By Lenore Fedow
lenore.fedow@nationaljeweler.com
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the largest specialty jewelers, like Signet, Tiffany and Helzberg, to temporarily close stores and send employees home.
New York—The coronavirus pandemic is hitting retailers hard as the call for social distancing and mandatory store closures nationwide keep customers at home and focused on purchasing essentials.

In a letter from retailers to the White House asking for aid, the National Retail Federation predicted the U.S. retail sector could see sales drop 20 percent or more in the next three months, a figure based on comparable declines in China.

The decline could result in a total estimated loss of $429.9 billion and put millions of jobs at risk.

National Jeweler reached out to a few of the largest specialty jewelers in the United States to see how they were handling store closures and what their plans are for their employees.

Signet Jewelers Ltd. has temporarily closed all its stores in North America.

The retailer operates about 2,800 stores in North America under the Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared, James Allen, Peoples and Piercing Pagoda banners, as well as its support centers. Its online channels will remain open.

Employees will continue to receive benefits and pay—a combination of base pay and available paid time off—through April 4, at which time the company said it will “further assess the situation.”

There will also be reduced work hours, furloughs and reduced compensation across its stores and support center, CEO Virginia Drosos said in a press release announcing the decision.


The employee changes will also apply to the retailer’s executives and board of directors.

Guidelines set by government and health officials will determine when Signet reopens its stores.

Tiffany & Co. has temporarily closed all 94 stores in the U.S., all 13 stores in Canada, and many of its international locations.

Tiffany’s U.S. stores account for 86 percent of its retail sales in the Americas, as per Tiffany’s recent fourth quarter results.

The affected stores will be closed through the end of the month, the retailer said, at which time it will reassess.

Employees will be compensated through the end of the month and will be given access to additional resources, a spokesperson confirmed in an email to National Jeweler.

“During these uncertain times, the well-being of our beloved teams, clients and their families is at the forefront of our minds,” the company said.

Helzberg Diamonds has closed its 217 stores through the end of the month and will reassess the situation at that time, the company announced on its website via a letter to customers from CEO Beryl Raff.

The North Kansas City, Missouri-based company has been in business since 1915, and was sold to Berkshire Hathaway in 1995.

“We will remain open for business online and are willing to offer some much-needed distraction on our social media channels,” Raff wrote.

She noted the decision was made with “heavy hearts,” as the company understands the impact widespread store closures could have on employees.

The company will provide its employees with pay and benefits over the next two weeks.

Ben Bridge Jewelers, another Berkshire Hathaway-owned jewelry retailer, also announced its closures via a statement on its website.

Its Ben Bridge Jewelers stores and its Pandora stores, 96 stores in total, will be closed through the end of the month.

The Seattle-based retailer’s online store will also be temporarily suspended “in order to protect all associates.”

Echoing the sentiment of the above jewelers, the company said the situation will be re-evaluated at the end of the month.

Ben Bridge Jewelers did not respond to National Jeweler’s request for comment on its plan for employees during the closure.

“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by COVID-19. We know the effects across everyone’s lives are tremendous and the uncertainty, significant,” the company statement reads.

In Omaha, Nebraska, Borsheims, which also is Berkshire Hathaway-owned, announced the closure of its sales floor through April 2.

A limited number of employees will continue working to fulfill customer orders, work on repairs, receive deliveries and process online orders, which can still be placed.

A spokesperson for Borsheims declined to comment on its plan for employees during the closure.

The store is offering free local delivery in the Omaha area and complimentary curbside pick-up for online orders or previously purchased merchandise.

James Avery announced the temporary closure of its 83 retail stores through March 27 via a statement on its website.

Its store associates will be paid as they were scheduled.

The Texas-based company also will expand its leave and sick pay programs to help employees who become sick or need to care for their families, including children who are home from school.

“We will continue to monitor this evolving  situation and do everything we can to protect the well-being of those in our company and communities,” the retailer said.

Rogers & Hollands Jewelers and Ashcroft & Oak Jewelers, both owned by Rogers Enterprises, have temporarily closed their 78 locations until further notice.

The company’s distribution center will be closed through April 7 following a shelter-in-place order in Illinois.

A spokesperson for the jewelry chains declined to comment on its plan for employees during the closure.

Rogers & Hollands Jewelers and Ashcroft & Oak Jewelers will decide when to reopen stores by evaluating the situation with the help of health officials and local governments.

“Our hearts go out to all those impacted by COVID-19—this includes not only those diagnosed with the virus but also their friends and family as well as those whose jobs and schools have been affected,” said CEO Craig Stern in a letter posted on the jewelers’ websites.

Reeds Jewelers has temporarily closed all its stores, according to a statement on its website.

The North Carolina-based jeweler operates 60 locations.

Its online store remains open and its distribution center is being cleaned and sanitized in line with health department guidelines, the retailer said.

Reeds Jewelers did not respond to a request for comment on its plan for employees.

Michaels Jewelers has temporarily closed all 10 of its namesake locations, primarily located in Connecticut.

Its stores will remain closed as long as the state mandates.

Though not open for business as usual, its non-mall locations in Danbury, Orange, and Canton, Connecticut will operate as a place for customers in need of cash to sell gold and jewelry.

"We realize that families are nervous about where money will come from during this crisis. Our program can be transacted remotely and will be a boost for those seeking a source for cash relief,” President Camile Hannoush said in a press release.

The locations will see only a few customers at a time, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hannoush said the company will continue to pay for health insurance for its 90 employees during the period of temporary layoffs.

He acquired the chain in 2019 and also co-owns Hannoush Jewelers with his four brothers.

Hannoush Jewelers also has closed all 43 of its stores, the company confirmed to National Jeweler via email.

The Massachusetts-based jeweler said it will reopen as soon as each state allows businesses to do so.

A company spokesperson declined to comment on its plan for employees.

Hannoush Jewelers operates as an umbrella organization of five companies, each separately owned by a Hannoush brother, though most of its stores market to the public under the family name.

Shane Co. announced the temporary closure of all 19 stores via its website, though online ordering is still available.

The Colorado-based jeweler expects to reopen its stores, excluding some in California, on March 31. Several stores in California will be closed until early April, as per a government mandate.

Employees will receive pay and benefits as scheduled for the duration of the two-week closures.

Diamonds Direct has temporarily closed its 17 stores for two weeks as of March 21.

The company did not respond to a request for comment about its plan for employees.

In the meantime, the jeweler is turning to tech to continue serving its customers. The North Carolina-based jeweler has set up a customer hotline to address questions and concerns, and has diamond experts on call to set up remote shopping appointments.

Robbins Brothers stores are also temporarily closed, though online shopping is still available.

In a letter on its website, the California-based company said its 15 stores would reopen as allowed by government and health officials.

A company spokesperson declined to provide information about its plan for employees.

The retailer is scheduling virtual appointments for customers.


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