Yes, too many of these articles begin with “the pandemic changed everything.” But as it did to so many other cultural institutions, the pandemic changed the way we shop, and probably for good. For decades, Black Friday endured recessions and inflation, morphing from a niche insider term to a kind of winter holiday in its own right. But this year was different. The numbers for Black Friday are in, and while it doesn’t look great for retail in general, jewelry emerged as one of the winners this year. Let’s take a look at some of the overarching conclusions we can draw from this year’s Black Friday.
Increased use of ecommerce and Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) was a necessity during the pandemic, but even as it has become safe to return to the mall, many shoppers still prefer the convenience of these options. Still, shoppers returned to stores in greater numbers than ever this year, but that increase in foot traffic did not translate to an increase in in-store sales. One advantage of the widespread adoption of BOPIS is that it helps balance in-store and online revenue, but it seems that shoppers enjoyed the social experience of shopping while still preferring to spend their money online.
Black Friday has become a weekend event with the creation of Cyber Monday. This year, the beginning of the holiday shopping season became an even longer event. Due in part to the negative press surrounding the press of humanity storming stores each Black Friday, from stampedes to physical altercations over merchandise, retailers offered fewer doorbuster deals this year. Instead, retailers began the holiday sales season before Thanksgiving and ran more online sales on Black Friday itself.
Retailers compensated for fewer Black Friday sales by holding their own Black Friday-style sales as far back as October, with Amazon running its Early Access Sale on October 11 and 12 and Target holding “Deal Days” on October 6-8. Other retailers have followed suit, offering Black Friday-type deals throughout the month.
This year’s Black Friday discounts weren’t as deep as in the past, and despite boasting higher numbers of shoppers than ever, retail sales revenue was 5% lower for the week of Black Friday than last year, with unit sales dropping 8%, according to market research organization The NPD Group. Pressured by inflation, shoppers are forced to be a little more choosy this year. The demand for lower prices coupled with consumers’ reluctance to spend cut into retailers’ bottom lines. In some cases, retailers have been hurt just as much by supply chain issues, shipping delays, and manufacturing shortages as they have by overestimating demand for some products and stocking too much inventory.
While results were mixed at best for most retail sectors, fine jewelry came away as one of the winners of Black Friday, alongside electronics, health and beauty, and home furnishings. While generally not as strong as 2021, this year’s sales show that inflation has not affected the fine jewelry shopper as much as consumers in lower income brackets.
Independent jewelry retailers, meanwhile, reported sales on par with 2021 numbers, reporting neither the increase in foot traffic and downturn in sales other sectors have experienced nor an unexpected increase in sales, according to an INSTORE Magazine survey.
We might expect sales to decrease from last year. Jewelry spending in the pandemic years was driven by the fact that luxury consumers were unable to spend their discretionary income on restaurants or vacations. But while the opportunity to eat out and travel presents itself once again, we are still in challenging, uncertain times. In these conditions, people want more meaningful gifts, objects that will endure or hold a special meaning for the giver and receiver.
Black Friday isn’t typically the make-or-break weekend for jewelers that it is for other retailers, as shoppers are more focused on spending in sectors that offer deep discounts. So while sales seem slow, or as expected, for the weekend spanning Black Friday to Cyber Monday, many jewelers expect sales to pick up in December. So despite the pandemic, recession, and inflation-driven changes to Black Friday gripping other retail sectors, many jewelers expect more of the same this year.