After dismal spring, Reno jewelers see revenue uptick
RENO, Nev. — Since July, Adam Johnston has noticed a trend when people stroll into Rogers Jewelry Co. off South Virginia Street in South Reno.
“The people who are coming in, are coming in to buy,” Johnston, manager of the store, emphasized during a phone interview with the NNBW. “There’s less browsing … more serious buyers.”
In fact, the Reno-based jewelry store has seen its revenue increase the last five months in a row (July-November) compared to the same months a year ago, said Johnston.
Each month, he said, has seen an average 30% boost in business, highlighted by a 200% year-over-year increase in sales in August.
“Maybe people being locked in the house together found out that they really love each other?” said Johnston, noting that engagement rings are the main items Rogers Jewelry has been selling. “It kind of gives you extra hope in humanity that everyone was locked down and stuck in the house together and people are still in love.”
Pausing, he tacked on with a laugh: “Or they’re trying to get out of the doghouse.”
Whether for a romantic gesture, new bling to flash on Zoom or simply a shiny gift to lighten a gloomy year, jewelry companies in Reno and beyond are seeing buyers come out of the woodwork in recent months.
Midtown Diamonds in Reno has seen an increase in couples with plans to tie the knot starting in July, said owner Erik Ottmann.
“I really can’t even describe how busy it was,” said Ottmann, whose store saw a 20% jump in sales in July and August. “I think it was that maybe people that were looking to get engaged or married in March and April and May that weren’t able to shop for their rings or go out and look for the rings, coupled with the fact that maybe couples that spent two or three months in quarantine together and were OK with that are now looking to get engaged.
“So, that might have been a little bit of an uptick as well.”
The jump in jewelry spending in recent months comes after the industry, like many, was rocked early on in the coronavirus pandemic.
All told, U.S. specialty jewelry retailers saw sales plummet 82% in the span of just two months, from $2.65 billion in February to $470 million in April, according to Edahn Golan Diamond Research and Data.
After the two-month drop, however, sales bounced back to $1.35 billion — a 230% increase from April. And in August, jewelry sales were even up 10% compared to the same month last year to the tune of $5.25 billion, according to Edahn Golan’s latest available data.
Still, jewelry sales from March to October were down about 30% year-over-year, according to the NDP Group, a U.S. market research company.
Which is why jewelers are hoping to get back on track this holiday season, when about 30% of annual jewelry sales are typically made, according to NDP data.
Johnston said he’s optimistic that Rogers Jewelry, which is down about 10% in sales year-over-year, will be able to make up the deficit this holiday season. Notably, Rogers Jewelry has seven other locations in California.
“So much is based off Christmas,” Johnston said. “We’ve just been trying to get back to even, and it’s going much better than expected.”
David Lorenz, co-owner of Michael & Son’s Jewelry in Reno, said his shop usually sees 20% of its annual business in December alone. The store is coming off its best month of the year, with a 35% rise in business in November, Lorenz said.
“I expect it to be up in December,” he continued. “We’re hoping for a 10-15% (increase), and the first few days of the month we were up over last year.”
Lorenz said the company has been “very proactive” with its marketing strategy this holiday season, rolling out a print and digital catalog as well as advertising on radio, TV and social media.
“You’ve got to cover all your bases,” said Lorenz, noting his marketing budget is down 30% because of COVID. “We’re not going to sit back and just wait for people to come in — we’re out there trying to get business.”
And with holiday vacationing in a slump, diamond jewelry has been capturing some of the unspent travel budget, Ottmann pointed out.
“It’s been eight months now and the people that weren’t affected by the pandemic and still have a job haven’t been able to spend money on things they normally would,” he said. “So they’re spending it on jewelry for their loved one for Christmas.”
From a national standpoint, research shows the embrace of digital commerce is a whole decade ahead of schedule thanks to the pandemic. We spoke with the Retail Association of Nevada, Downtown Reno Partnership and the Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce to give local context to the growth of online retail.