Holiday Jewelry Sales Strong

Jewelry was one of the strongest sellers during the 1997 holiday sales season, report top jewelry chains and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

Zale Corp., the nation’s largest specialty retailer of fine jewelry, posted an 8.3% gain in comparable store sales for November and December 1997. Total sales for the two months were $461 million, up from $452 million in 1996. Zale operates some 1,100 retail outlets in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Guam.

Sterling Inc., the second largest retail jeweler in the U.S., saw sales rise a healthy 11.9% for the nine weeks ending Jan. 3, 1998. It was the third consecutive year that Sterling had posted an “outstanding performance over the Thanksgiving and Christmas period,” said a Sterling report. Sterling operates 778 stores in the U.S., including its national Kay Jewelers chain, several regional chains and its Jared – Galleria of Jewelry superstores.

Other chains also posted good results for the holiday selling season. Barry’s Jewelers, based in Monrovia, Calif., reported December sales rose 15.5% for the 128 stores in 18 states which were open in December 1996 and 1997. However, total net sales fell 8.3% – from $30.5 million in 1996, when it had 174 stores, to $27.9 million in December 1997.

Conversations in early January with high-end independents suggest they, too, did well during the recent holidays. Indeed, a number said their sales hit record highs, with some reporting double-digit gains.

Overall, says the ICSC, jewelry posted an 8.3% holiday sales increase in the nation’s regional malls. It was, says the ICSC, “the strongest category by far” of any product. (The next largest were music/ entertainment/software, up 2.5%, and apparel, up 1.1%.)

News of Ardian

Ardian Corp., New York, continues to do business as part of Klein Jewelry Company of Rockville Center, N.Y. Klein acquired Ardian and its assets in February 1997. The Ardian product line, now being manufactured in Rockville Center, has been expanded with items at lower price points. Contact Stewart Klein, (800) 825-5346 x3108.

JSA Wants Law Enforcement to Stress Jewelry

The Jewelers Security Alliance has launched an active campaign to get law enforcement officials nationwide – from cops on the beat to judges and district attorneys – to take crime against jewelers more seriously.

“Jewelry crime has a very low priority in many cities,” JSA President John Kennedy told the annual meeting in New York City Jan. 10, “and we want to raise that priority.” It deserves to be a priority, he added, because losses run into millions of dollars yearly and attacks on jewelers have resulted in about 300 homicides over the past 10 years.

Kennedy recalled a recent case in Seattle to illustrate how the law today so easily brushes off criminal acts against jewelers. Robbers who stole $150,000 from a traveling salesman were caught, convicted – and sentenced to 90 days with time served while waiting for the trial to count against their sentence.

But Kennedy also had some good news, a “complete turnaround” on jewelry crime by the Los Angeles police. He said that a special task force, virtually discontinued as an economy measure two years ago, has been reinstated to target crime against jewelers, especially by South American-based gangs. In the fourth quarter of 1996, when the task force was reduced to one part-time detective, attacks on jewelry salespeople in the Los Angeles area averaged 40 each month. In the fourth quarter of 1997, when the task force had eight full-time detectives, these attacks were down dramatically – with 10 reported for October, four for November and none for December.

Moreover, said Kennedy, courts are now setting much higher bail for captured suspects. In the past it often was around $25,000 to $50,000, and the gangs’ sponsors quickly paid for the suspects’ release. When 26 South American suspects were arrested recently, bail was set at between $500,000 and $1 million and all were held behind bars.

Much of the success of the industry’s campaign to get better response from the law in the L.A. area rests with Robert Bridge, co-chairman of Seattle-based Ben Bridge Jewelers. Bridge and his company are long-time supporters of JSA and stepped up their efforts after many of their stores, including some in the Los Angeles area, were hit by criminals.

This new anti-crime thrust, which Kennedy calls JSA’s “political” initiative, is one of three major Alliance efforts this year. The other two focus on finances and on technology.

The financial effort involves continuing the Alliance’s capital campaign, which is going well, and developing new revenue sources that are compatible with JSA’s overall goals. Two initiatives are giving more security seminars – with fees for attendance – and inviting makers of security equipment and services to exhibit at the winter program JSA holds in Florida for chain store security directors.

On the technology front, JSA is developing a secure Web site on which it now posts details about the industry’s “most wanted” crooks with pictures and details of where they’ve struck and their methods of operation. Kennedy said that, in time, JSA hopes to use the Internet to keep members up to date on any criminals operating in their area.

Efraim Grinberg, president of the Movado Group, was elected chairman, succeeding Marvin Markman of Suberi Brothers.

Immediately before the JSA annual meeting, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. screened its latest anti- crime video, called “Danger on the Road.” Through reenactment of actual crimes against traveling salespeople, it gives graphic, sometimes frightening, evidence of the vulnerability of these men and women. It also offers detailed advice on how to avoid and evade attack.

Sue Fritz, director of corporate communications for JMI, was the executive producer.

Watch Industry Shakeups

Breguet LLC, U.S. distributor for Montres Breguet, tapped Hans J. Beck as its president as of Dec. 10. This followed Beck’s Nov. 10 resignation from Utime Corp., Breguet’s previous North American distributor (see January JCK, page 60).

Breguet is expected to work on building consumer awareness in the U.S. While the brand will add sorely needed retail doors, it also will cut some weaker performing stores.

In other news, Onofrio “Mike” W. Giannattasio joined Breguet LLC as national sales manager, responsible for the eastern U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. He was formerly with Utime as regional sales manager for Girard-Perregaux.

Steven P. Kaiser, president of Baume & Mercier USA, will leave his position as of March 31 to “pursue his own business ventures within the watch and jewelry industry,” announced Simon J. Critchell, president and chief executive officer of Vendôme Luxury Group North America. He had been president since 1993 (see March JCK for more details).

Linda Passaro, formerly head of marketing for Baume & Mercier, is now U.S. president of Hamilton Watch Co. UTime named James B. Imhof, formerly of Bulova, new U.S. president of the Bertolucci brand. A.T. Cross named Steve Gatsik as president and COO of timepieces within its watch division.