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An empty square in Antwerp, Belgium, where four diamond bourses were closed this week. Image credit: Associated Press
An empty square in Antwerp, Belgium, where four diamond bourses were closed this week. Image credit: Associated Press

Coronavirus forces drastic measures in watch and jewellery industry

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of major diamond bourses and Rolex’s Swiss factories, while Pandora Jewelry sales have fallen more than 70 per cent.

All four diamond bourses in Antwerp, Belgium have been closed until further notice, with members notified last week in an email from the city’s rough diamond exchange, Antwerpsche Diamantkring.

Members were advised to work from home where possible and avoid busy public transport.

"We are working with all the authorities to ensure we receive a support package that will enable us to get through this period successfully"
Yoram Dvash, Israel Diamond Exchange

Meanwhile, the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) in Ramat Gan has also closed, with IDE president Yoram Dvash writing, “We are working with all the authorities to ensure we receive a support package that will enable us to get through this period successfully.”

Rapaport News reported that Belgium’s polished diamond exports fell 55 per cent in February, and Israel’s fell 73 per cent.

Both the Belgium and Israeli governments have introduced social distancing policies, including school closures and suspension of sporting events. In Israel, gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned and people have been ordered to maintain a distance of 2 metres from each other.

The Bharat Diamond Bourse closed on Friday 20 March and the London Diamond Bourse on Wednesday 25 March.

Meanwhile, Rolex has closed its three manufacturing plants in the Swiss cities of Geneva, Bienne and Cressier in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.It is hoped the facilities will reopen on 27 March.

Hublot also closed its production facility, located in the city of Nyon, "until further notice". TAG Heuer has suspended production at its own Swiss factory; its Australian repairs workshop, in Sydney, remains open.

The Swiss government has declared an “extraordinary situation” and banned all private and public events and closed ‘non-essential’ businesses until 19 April.

The government has also introduced border checks, with only Swiss citizens, residents, and business travellers able to enter the country; international rail services have been suspended and domestic rail services have been reduced to one train per hour. 

More than 2,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Switzerland, with at least 15 fatalities.

Across the border in France, luxury conglomerate Louis-Vuitton Moët Hennessy SE (LVMH) is converting its perfume and cosmetics production facilities into hand sanitiser factories.

The company will produce 12 tonnes of hydroalcoholic gel, which will be donated to health authorities throughout the country including Paris’ 39 public hospitals.

"[Pandora Jewelry's] like-for-like sales have fallen 70-80 per cent in China since late January, while trading in Italy has almost come to a complete halt"

France is currently experiencing a shortage of hand sanitiser amid the worsening virus crisis, with more than 6,500 confirmed cases in the country.

In the US, LVMH-owned jeweller Tiffany & Co. has closed several stores – including its flagship location on Fifth Avenue in New York City – in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The US has at least 6,300 confirmed cases and more than 100 deaths.

Tiffany & Co. is not alone in closing doors for safety reasons; all Signet Jewelers-owned stores, including Zales, Jared, and Kay Jewelers, will close until at least 4 April, while IKEA, H&M, Patagonia, Adidas and The Body Shop have temporarily shuttered US locations.

Nike and Apple have temporarily closed stores worldwide, including Australia.

Meanwhile, Chinese jewellery company Chow Tai Fook will begin manufacturing face masks for the public, at a rate of 200,000 per day, in April.

Pandora squeezed in China, Italy

Pandora Jewelry has withdrawn its 2020 financial guidance due to the severe impact of the coronavirus.

Earlier this year, the company temporarily closed more than 100 stores in Mainland China and 30 in Italy as a result of the virus.

It has since confirmed like-for-like sales have fallen 70–80 per cent in China since late January, while trading in Italy has ‘almost come to a complete halt’ following government-mandated isolation requirements for residents.

In a statement, Pandora Jewelry also noted that Australian sales had fallen due to a decline in tourism. The Australian government recently implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all travellers entering the country from overseas.

However, Pandora management indicated that the company was in a strong position to overcome the challenges of the pandemic, stating that the business could “absorb several months of suppressed traffic and still be profitable and cash generative for the full year”.

Jewellery & Watch retailers temporarily closed 

  • Brilliant Earth: all US showrooms
  • Bucherer: all European and UK stores and kiosks, and US locations under the Tourneau brand
  • David Yurman: all US stores
  • Dior: all US and Canada stores
  • Fossil: all US and Canada stores
  • Gucci: all US stores
  • Lovisa: All stores in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, UK, Spain, France, and Malaysia
  • Michael Hill International: all Australia, New Zealand and Canada stores
  • Pandora Jewelry: all UK, Ireland, US, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany stores
  • Pomellato: all US stores
  • Signet Jewelers: all Zales, Jared, Kay Jewelers, Piercing Pagoda and James Allen stores in US and Canada 
  • Tiffany & Co.: all US and Canada stores
  • Watches of Switzerland: All US and UK stores

Other luxury businesses

  • Kering: The luxury conglomerate - which owns Gucci and Pomellato - has also closed all US retail stores for its other brands, including Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent
  • LVMH: Alongside Tiffany & Co. and Dior, Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH) will close US stores for its other brands, including Givenchy and Marc Jacobs, and beauty retailer Sephora
  • Chanel: The French fashion house will close its US locations for at least two weeks
  • Ralph Lauren: All US and Canada stores will be closed for at least two weeks
  • Nordstrom: The US department store - which stocks clothing, accessories, jewellery and watches - will close all its US stores
  • Saks Fifth Avenue: The luxury department store is closing for a two-week period
  • Selfridges: All four locations of the luxury UK department store have been closed, following three staff members testing positive for coronavirus at its London flagship
  • Harvey Nichols: The luxury department store has closed all its UK and Ireland stores until further notice
  • Inditex: The Spanish conglomerate - which owns Zara - has temporarily closed more than 3,700 stores worldwide

More reading:
Is the world ending?
Baselworld 2020 cancelled
Pandora to cut 180 jobs in corporate restructure


Cody Opal

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