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Jeweler Shuts Down His Store, Merges with Competitor … and More Store Closings from August

‘Sometimes an opportunity comes along and you just have to take it.’

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AFTER 40 YEARS in the jewelry business, Scott Ellison has closed the Evansville, IN, store he occupied since 1994 and returned to the work he likes best — selling jewelry.

“It was to get out from under all the back office stuff, paperwork and ordering and dealing with suppliers,” Ellison said of his decision to merge Ellison Collection Fine Jewelers with one of his Evansville competitors, Brinkers Jewelers.

Ellison Fine Jewelers is among 86 stores reported closed by acquisition or discontinuance in August, according to preliminary numbers from the Jewelers Board of Trade. In final numbers from August 2017, 51 stores closed during that comparable period.

Over the past three years, the JBT research department has identified a slow but steady increase in monthly store closings, largely attributable to the increasing number of Baby Boom store owners choosing to retire, notes JBT president Rich Weisenfeld.

Ellison, who at 55 is at the young end of the Baby Boom spectrum (births between 1946 and 1964), started in the business at 15 as a ”fluke,” taking a job doing “everything from scrubbing toilets to polishing diamonds” solely because it fit with his school schedule. But he gradually discovered that he liked the business — and that “I was good at it.” He  went on to study at the Gemological Institute of America, becoming a Certified Gemologist.

Consistently the top-performing salesperson at the shop where he then worked, Ellison eventually decided to go out on his own. 

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“I wanted to create my own standards for taking care of customers,” he explained in an interview with Brinkers that appears on the store’s website, “so I made the frightening (and exciting) career decision to quit the only life I had ever known and started Ellison Fine Jewelry.”

As the industry matured, he faced new challenges. At the time of its closing, his store had lost about 20 percent of its sales to the web.

Although he now works a 45-50 hour week as opposed to the 70 hours he typically put in as a store owner, his passion for the business is undiminished.

“My favorite thing about the jewelry industry is that there is never a dull moment and the industry is constantly changing. To be an expert you have to continually educate yourself on the new technologies, how things are manufactured, advancements in diamonds, colored gemstones, and high-end timepieces.”

Back-office or front counter, success in the jewelry business requires the same two things, Ellison says: “Hard work and dedication.” Plus, “Treat everybody the same.”

While he had no misgivings about the merger — “Sometimes, an opportunity comes along and you just have to take it” — some of his longtime customers did.

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“When I was in the process of closing my doors, at least 15 of my customers cried,” Ellison says. “Three of them were men – and that was pretty special. They were long-time customers of 20 to 30 years. I was reminded that Ellison’s has been a very special part of so many lives, as it has mine. I’ve sold these families their wedding rings and sold their children their wedding rings, too. To have customers show that kind of emotion validates I did it the right way.”

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Jewelry Brand Opens 2 Brick-and-Mortar Stores Following $13M Investment Round

They’re located in New York.

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AUrate, a New York based direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brand, plans to use part of the $13 million that it recently raised to build a brick-and-mortar presence.

The company is opening two permanent stores in New York City, Women’s Wear Daily reports. They’ll be located in SoHo and on Madison Avenue.

They’ll “feature experiential technology that introduces consumers to the raw materials and production methods enlisted to create Aurate jewelry,” according to the report.

They were set to open Oct. 12.

AUrate announced in late June that it had completed a $13 million investment round. With the Series A funding, led by Michael Platt of BlueCrest Capital, the company said it planned to expand its online and offline operations and direct investment in technology. Additional participants included Point King Capital, Arab Angel Fund and Drake Management.

AUrate soft-launched in 2015, when co-founders Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn held full-time jobs at Goldman Sachs & Marc Jacobs, respectively.

The brand was officially launched in 2017, with both online and offline stores. The co-founders went on to raise $2.6M in a seed round.

Read more at Women’s Wear Daily

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De Beers Lab-Grown Diamonds to Make Brick-and-Mortar Debut

It’s a test run that will begin this month.

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Lab-grown diamonds from De Beers-owned Lightbox will soon be available at certain Bloomingdale’s and Reeds Jewelers stores.

It’s a test run that will begin this month, Forbes reports. The effort marks Lightbox’s brick-and-mortar debut.

Lightbox pieces are lab-grown diamonds set in accessibly priced fashion jewelry. They’ve been sold since September 2018 online and in pop-up shops.

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The pieces will be sold at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship in New York and its San Francisco location store. And they’ll be available at 30 Reeds Jewelers, primarily in the Southeast, Forbes reports.

The trial is expected to last as long as six months.

Lightbox debuted in 2018 with products priced from $200 for a quarter-carat stone to $800 for a one-carat stone. It started with pink, blue and white lab-grown diamonds in a selection of earring and necklace designs, and the company later said it was expanding the line with bracelets and stackable rings.

Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers, said last year that Lightbox would “transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting: affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now.”

The move to brick-and-mortar is no surprise. Lightbox Managing Director Steve Coe announced at the JCK Las Vegas show in June that he expected to begin market testing the brand in retail stores this year. After the company’s $94 million plant in Gresham, OR, goes online in 2020, production will increase and the brand will be offered to a broad range of retailers by 2021. Color offerings and jewelry-design styles will likely be expanded as well.

Coe said consumer research has backed up the De Beers belief that laboratory-grown diamonds work best as fashion accessories for everyday wear, and not for significant occasions, such as engagement, for which consumers say they prefer natural diamonds.

Read more at Forbes

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350 Jobs at Risk as British Jewelry Brand Enters Administration

It’s been dealing with ‘difficult trading conditions.’

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British jewelry brand Links of London has named Deloitte as administrator, Reuters reported.

“The Company has had to contend with difficult trading conditions that have impacted the whole retail sector,” joint administrator Matt Smith was quoted saying in a statement.

Deloitte has not announced job cuts, but 350 positions could be at risk, according to Reuters.

The administrator plans to continue operating Links of London, which belongs to Greek jewelry firm Folli Follie, and look at the possibility of selling the company.

Links of London sells through outlets in Europe, the U.S., Asia and online. Among its products are jewelry, watches and cufflinks.

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Currently on its website, Links of London states: “Following the appointment of the Joint Administrators, the Company’s website has unfortunately been temporarily suspended until further notice and therefore is unable to process any online sales.”

The site advises visitors to go to their local Links of London store.

Read more at Reuters

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