New York: The shrinking of the US jewelry industry slowed in the first quarter, as the number of shops shutting their doors dropped by 16%, according to the Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT).
The decrease in jewelry store closings around the country — 318 compared with 380 during the same period in 2016 — broke the trend of consistent decline in the industry’s size over the previous year, data from the JBT showed last week.
The only regions of the US to continue that trend were the northwest and southwest, where a greater number of businesses shut down than in last year’s first quarter, the trade body explained.
In 2016, the number of US jewelry businesses ceasing operations leapt 54% to 1,669 — mainly in the retail category.
Most of this year’s discontinued businesses were still in the retail sector, which nonetheless saw closings drop 13% to 250. Wholesale closures decreased 14% to 44, while manufacturing companies had 44% fewer closures at 24.
The improvement came amid a 0.2% year-on-year increase in sales at US jewellery stores during January and February, which amounted to $4.41 billion, according to separate data from the nation’s Census Bureau. During February, sales declined 2.3% to $2.58 billion.
In the broader US retail sector, some 2,880 brick-and-mortar stores have closed so far this year, compared with 1,153 in the same period of 2016, according to a Credit Suisse report earlier this month. The bank estimated the number could rise to 8,640 by the end of 2017.
The retail slowdown has been most evident amid large-scale store chains struggling to compete with online sellers such as Amazon. J.C. Penney announced in February that it would close 130 to 140 physical stores this year, but later decided to delay the shutdowns by a month after shoppers flocked to the designated stores.