Jewelers Mutual Mails Dividend Checks

Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company mailed nearly 13,000 dividend checks totaling $5.8 million to qualifying policyholders in May, when the company held its 95th Annual Policyholder Meeting.

“Dividends are one of the many benefits of selecting Jewelers Mutual as your insurer of choice,” said Patti Geolat, company’s interim president and chief executive officer, and chair of the company’s board of directors. “When we say that policyholders own this company, we mean it. This dividend is Jewelers Mutual’s fifth in the last 12 years, totaling nearly $23 million.”

Ground breaking 
To accommodate the Neenah, Wisc.-based company’s growing workforce and support its technology development, the board of directors broke ground for a $9.5 million building expansion and renovation project. The current facility was built in 1980 and last expanded in 1996. The planned expansion, which will accommodate nearly 300 employees, will add 18,900 square feet, bringing the three-story building to 96,900 square feet. Completion is scheduled for the spring of 2009.

Geolat outlined some of the company’s accomplishments in the last 12 months:
• For the 21st consecutive year, Jewelers Mutual earned an A+ Superior rating from the A.M. Best Company. This is a testament to the company’s continued financial strength and ability to meet its financial obligations.
• The company formed a partnership with Jewelers of America and the Jewelers’ Security Alliance to develop regional crime prevention networks of jewelers and police throughout the country.
• As an industry partner, Jewelers Mutual supported the jewelry industry through sponsorships and contributions exceeding $250,000.
• The company partnered with the American Gem Society to offer comprehensive industry training at its corporate headquarters for employees and area jewelers. Forty-two employees passed the test to receive their Certified Sales Associate designations.
• Jewelers Mutual signed a letter of intent to lease office space in the 50-story World Jewelry Center in Las Vegas, which is projected to open in 2010.
• On a technology note, Jewelers Mutual successfully piloted an online program to streamline the Personal Jewelry application process for customers. The new program, called “PJ Express,” links a jeweler’s inventory software system into the Jewelers Mutual policy system, thus decreasing the amount of information customers need to enter.

Board appointments
The following board members were re-elected during the policyholder meeting:
• Cathy Calhoun, Calhoun Jewelers, Royersford, Pa., to a three-year term
• Kurt Steckbeck, North American Jewelers, Inc., Chicago, to a 3-year term
• Simon Watt, Mayer & Watt, Maysville, Ky., to a 3-year term
• Hugh Glenn, Hugh Glenn Corporation, New York, N.Y., to a two-year term
• Tom Silver, former insurance executive, Schaumburg, Ill., to a two-year term

Ken Gassman, guest speaker
Ken Gassman, jewelry industry economist and president of the Jewelry Industry Research Institute, provided an overview of the jewelry industry for the Policyholder Meeting attendees. Highlights of his presentation included:
• Total United States jewelry sales have grown every month for the last 15 months. U.S. jewelry sales grew 4.1 percent in 2007 and are forecast to grow 2.7 percent in 2008.
• Online jewelry sales represented only 3.9 percent of all U.S. jewelry sales in 2007. The rate of growth for online jewelry sales is slowing.
• For the 10-year trend, U.S. jewelry sales are forecast to grow more than 5 percent annually.
• Jewelers must create a unique selling proposition based on brands, proprietary designs, fashion and style, and custom jewelry.
• Up to 50 percent of jewelry sales are made using in-house credit plans (does not include MasterCard, VISA, and other credit card purchases).
• Items that may compete with jewelry purchases include handbags, sunglasses, cosmetics, scarves, shoes, and accessories.
• Stores won’t go away.  Consumers shop for a variety of reasons: To buy, to socialize, for recreation, for a tactile experience, and for instant gratification.