales daily for the past 20 years says that an early rush doesn’t necessarily have any relationship to the month’s total. Still, writes the jeweler, “up is good!”

Another respondent writes that the wild unpredictability of the market continues: his store was up 20% over last year’s figures for the first week of the season; the second week, down about as much. His season's total so far is slightly less than last year’s figures at this time.

On the positive side, another respondent writes that the store has been “surprisingly busy with real shoppers,” and another observed that the season gets shorter and shorter every year: “Traffic will pick up as the season progresses. It will be ok.”

This jeweler, who asked to remain anonymous, has a valid point. In the most recent edition of G&G e-Brief, the Gemological Institute of America’s online executive edition of its Gems & Gemology journal, senior industry analyst Russell Shor observes that the really high ticket sales almost always come very late in the season. And one of Centurion’s respondents also pointed out that as layaway items are paid off, sales should rise significantly.

For the 2012 holiday season in total so far, 64.7% of all respondents to The Centurion's spot-check survey are ahead of last year's sales at this time (orange, blue, and purple slices). 11.8% each are on par with last year (salmon slice), or down between 1% and 10% (green and tan slices).

Turning to the larger retail picture, the news also remains upbeat for small businesses. According to a report released Wednesday from MasterCard Advisors and Wells Fargo, shoppers spent 5.2% more at small retailers in November than they did last year. Small retailers even fared better than retail as a whole, beating the 4.5% general retail increase for November by 0.7%. It seems the push to promote local shopping is paying off, but there’s still work to be done: while small business sales figures rose sharply from October to November, they’ve still showed an overall downtrend since last February. But Marc Bernstein, head of small business for Wells Fargo, remains bullish on the sector, saying small retail businesses appear well positioned to improve sales at the end of the year. 

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