This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of jewelry, such as diamonds and other precious stones mounted in precious metals and sold as rings, pins, or bracelets; sterling and plated silverware; and watches and clocks. Establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of costume jewelry are classified in SIC 5632: Women's Accessory and Specialty Stores.
There were approximately 49,542 establishments engaged in the retail sale of jewelry in 2003. The total number of people employed in this industry was about 199,366. The annual sales generated amounted to $26.9 billion. States with the highest number of establishments were California with 7,023, Texas with 5,145, New York with 4,149, Florida with 3,991, Pennsylvania with 1,813, New Jersey with 1,723, Illinois with 1,629, Ohio with 1,452, North Carolina with 1,308, and Michigan with 1,252. In all, there were 32,704 jewelry stores with total sales of $13.8 billion. Jewelry, precious stones and precious metals had 14,363 stores and generated $12.4 billion in sales.
The retail fine jewelry industry is divided into two types of enterprises: chain stores and independents, with chain stores predominant. The early 1990s ushered in a recessionary era of poor sales and bankruptcies, but the industry had regained valuable footing by mid-decade. By the end of the decade, U.S. annual fine jewelry and watch sales totaled $52.1 billion. A strong economy and low unemployment had served to boost the sale of luxury goods, including jewelry, as the industry headed into 2000. However, since the jewelry industry is cyclical in nature, retailers know that if the economy turns down and consumer discretionary spending slows, they will be hit first.
For retailers, 1999 proved to be a stellar year for sales of watches and related products, and this trend was expected to continue. Watch sales were predicted to rise due in part to the influence of fashion designers who in the late 1990s made watches a status symbol. Technology was also expected to fuel sales with the advent of watches that connect to the Internet.
In the independent jewelry retail business, participants have fought a tough battle to maintain their identity in the competitive jewelry business of the 1990s. One such tactic has been the introduction of in-house credit cards, engineered by retailers and their banks. Such lines of...