On Data: How Independents Are Doing in December

ColumnistsDec 23, 2020

On Data: How Independents Are Doing in December

Sherry Smith breaks down gross sales, average retail sale and more for independent jewelers in the first 21 days of the month.

Sherry Smith is director of business development for data and consulting company The Edge Retail Academy. She can be reached at
The first 21 days of December show independent retailers are up 7 percent in gross sales over the same time period last year.

They’re down 9 percent in number of units sold, but the average retail sale is up nearly 18 percent over the same period in 2019. 

Once again, the diamond category is outperforming overall sales. 

Gross sales of diamonds are up 10 percent, and number of units sold is up 10 percent as well. 

The average retail sale has increased 1 percent year-over-year while discounting has decreased 8 percent during this 21-day period.

Every month since June has shown an increase in gross sales, a decline in units and an increase in average retail sale. Gross margin has held steady at 46 percent.

The independent channel has made up most of the ground it lost due to COVID-19 shutdowns in April, May and part of June. 

Overall performance shows gross sales are down about 3 percent, units are down 16 percent and the average retail sale is up 16 percent for the rolling 12 months ending Nov. 30; a remarkable recovery given the circumstances. 

It appears that a strong December could see independent retailers finish the year flat for 2020, a welcome gift given the challenges COVID-19 placed on businesses.

Growth varied from region to region, with the Northeast taking the biggest hit. 

Gross sales declined 8 percent, and units were down 23 percent. 

However, gross margin was up slightly, and average retail sales rose 20 percent, the largest increase among all the regions for the same rolling 12 months ending Nov. 30.

The West Coast was like the Northeast, with a smaller decline in gross sales, 6 percent, and a 19 percent decline in units, but similarly, an increase in average retail sale of 16 percent and a 1 percent increase in gross margin.

The strongest performing region, the South, was up in three key performance areas: gross sales increased 1 percent, average retail sale climbed 16 percent and the region clocked a nearly 2 percent increase in gross margin. 

The only decline was in number of units sold, down 13 percent.

The Midwest and Southeast were virtually flat in gross sales, both declined in units and gross margin, but shared the same 17 percent increase in average retail sale.

Consistent with trends all year, the diamond categories accounted for 46 percent of total gross sales for the rolling 12-month period ending Nov. 30. 

It should also be noted that this doesn’t include any diamond sales processed through retailers’ point-of-sale systems as custom.

The diamond categories were the only class that showed an increase in all key performance indicators. 

Gross sales were flat with a very slight increase in units, bucking the overall trend of declining units. The category also gained approximately 1 percent in gross margin and had a decline of less than 1 percent in average retail sale.

The watch category also performed well, with a 1 percent increase in gross sales, and a nearly 3 percent increase in gross margin. 

Despite a 16 percent decline in number of units sold, average retail sale increased 20 percent. 

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the results from the full calendar year as I believe the independent channel did a remarkable job quickly adapting to the most unusual and challenging year we have seen in a while.

Be well and stay safe, and bring on 2021.
Sherry Smithis director of business development for data and consulting company The Edge Retail Academy.

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