The Jewelers Board of Trade’s (JBT) roster of North American jewelry companies stayed relatively flat in the first quarter of 2021, a surprising turnaround after more than a decade of steep declines.
JBT’s total listings in the first quarter of 2021 numbered 25,413, a 1.5% drop from the year before. To compare that figure to prior years, in 2020, JBT’s listings dropped 2.1%, and in 2019, they dropped 3.1%.
The group’s tally includes 19,236 retailers, 3,693 wholesalers, and 2,484 manufacturers.
JBT president Erich Jacobs says he’s pleasantly surprised by how good the numbers look.
“I thought that we would start seeing more closures,” he says. “There were a lot of things that happened during the COVID-19 crisis that let people kind of coast, everything from the [Paycheck Protection Program] loans to landlords and suppliers being more forgiving.
“If you would have asked me a year ago about how the jewelry industry would have looked at this time, I would have given you a different answer. The jewelry industry has had a good year overall, except for stores that aren’t online.”
He notes that there may have been some retailers that quietly closed their doors and whose closures JBT hasn’t been able to record. He also sees a possible shakeout over the next year, since many jewelers may have put off closing, as a pandemic is not a great setting for a liquidation sale. He sees consumer dollars possibly shifting back to travel as well.
“Looking forward, the business is going to be driven by, what are the trends in travel?” he says. “You had $11 billion a week that supposedly wasn’t being spent on travel. Some of that’s going to end up on people’s fingers.”
But he notes there has been a substantial increase in consumer savings, which might offset some of the shift in spending.
JBT recorded 148 jewelry business discontinuances during the first quarter of 2021, down 51% from the first quarter of 2020. That number breaks down to 121 retailers, 12 wholesalers, and 15 manufacturers. All but four of those discontinuances were in the United States; the rest were in Canada.
The JBT uses discontinuances as a catchall term for companies that ceased operations, merged or consolidated, or filed for bankruptcy.
JBT also recorded 35 new companies entering the industry—30 retailers, 4 wholesalers, and 1 manufacturer. That number was also down, from 50 the year before. All but two of those new companies were in the United States.
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