Warwick, R.I.--Year-end statistics from the Jewelers Board of Trade are what we thought they would be. 

After rising sharply throughout the year, the number of retail jewelers, wholesalers and manufacturers in the United States and Canada that closed down in 2016 totaled 1,564, compared with 956 in 2015. 

That is a 64 percent year-over-year increase.

Breaking it down by category, there were 1,190 retail jewelers in the U.S. and Canada that ceased operations, up 53 percent from 2015; 235 wholesalers, up 81 percent; and 139 manufacturers, up 190 percent. 

Including consolidations (sales/mergers) and bankruptcies, the total number of business discontinuances reached 1,718 in 2016, a 54 percent increase over 2015.

In an interview with National Jeweler on Tuesday, JBT President Anthony Capuano said the fact that business discontinuances increased did not surprise him, though end number of closures was slightly higher than expected.
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He said that the main factor driving the increased rate of closures is that many business owners are at or near the age of retirement, and they are finding themselves at the helm of companies that are no longer as robust as they once were with, in many cases, no next generation waiting to enter the family business.  
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During the interview, Capuano also addressed an online conversation that cropped up following publication of the JBT’s third quarter statistics about jewelers shuttering their stores but remaining in the business either as private, appointment-only jewelers or custom designers.

The commenter felt that the JBT’s numbers for jewelry store closures were inflated because they did not take into account these individuals, but Capuano said they are not.

“That might be some of them, but it’s certainly not 1,190 of them.

“I don’t believe that 1,190 (jewelers) are going to home businesses, or seasonal businesses or part-time businesses. I think the majority of them are just discontinuances,” he said. 

He added that even if some jewelers are remaining active in the industry, a store closure “still represents a contraction in the business; they don’t have a reason to open full time in a distinct location.” 

New Business Openings
While more companies continue to exit the industry, new business listings have remained relatively flat over the past three years, with the JBT adding about 260 to 290 new jewelry business listings in the U.S. and Canada each year. 

In 2014, there were 261 new jewelry business recorded by the JBT. The following year, that number rose to 289 but fell again in 2016, to 275. The Northeast and the Southeast accounted for the majority of new listings last year.

“There are people willing to take a chance in this business,” Capuano said.

He also noted that retailers accounted for the vast majority of new businesses in the industry last year. There were 218 new jewelers, compared with 43 wholesalers and 18 new manufacturers. 

At the end of 2016, JBT’s total listings stood at 27,950: 21,007 retailers, 4,119 manufacturers and 2,824 manufacturers in North America. That is down 6 percent from 2015.

Here are some other trends for 2016, as outlined by the JBT:
--Bankruptcies continued to decline, totaling 34 in 2016 compared to 40 in 2015. (On a comparative note, that number was three times as high around the peak of the financial crisis.) 

Capuano said the jewelry industry is not alone in seeing bankruptcies slide, as it is a trend being seen in many industries nationwide. Company bankruptcies as a whole in the U.S. were down 2 percent year-over-year in the first three quarters of 2016, with what filings there were concentrated in the oil, gas and energy exploration industries. 

--Business consolidations (mergers and acquisitions) were relatively flat year-over-year, 118 in 2016 vs. 114 in 2015. Capuano said there are fewer interested parties that want to buy a brand, company or a store in a nearby market today. 

--Credit rating metrics remained stable, with an upgrade to downgrade ratio of 0.97x at year-end compared with 0.95x at the end of 2015.

--Collection claim activity was down, and so was the size of the average claim, which fell 8 percent to $7,299. 

In 2017, Capuano said he expects consolidation to continue. While the rate at which businesses are closing might abate slightly, he does not expect the trend to reverse itself this year.

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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.