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What You’re Talking About on JCKonline, Week of March 13

Signet and Alchemy 925 were on commenters’ minds this week

Kevin Lovell on “Signet Sinks Again; 4Q Comps Fall 4.5 Percent”:

There are many reasons for the continued downfall of such and such retailers.

Most of the signposts appeared many years ago and reside on many various levels. In many sectors we continue to see a divergence of purchasing in the middle. When one thinks middle you are right to think middle class. The middle class is shrinking. Each year expenses go up as well as incomes tending to be stagnant or, even worse, going down. Firms like Signet sit in the center of this vortex. Thus the reason why Piercing Pagoda seems to be somewhat immune.

This is a process known as trading up or trading down—that is, consumers are looking for discounts or deals or trading up for a piece of high luxury. Discounting through has been a problem at either end with a few exceptions, like Hermès.… Interesting enough, both Hermès and Piercing Pagoda reside at either end of the spectrum and both are disrupting the trend.

Another issue in both jewelry and watches and in a large part all luxury retailers and brands is the overall attitude and disregard for current reality. To really see this, just walk into a retail store and see what type service you get. This lack of commitment and support also includes brand speaking to the actual retailers. The whole supply chain from manufacturer to the front line and ultimately the consumer is dealing with the complacency and attitude of which does not serve in today’s value-based retail pyramid.

Don’t believe me, just listen to the tone of some of today’s top luxury houses. Everything is to blame but them. Very few in the industry take the time to take self-responsibility as a metric for improvement.

 

Nick White on “Six Takeaways from Yesterday’s Signet Conference Call”:

Sterling [embracing omnichannel] remains to be seen. Sterling has promulgated a 1970s profit model throughout the company’s culture and an insider will never be able to overcome that inertia. Without a significant transformative leader, Sterling will continue as a mall-based retail culture that has a website, albeit an expensive one.

…Sterling’s cultural commitment to maximizing the company’s 1970-style retail distribution strategy is best illustrated by the acquisition of Zale. Clearly, the Chairman’s statement that the acquisition has been successful warrants further discussion. Nevertheless, the acquisition was a large strategic blunder driven more by short-term investor self-interest at the expense of developing sustainable strategic advantage. That is further illustrated by Sterling’s continued capital investment in new mall stores.…

The [gender discrimination] case is not new, I have written about it, as have other editors of jewelry trade magazines. However, what is new…is that the cold facts and specific allegations made by the plaintiffs are in the public domain, which affords the well-deserved scrutiny of Sterling’s carefully crafted culture promulgated for decades.

Similarly, it is problematic if the creation of a board investigation, appointment of a consultant to review the company’s policies, and establishment of a new independent ombudsman are more than a line item in the company’s ill-prepared crisis management talking points, at least if the coercive results of the company’s TIP (whistleblower) program is the measure.

What the outcome of the arbitration case will be also remains to be seen. Arbitrators are engaged by large companies and, like government lobbyists, have a conflict of interest in favor of their company’s employer. Notwithstanding the outcome, [chairman] Todd Stitzer’s contention that the sworn statements of more than 100 women alleging inappropriate sexual conduct for jobs or promotion in the arbitration case record are irrelevant because the plaintiff’s case is that Sterling practiced a pattern of gender discrimination in the firm’s promotion practices, brings into murky light a culture that in practice frames the company’s values in 20th-century terms that at best ignores women and at worst devalues women, and men too, when they do not conform.

 

Lapidary Artist on “Inside the Leviev–Julius Klein Corporate Divorce”:

$209M is worth appealing where the arbitration panel appears less than satisfactory.

 

Idazzle on “Store We Adore: Alchemy 925”:

I also adore Alchemy 925! Such a lovely space, and [owners] Kirsten [Ball] and Munya [Avigail Upin] are so incredibly supportive to new jewelry artists!!

 

DBChas on “Worldofwatches Owner Reportedly Goes Out of Business”:

I’ve been wondering what happened. All the sites were pretty large and I used to browse them fairly often. Then I stopped getting emails, though I’d not been buying as much. I notice I can still log into the site and see my purchases, but I’ve not tried to contact customer service.…

These websites seem to come and then disappear with no announcements. It’s all pretty strange.