The number of wholesalers and manufacturers also fell
The jewelry industry continues to shrink, with Jewelers Board of Trade’s first-quarter statistics showing 711 fewer jewelers compared to the first quarter of 2015.
“As much as I wish the industry was going the other way, closures and consolidations are continuing,” says Dione Kenyon, the former president and CEO of JBT who now works as a consultant to the group. “We are not going through an economic recovery that everyone can participate in. We have just gone through two difficult holiday seasons. That doesn’t mean that some people aren’t doing well, but we have had a couple of years where we had a good first half and the air went out in the second half.
“There is business out there,” she continues, “but you have to work harder to get it. Those that are winning are designing new products, they are creating demand, they are innovating.”
Still, she notes that while the number of retail closures may seem high, this industry still has more independent retailers than other sector.
“The bottom line is that we had a lot to start with,” Kenyon says. “Our business still has the advantage of needing that in-person sell.”
Overall, the JBT listed 21,782 retailers in the first quarter, a 3.2 percent fall from last year’s 22,493.
The number of wholesalers tumbled to 4,305, a 3.1 percent drop. The manufacturing sector saw a comparable fall, down 3.7 percent to 2,987.
One notable trend: There were only four bankruptcies in the first quarter, down from 12 the prior year.
“We keep seeing this trend with people not wanting to go through the bankruptcy process,” says Kenyon.
She predicts the industry will see more acquisitions, like Richline’s recently announced purchase of Gemvara.
Only 73 businesses entered the industry in the first quarter, a 12 percent decline from the prior year. But JBT president and CEO Anthony Capuano says those numbers are too small to truly extrapolate from.
Still, he adds, “I don’t see those numbers turning around.”
While economic statistics are generally favorable, Capuano notes that many consumers learned a hard lesson during the 2008 economic crisis.
“It is almost a Depression-like mentality,” he says. “People are being a lot more careful.”