Two weeks ago, we ran the latest statistics from the Jewelers Board of Trade, which showed, as they have for the last few years, a large number of jewelers shutting down.
That is sad and alarming. But it also reflects the structure of our industry. We are seeing a lot of independent jewelers close simply because there are a lot of independent jewelers.
According to the latest U.S. economic census, in 2012 there were 23,477 jewelry stores, down 15 percent from five years earlier.
Compare that to the economic census numbers for:
– Hardware stores (15,454, down 6.1 percent)
– Florists (14,606, down 26 percent)
– Furniture stores (23,657, down 18 percent)
– Book stores (7,178, down 27.9 percent)
– Sporting goods stores (21,132, down 5 percent)
– Hobby, toy, and game stores (8,214, down 12.2 percent)
In every instance, the jewelry business has either more stores or a smaller decline rate.
“The jewelry industry is not seeing a huge rate of decline compared to other industries,” says Dione Kenyon, president of the Jewelers Board of Trade. “There is still a very large number of independent sellers.”
On top of that, Kenyon points out “the current store closing numbers are nowhere near where they were in the 2008–2009 recession.” What’s more, back then, many jewelers closed because business was bad. Today, many are shutting down because their baby boom–era owners have reached the end of the road.
These are not easy times. While the economy is doing better, it’s also an era of great change and disruption that is challenging retailers of all types and sizes.
But let’s not forget that independent jewelers are holding up as well as, and in many instances even better than, retailers in other sectors. Which, Kenyon says, speaks to the nature of our product.
“Jewelry is an emotional high-value item with a huge personal trust factor,” she says. “With diamonds and precious stones, you really need to feel comfortable with the person selling to you. The web is great for seeing what’s available. But I don’t see it as a substitute for sitting down with somebody who is truly knowledgeable and really looking at stones.”