JBT: Jewelry Industry Shrank in 2011

Jewelers Board of Trade statistics for 2011 show a mixed bag for the industry—with the overall number of U.S. businesses dipping 1.3 percent, but other indicators turning upwards.

At the end of 2011, JBT listed 28,706 jewelry-related companies in the U.S.: 21,574 retailers, 4,091 wholesalers, and 3,041 manufacturers. That’s down from last year’s number of 29,092.

“That’s not a terrible contraction,” says JBT president Dione Kenyon. “But we were relatively flat the year before.”

On the positive side, the number of bankruptcies decreased markedly, from 71 to 43, a 39.4 percent drop. Business discontinuances dropped a sharp 27 percent, from 1,291 to 942. And the number of JBT rating upgrades outpaced the number of downgrades for the second year in a row.

New business openings were also down 2.5 percent, but, Kenyon notes, “at least businesses are opening.”

“While things didn’t get much worse last year, they didn’t get much better for people who were trying to hang on,” Kenyon says. “Things are inching up, but not at a fast enough rate stop consolidation. The problem is there isn’t enough top line gross revenue. It’s constrained by what is going on with precious metal prices and by a lack of credit in the industry.”

She added that the number of claims with the JBT filed is at an all-time low.

“Members say we are doing everything so that we don’t have any claims to give you,” she says. “They are selling fewer people, far more carefully.”

In addition, retailers are spending less, Kenyon says.

“As a segment, independent jewelers haven’t opened their pocketbooks to place significant orders in three years,” Kenyon says. “I have had people from large companies tell me that salespeople can no longer get in the door at some places. People in this industry just aren’t willing to take a lot of risk right now.”

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