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On Data: How Did Independent Jewelers Do in January and February?

ColumnistsMar 14, 2023

On Data: How Did Independent Jewelers Do in January and February?

Sherry Smith breaks down the results so far this year, including which categories are the sales standouts and which are struggling.

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Sherry Smith is director of business development for data and consulting company The Edge Retail Academy. She can be reached at sherry@edgeretailacademy.com.
A recent Morningstar article reported that retail sales jumped 3 percent in January, far above the 1.9 percent gain predicted in a Wall Street Journal poll of economists.  

The same article went on to state, “similarly large gains like the one [in January] are unlikely to be a regular staple this year.” 

This prediction came to pass for independent retailers in February. While January sales showed a slight year-over-year increase, with a 1 percent gain, February’s sales declined 5 percent. 

Unit sales were down in the second half of 2022, so it was a bit of a surprise to see an 8 percent increase in units for January. February units were less robust, but it is hard to be to upset with a decline of only 1.5 percent for the month. 

Both months, however, showed a decline in average retail sale, down 6 percent in January and down 3 percent in February.

Year-to-date numbers for the independents show a slight decline of 3 percent in overall gross sales, and a decline of only 2 percent in units sold, which should be a source of relief given the record years we just experienced. 

There were a few standout categories. 

Watches continue to show growth in our year-to-date numbers, with a 6.78 percent increase in gross sales, 2 percent increase in units sold, and 5 percent increase in average retail sale. We did, however, see a small decline in units sold in February, 2 percent, when compared with February 2022.

Both repair and custom services performed well in January and February. In February, custom showed increases in gross sales, units sold, and average retail sale; 9 percent, 2 percent, and 7 percent, respectively.

While repairs showed a 3 percent decline in units sold this February, the category showed a double-digit increase of 25 percent in gross sales, and a 29 percent increase in average retail sale.

The precious metal categories showed a small decline of 4 percent in gross sales, 3 percent decrease in units sold, and a 7 percent decline in average retail sale. 

Sterling silver declined 5 percent in gross sales, 5 percent in units sold, and was flat in average retail sale year-to-date.

Sales of colored stones, which are often overlooked, is flat in gross sales year-to-date. Units sold are up 1 percent, and the average retail sale is down 2 percent this year. 

Pearls declined 3 percent in gross sales, 5 percent in units sold, but was up 2 percent in average retail sale year-to-date.

The diamond categories, which historically have been strong performers, are showing declines in the major key performance indicators (KPIs) so far in 2023. 

Gross sales are down 11 percent, units sold are down 9 percent, and average retail sale is down 3 percent. 

Almost every diamond category in February showed declines, with some of the biggest declines coming in the bridal segment.

After consistent declines in the fourth quarter, loose diamonds have now shown declines for five consecutive months. They were down across all KPIs in the month of January, and in February, gross sales of loose diamonds fell 26 percent, while units sold slipped 8 percent and the average retail sale was down 19 percent.

Diamond engagement rings specifically declined by 20 percent in gross sales, 12 percent in units, and 9 percent in average retail sale in February. 

Diamond semi-mounts were 4 percent in terms of gross sales and 6 percent in units sold but showed an increase of 3 percent in average retail sale for the month.

The best performing diamond category for the month of February was diamond necklaces, showing an 11 percent increase in gross sales, a 6 percent decline in units sold but a whopping 19 percent increase in average retail sale.

Lab-grown diamonds, which continue to be a heated topic of conversation, showed a 76 percent increase in gross sales, a 120 percent increase in units sold, and a 14 percent decline in average retail sale this January when compared to January 2022. 

January lab-grown sales made up 9 percent of all loose diamond sales for the month. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

All in all, the year-to-date results are showing small declines. It’s important to make sure that talk of rising costs, inflation, and a potential recession don’t stop you from executing the very things that will help you drive revenue.

Here are a few things you can do to stay proactive.

Make sure you have top talent in front of your customers to ensure the best possible outcome for both your customer and your business.

Pay attention to your marketing plan. Don’t make knee-jerk reactions. Be strategic. Research shows that businesses who continue marketing through economic downturns fare much better than those who completely eliminate spending on marketing.

Keep implementing best practices around inventory management to include consistent replenishment of your bestsellers, and an aggressive exit strategy for non-performing products.

I read an article, “Recession or Not, Retail is Ready,” in Forbes back in December, and this one paragraph is worth sharing.

McKinsey reminds our industry as a whole that the time for contingency planning is: all the time. They observe that ‘retail resilience not only survived the Great Recession but also came out of it stronger. We believe that how retailers perform in the next downturn will be determined, in large part, by how well they prepare now, and then how decisively they act.’”

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