By Michelle Graff
Warwick, R.I.--The number of companies exiting the jewelry industry continues to climb due to a number of different factors, and the trend is not expected to reverse course anytime soon.

Data released this week by the Jewelers Board of Trade shows that in the United States and Canada, a total of 335 businesses ceased operations in the first quarter 2016, compared with 250 in the first quarter 2015. That’s a 34 percent increase.

Closings among manufacturers drove up the first quarter percentage increase as they more than doubled, from 15 in the first quarter 2015 to 34 this year.

The number of wholesalers ceasing operations rose from 38 to 46, a 21 percent year-over-year increase, while the number of retailers closing climbed from 250 to 255.  
“The factors are in place for there to be fewer stores, for that pace to pretty much continue as it is.” --Anthony Capuano, JBT president
There also was a jump in the number of consolidations (sales/mergers), which rose from 28 in Q1 2015 to 53 in the first quarter this year, an 89 percent jump.

In an interview with National Jeweler on Monday, former JBT President Dione Kenyon, who will continue with JBT on a part-time basis through the summer, said the same factors that have been contributing to business closings since they began to spike in 2014 continue to do so today.

Among them are the retirement of baby boomer-aged store owners; competition from online sellers; and consumers with less discretionary income and more choices.

Both Kenyon and JBT’s new president, Anthony Capuano, agreed that the trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

Addressing specifically the closing of retail stores, which increased 29 percent in the first quarter, Capuano noted that the aging ownership of the family-owned independent jewelers and the shift to online retailing, “aren’t going to go away overnight.”

“The factors are in place for there to be fewer stores, for that pace to pretty much continue as it is,” he said.

Despite the continually climbing closures, Kenyon pointed out that there are bright spots in the industry, jewelers who have embraced technology and/or began thinking outside the box who are doing well.

There are also certain product categories that appear to have a head of steam among consumers.

According to statistics just released by De Beers, U.S. diamond jewelry sales grew 4 percent year-over-year in 2015. The U.S. remains the world’s No. 1 market for polished diamonds, increasing its share from 42 to 45 percent last year.

It’s also worth noting that independent jewelers aren’t the only brick-and-mortar retailers closing their doors.

Department store chains, for example, have been forced to shutter hundreds of stores--most recently, Sears announced it would be closing 78 additional locations--and according to The Wall Street Journal, even more are needed.

The WSJ cited a report from Green Street Advisors stating that six of the U.S.’s largest department store chains need to shutter a total of 820 stores among them in order to get back to the same level of profitability they enjoyed a decade ago.

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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.