Merrick, NY—Despite robust predictions for holiday spending among affluent consumers, the season got off to a slower start this year than last year for prestige jewelers. While slightly more than half (53%) of respondents to the Centurion 2015 Holiday Sales Success Index saw sales remain even or increase, almost half (47%) logged a drop in sales this holiday weekend compared to the same period last year, when the overwhelming majority (81%) of Centurion's holiday survey respondents kicked off the season with stable or increased sales.
Few luxury jewelers count Black Friday as a critical selling day. “It’s never very exciting,” said one respondent. “Very slow. Black Friday is always a non-event,” said another. A third reported Wednesday before Thanksgiving was “crazy busy” but that both Friday and Saturday were slow. “I’m not surprised. This is typical,” he said.
Among those who reported an increase in sales, the majority (22%) saw significant increases of 10% or more over the same weekend in 2014. Conversely, of those who reported lower sales, the majority (31%) also registered drops of 10% or more.
Small Business Saturday—theoretically a natural for luxury jewelers—drew mixed reviews. “People seem to be growing more loyal to local small businesses, which is a wonderful trend,” said one respondent from California. But another from New England said bluntly, “Small Business Saturday was a bust.”
In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, more than half of respondents (59%) did the same (32%) or more (26.5%) business in October and November compared with the same period last year. But 41% said business this year was slower in those two months than last year. One jeweler in New Mexico called business “frighteningly quiet” although Black Friday weekend was better for him this year than last year. But another in Virginia said that while sales on Black Friday were off from last year, business for the month overall was up.
Prestige Jewelers' Business Over Black Friday Weekend (Nov. 27-29) Compared To Last Year
A capsule look at how sales broke out for respondents of the Centurion spot-check survey about Black Friday weekend business.
In the broader retail picture, in-store sales for the weekend were disappointing but despite grim headlines like “Bleak Friday,” total retail sales were up about 3%—in line with forecasts. Foot traffic was down according to multiple firms that measure it, but digital shopping, especially on mobile devices, was up by double digits and saved the weekend for retailers’ bottom lines. Orders via smartphone were up 125% year-on-year, according to Channel Advisor, a digital marketing firm. Cyber Monday remains the strongest online day—especially into the evening—but all five days of the weekend saw online traffic.
Stores that opened on Thanksgiving Day didn’t see a significant increase in sales but rather a spreading out of sales, at least according to Forbes’s analyst, who believes it’s a clear indication that opening on the holiday itself isn’t worth the effort. And the proliferation of retailers running “Black Friday” sales for weeks prior to the actual date—some as early as Halloween—has shifted sales off the day but increased them for the month overall.