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Feb. 2004

While overall holiday retail sales seemed to grow at a slower pace than analysts had hoped, initial reports show that the luxury sector—including jewelers—fared considerably better than the overall retail sector.

The National Retail Federation estimated that overall retail sales increased 5.2% over last year. That is nearly double the gain that was scored in 2002, where the jump was only 2.2%.The Federation noted that sales were particularly strong in the week after Christmas, which has not been factored into some of the official government reports.

As good as the overall numbers were, a wide range of jewelers and luxury retailers had even happier news.

Same-store sales were up 12.6 percent at Neiman Marcus. Its chief executive, Karen Katz, told the New York Times that fine jewelry was second only to high-end handbags in driving the strong holiday sales.

Tiffany’s sales for the holiday period were up 18 percent compared to the year before, a number that exceeded the company’s own expectations. On a constant exchange rate basis, net sales rose 14 percent and comparable store sales rose 10 percent. U.S. sales increased 19 percent, to $306.2 million, while Japanese sales were down 3 percent, primarily due to declining sales of silver jewelry. Diamond jewelry, however, remained strong.

Comparable store sales for Mayors Jewelers, a luxury retail jeweler serving Florida and Greater Atlanta, increased 15 percent over 2002, while overall sales increased 14 percent.

Even mid-range jewelry chains fared well this holiday, with Whitehall and Zale among those reporting gains this holiday. At Whitehall, comparable store sales for the November-December holiday season increased 6.4% for the two-month period, while, at Zale, comparable sales increased 4.1%.

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