Mary Moses Kinney of IJO underscored so well the importance of the independent retail jeweler in her acceptance speech during this year’s show at the IDCA dinner. Mary was recognized as Doyenne of the Year by the IDCA. She said in her acceptance speech:
“By recognizing me as the “Doyenne” you are recognizing the individual independent retail jeweler as being an important factor in the jewelry industry, echoing IJO’s philosophy that one doesn’t have to be a “major” to have a major impact and a keen influence on our trade.”
In recognizing Moses Kinney for their award, IDCA implicitly recognized that the independent is still the backbone of the US Jewelry industry and still accounts for a significant portion of the retail jewelry business. Independents also through their diverse nature are the champions of designers and new designs. They are the ones who embrace innovation and take the risks inherent with new products. The chains basically look for best sellers. Is it any wonder that no matter what chain store you visit, they all look alike with store layouts, assortments, and display.
Another reason to celebrate independents is the fact that when it comes to service, independents are the ones to handle it well. From changing a watch battery to adjusting a prong or resizing a ring, independents can offer those services on their premises while for the most part chains have to send products off to a service facility for repair or service. The result is that the consumer can wait anywhere from a week to ten days for the return of their jewelry.
Finally, since the independent is part of the local community and provides support for local charities and causes. Independents share in the community’s good times and bad. They are connected because they live there. Examples of such support have been frequent topics in the pages of The Retail Jeweler over the years.
Many have expressed the decline in the numbers of independent retail jewelers is a serious negative situation, Moses Kinney identified the fact that independent retail jewelers have had and continue to have a major impact on our business. The fact that the number of jewelers has declined from 35,000 to 40,000 stores in the 1970s to 22,000 currently (according to JBT) misses another key point of change that has occurred in the industry. In the past 40 years three has been a significant number of stores that were acquired by majors.
My conclusion about the supposed decline in the number of independents is that the industry is going through a natural consolidation. The independents that are going out of the business are likely single store operations located in outdated spaces and who have not kept up with changes in the business. And, the financial performance of these stores is such that they are not particularly saleable. The successful independents are those that have grown by expanding into new locations where their customers have moved and have kept up to date with merchandise assortments and effective management and marketing practices. Successful independents effectively compete with their “majors.” Independents can be faster on their feet, provide better, more personalized services that their larger corporate friends cannot.
Mary Moses Kinney was right when she said, “You don’t have to be a “major” to have a major impact and a keen influence on our trade.”