2012 Report Card: And All the Rest…

I have written my year-end wrap-ups of Zale and J.C. Penney; here are my final words for 2012 on the other companies and organizations I cover, including Signet, Blue Nile, and De Beers:

Signet Jewelers: Another solid year with healthy numbers, a lineup of brands that grows more impressive every quarter, and a seemingly smart takeover of Ultra. The company definitely looks like it’s getting more aggressive under its new leadership. Still, its ads need a refresh, and its lawsuit against Zale comes off as peevish and strange. But basically, Signet again delivered what we’ve come to expect: excellence. Grade: A

Tiffany and Co.: Financial numbers were mixed, but overall this year was an unusually busy and creative one for the venerable retailer, with the company bringing street art to SoHo, planning a new Paris store, announcing more direct diamond sourcing, and even offering a holiday music download. In many ways, 175-year-old Tiffany seems like one of the youngest companies in the business. Grade: A–

Blue Nile: On the upside, Blue Nile has worked its way out of what looked like a serious tailspin, and after years of talking about expanding into fashion jewelry, it’s finally doing it. On the downside, all this new activity, plus extensive discounting, means profits are taking a serious hit, and the e-tailer needs to do more—and more interesting—marketing. (How many times can its CEO ring the stock exchange bell?) And we’ll see how it reacts to a possible online sales tax. Grade: B

De Beers: The world’s most famous diamond miner still makes money, but this was another year of management switches, policy changes, and yet another new direction (still pretty vague). Its most positive announcement may have been its development of a synthetic detector for melee; new era or not, it’s good to know De Beers still tries to look after the entire industry. Grade: B 

The Kimberley Process: Another institution solidly on the comeback trail. Not only did the Zimbabwe sanctions issue not derail the recent Plenary, but the November meeting enacted a solid list of reforms. Obviously, there’s still plenty to complain about: The meetings included the standard KP mix of substance and silliness; the Marange issue continues to fester; the definition of conflict diamond needs a refresh; and the organization still takes too long to do just about everything. But given that the KP was on the verge of dissolution a year and a half ago, I have no problem with seeing this glass half full. Grade: B–

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JCK News Director

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