A stronger-than-feared holiday season and January has things looking a little brighter for the retail diamond and jewelry business. As evidenced by what suppliers called cautious but steady buying at the early jewelry shows, retailers are refilling severely depleted stock this spring. Sales of smaller stones and lower-priced jewelry were the norm at trade shows in Orlando and New York. As a result, jewelry manufacturers are producing lines favoring smaller stones and less diamond pave.
Not surprisingly, some of the strongest retail sales right now are coming from department stores and discounters. Target and J.C. Penney, for example, saw gains of 5.8 and 5.7 percent, respectively.
With consumer confidence on the rise through January, many retailers reported a strong buying sentiment among customers through both January and the Valentines Day season. According to the National Retail Federation, overall retail sales in the United States were strong in January, with department stores, for example, reporting a 3.9 percent increase in sales this year over last. January sales surpassed even the traditionally strong holiday season in the fashion and accessories categories, for example, with sales up 2.5 percent over December.
The positive sentiments reflect not only continued strength in consumer confidence, but also a Conference Board report that the U.S. leading index increased by 0.6 percent in January thanks to strong vendor performance and consumer expectations.
At the JCK Show in Orlando, business analyst Kenneth Gassman had more words of encouragement for diamond and jewelry retailers, forecasting that the industry will prosper this year thanks to a strong stock market, consumer confidence and the movement of the Baby Boom generation into the key age bracket for diamond and jewelry purchases.