National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

Industry continuing to shrink, but more slowly

By Michelle Graff

May 13, 2014

New York--The size of the jewelry industry continued to contract in the first quarter, with the number of new businesses increasing only 1 percent year-over-year while consolidations nearly doubled.

According to first quarter statistics from the Jewelers Board of Trade, the number of companies entering the jewelry business in the United States remains small, totaling 76 in the first quarter, up from 75 in the first quarter 2013. This includes a 6 percent drop in the number of new retailers while 12 new wholesalers entered the trade, up from 7 last year.

Including Canada, the number of new jewelry businesses increased 4 percent year-over-year from 75 to 78.

The total number of JBT listings for the U.S. was 28,791 at the end of the first quarter, down very slightly from 28,822 a year ago. Including Canada, the total number of new businesses was 30,028 compared with 30,009 a year ago.

JBT President Dione Kenyon notes that while the industry continues to shrink in size, the pace of consolidation has slowed. In addition, the way companies are exiting the business has changed following the recession, when the number of bankruptcies skyrocketed.

JBT statistics showed that U.S. bankruptcies continued to decline in the first quarter, falling 8 percent, which is consistent with a national trend. “It’s just easier to close your doors,” Kenyon says. “That doesn’t mean people aren’t closing down, but they generally aren’t going to be spending money to put themselves through that process.”

Case in point: the JBT’s first quarter statistics show that while bankruptcies fell year-over-year, the total number of business discontinuances in the U.S. was up 11 percent, from 214 last year to 238 in the first quarter 2014. Including Canada, business discontinuances increased 9 percent year-over-year.

Companies that ceased operations climbed 1 percent in the U.S. while consolidations grew from 30 to 53, a 77 percent increase.

“I am not saying they’ve (economic conditions) rebounded in a dramatic way but because business is getting a little bit better, people feel like their businesses are in a condition to sell them. Or (they’ve decided) it’s time to call it a day,” Kenyon says.

She adds that the price of gold also could influence some in the industry to sell their businesses right now.

Still hovering around $1,300 an ounce ($1,295.70 an ounce as of press time, according to Kitco.com), it is enough for retailers with gold inventory to make some money selling it.

In addition, retailers who survived the downturn by buying gold from the public might decide to get out of the industry now that the practice has dried up for the most part.  “That too could have influenced some on the retail side” to exit, she says.

Overall, Kenyon says that business activity was quiet in the first quarter, which is not surprising considering the harsh winter; one New York area retailer reported being open only six days for the entire month of February. The number of claims increased 8 percent, from 274 to 295 while the average amount of the claims fell 5 percent from $8,560 to $8,148.

Since April, however, Kenyon says activity has begun to pick up, with more members ordering credit reports and increased collections. 

Barring a geo-political crisis, she says she expects conditions to remain the same for the remainder of 2014. She says that the true test will come about a month after the Las Vegas shows, when it will become apparent how much of that activity on the show floor materializes into real business.