By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blog“De Beers Jewellers had healthy like-for-like sales growth, having restructured its portfolio of stores to focus on fast-growing markets--particularly in Asia. Sales continues to be boosted by its Chinese clientele, both in Asia and in other luxury shopping destinations around the world.”

After reading the report I, naturally, reached out to De Beers to ask about the status of the chain in the U.S., which some light Internet research revealed now consists of a total of four stores in the U.S. plus one in Vancouver, bringing the North American total to five.

Off the top of my head, I would have said that I thought De Beers had double, or more than double, that number of stores here at one point, as many as eight or possibly even 10.

As it turns out, my initial estimate was a bit low. National Jeweler’s archives show (and the company confirmed) that De Beers had 11 stores in the U.S. at one point.

They began opening in 2005, starting with Beverly Hills, Calif. and New York, before spreading to Las Vegas, Houston, Washington, Dallas, Honolulu, San Francisco, Costa Mesa, Calif., and Naples and Bal Harbour, Fla., which was its 11th location and opened in late 2008.

Today, all that’s left are the stores in New York, Houston, Costa Mesa and Naples.

What is ailing this chain, which once ranked No. 40 on our list of the Top 50 North American Retail Chains by store count, in the U.S.?

First and foremost, the U.S. is a saturated market where even already-well-established brands are having a tough time surviving today due to a number of factors, including Internet sellers and more competition for consumers’ luxury dollars. It makes sense for the chain to turn its attention to China, which is hungry for brands and boasts a growing population of consumers who want to spend their money on jewelry.

It also seems that the company can’t quite settle on an executive to lead the business here, which could be due to uncertainty from headquarters in London on where to take the chain in the U.S., failure to find somebody with the right vision or some combination of both.

Keeping track of who’s leading De Beers Diamond Jewellers in the U.S. is akin to following my friend Jill’s (not her real name) love life: New people that she touts as very promising always are entering the picture only to depart a short time later but, perhaps, resurface at some point after she runs into them while buying sunglasses on the street in SoHo. Even as her friend, you feel as though you need a flow chart to understand whom she’s dating. But, I digress.

Alyce Alston came over from W magazine in 2005 to help De Beers and LVMH launch their joint retail venture here and she stayed with the company until March 2007 as the CEO of De Beers Diamond Jewellers North America.

After Alston left, Hamida Belkadi, who was the chain’s vice president of sales and marketing, stepped in briefly as acting CEO for a time but never officially took the position.

The chain functioned without an official U.S. CEO until early 2009, when Belkadi was named to the post. She stayed for almost two years, departing at the end of 2010.

After Belkadi left, Devon Pike came over from Juicy Couture to run the chain in mid-May 2011. (The hiring of Pike, incidentally, led to a lawsuit from a Hispanic executive who claimed that she was passed over for the CEO position in favor of a “less-qualified white woman.” The two parties eventually reached a confidential settlement in the case.)

Pike stayed until January 2014, when she departed to become president of Givenchy Couture U.S., also an LVMH brand.

Now the chain is headed by Sidonie Robert-Degove, who worked on Louis Vuitton and Berluti within LVMH before being name the general manager of De Beers Diamond Jewellers in Europe four years ago and, more recently, taking on responsibility for the U.S.

A spokeswoman for the chain said they have some “exciting plans” for De Beers Diamond Jewellers here but could not provide any more details. Whether or not those plans include opening more stores remains to be seen.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.