By Michelle Graff
Warwick, R.I.--The Jewelers Board of Trade’s final statistics for 2015 show that the size of the industry is continuing to shrink slightly, with those who have decided it’s time to exit simply ceasing operations rather than filing bankruptcy or seeking out a sale or merger.

According to JBT data, 760 retail jewelers/repairers in the United States ceased operations in 2015, up from 612 in 2014.

The total number of U.S. jewelry businesses (counting retailers as well as wholesalers and manufacturers) that ceased operations was up 21 percent, from 770 in 2014 to 929 in 2015. Including Canada, the increase was 20 percent.

While there are a number of factors contributing to this continuing trend, JBT President Dione Kenyon said the main one is succession.

Many business owners are reaching retirement age and don’t have children who are interested in continuing the family business.

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They also might be unable, or unwilling at this point in their career, to change their business model to adapt to the demands of retail today.

“If you’re not up for the game of reinventing yourself, you might also be making that same decision,” Kenyon said. “I don’t think there’s anything mysterious about it.”

While the number of businesses ceasing operations continues to climb, bankruptcies remain relatively low and the number of consolidations (sales/mergers) continues to decline.

A total of 39 companies filed for bankruptcy in the United States in 2015, up from 33 in 2014, the JBT data shows. Including Canada, bankruptcies totaled 40, compared with 39 in the prior year.

Sales and mergers totaled 114 in the U.S. in 2015, down 33 percent from 170 in 2014. Including Canada, those figures were 118 and 173.
“If you’re not up for the game of reinventing yourself, you might also be making (the) decision (to close your store). I don’t think there’s anything mysterious about it.” 
--Dione Kenyon, Jewelers Board of Trade
While business discontinuances continued to rise in 2015, it’s not all bad news.

Kenyon said that credit inquiries, which she considers to be a viable proxy to indicate the level of business activity in the trade, are up year-over-year in February. She also noted that the U.S. hasn’t had terrible winter weather like it did last year--weather that forced some jewelers to close for almost all of February.

In addition, the number of new businesses entering the industry in the U.S. grew 11 percent year-over-year.

There were 227 new retailers, 41 wholesalers and 21 manufacturers totaling 289 new businesses, compared with 261 in 2014.

The highest concentration of new retailers opened in the Southeast part of the country (71), followed by the South Central (48) and Southwest (35), while the Northeast had the fewest amount of new retailers at seven.

Including Canada, new jewelry business listings totaled 292 in 2015, compared with 265 in 2014.

All told, JBT finished 2015 with 29,352 listings in in the U.S. and Canada, down 3 percent year-over-year.

“You can (look at) the gloomy side of this--the industry is getting smaller--(but) it is getting better for those who can figure out the new things to do,” Kenyon said.

As previously announced, Kenyon plans to retire this year after 14 years as president of the JBT and a total of 25 with the organization. Her successor will be named in the next month.

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