Since 1997, the entire jewelry industry has seen a 9.8% drop in the number of jewelry-only stores, according to Jewelers Board of Trade statistics. JBT president Dione Kenyon says there has been a 10% drop since 1993, when "roughly 27,600 jewelers were in business."
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But there is a place for independent retailers. Shoppers who want a more intimate buying experience or high-end designer merchandise still look to independent or guild stores. "Stores in the middle might have the hardest time [operating] because they're not small enough to be intimate and not big enough to buy efficiently," explains Kenyon.
An even more alarming statistic is the rate of new business formation, which has dropped 50% in the past 10 years. This means store owners are only half as likely as they were 10 years ago to open a new jewelry store. "I don't see what's going to change [that trend] in the future," says Kenyon. "It's difficult to distinguish yourself as a new, independent jeweler. … Going into business fresh is tough, and there's a lot of risk."