It was a year of contradictions in jewelry and jewelry-related retailing.
Two American retail titans that had been teetering precariously for years finally toppled: Lord & Taylor and Barneys New York declared bankruptcy and were sold off for their brand names. Mall chains including Signet-owned stores and fast-fashion company Forever 21 closed stores and cut staffers by the hundreds. And the pool of independent jewelry stores continued to shrink at a steady clip: 229 U.S. jewelry retailers closed in the third quarter of 2019, according to the Jewelers Board of Trade (compared with 193 closings in the third quarter of 2018).
Meanwhile, a narrow band of jewelry brands thrived: Millennial-focused direct-to-consumer companies AUrate and Mejuri raised multimillions in venture capital ($13 million and $23 million, respectively), positioning them for major growth both online and in brick-and-mortar.
And new retail monoliths were built. The glittering Hudson Yards shop-live development debuted in midtown Manhattan this spring, bringing with it New York City’s first-ever Neiman Marcus store. And in the fall, a long-awaited Nordstrom store featuring shop-in-shops from indie jewelry brands (again, many of them D2C) opened in New York City.
Finally, storied American jewelry house Tiffany & Co. sold itself to French fashion conglomerate LVMH last month, ending the jewelers decades-long independent streak and bulking up LVMH’s jewelry portfolio significantly.
Yes, retail in 2019 may have given us whiplash—and even wounded our hearts a little (R.I.P. Barneys and so many wonderful independent jewelers)—but it certainly kept us on our toes.
Here are the 10 biggest jewelry-related retail stories of 2019.
In late November, French fashion conglomerate LVMH announced it would pay $16.2 billion for Tiffany & Co. An LVMH presentation said the acquisition will make it a player in fine jewelry, increasing the size of its watches and jewelry division from 9% of sales to 16%.
Iconic department store retailer Barneys New York—instrumental in the careers of so many jewelry designers—declared bankruptcy in August and searched in vain for a buyer that would allow its major stores to remain open. With several groups scurrying around to secure financing, just one real offer materialized: Barneys was sold to Authentic Brands Group, which will fold the brand name into Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
Earlier this month, Signet Jewelers told JCK that all of its stores and its e-commerce sites are now selling lab-created diamonds, signaling to the industry that lab-growns have officially gone mainstream.
Lord & Taylor closed its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in NYC on Jan. 2, after more than 100 years in business. Soon after, its owner, Hudson’s Bay Co., sold the department store to Le Tote, a seven-year-old clothing rental subscription website, in a $75 million deal. Le Tote opened a Lord & Taylor pop-up shop in Manhattan for the holidays.@jckmagazine
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