Michal Negrin to Shut Down Boutique Jewelry Chain

Company's financial decline epitomizes fast and drastic changes in the retail, fashion industry

FILE PHOTO: Michal Negrin

Israeli jewelry and fashion designer Michal Negrin is shutting down her business after 30 years, she announced on Tuesday. Negrin’s business consists of 13 stores in Israel, including seven operated as franchises, and another 22 stores around the world; 120 employees; and a factory in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.

While this is a difficult time for Israeli fashion brands in general – nearly a dozen well-known names have gone under in recent years – Negrin in particular struggled because consumer tastes changed but her products didn’t, said industry sources. Negrin’s products are known for being flowery, colorful, ornate and highly detailed.

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The company started losing money over the past year, sources said. Negrin tried to save it by using her own funds – she is thought to be worth about 6 million shekels ($1.7 million) – but began running out of cash. In a letter to employees, she noted: “You all understood something was going on. We were forced to consolidate into one building, we laid off workers, we thought we could make changes and get into a better place."

"We started down a path that looked promising," the letter went on, "but unfortunately we realized over the past week that the financial pit is deeper than we’d thought, and we don’t have the money to keep operating.”

Negrin started out in the 1980s, selling jewelry at the Nahlat Binyamin artist market in Tel Aviv. From there, she developed a well-known brand.

Her company stated that the factory has been closed but stores will stay open for several more weeks, until the inventory is sold. Alternatively, the employees could petition the court to appoint a liquidator, who could choose to keep the stores open until a buyer is found for the company.

Negrin herself declined to comment.

Israel’s fashion industry has struggled for the past several years, as customers started buying more online, particularly from abroad, and competition has increased between local and international retailers.

“There was a feeling this would happen for a long time,” a senior source in the retail industry told Haaretz. “We initiated marketing meetings and tried to understand if we could help her come out with something new. We knew this line had exhausted itself with customers. Once her stores were very popular; she offered something very colorful and lively, but times have changed and it started to seem dated. I don’t think her problem was the expansion, but rather a lack of innovation.”

A senior jewelry executive said that Negrin’s products fit into very specific niche. “In our industry, as in fashion, those who don’t keep moving forward find themselves outside. Negrin was stuck in the same place, and thought people would adapt themselves to her. It doesn’t work that way.”

He added that customers’ priorities are changing as well. Once, women were more inclined to spend extra money on jewelry; nowadays that money is more likely to go toward a new cellphone or family vacation, he said.

Sybil Goldfinger, the founder of fashion chain Comme Il Faut, said that she believed that Negrin’s downfall was actually due to changes in Israel’s fashion industry. “It hurts me,” she said. “What’s happening to Michal is a reflection of the entire industry – online shopping became the big competitor, and it’s hard to compete against because someone can always manufacture more cheaply than you can.” It’s the big brands that survive, she said.

“We’re seeing the beginning of the end,” said a fashion industry executive. “Over the next few years, some 30% of [Israeli] fashion retailers will collapse. Mall traffic is way down. Only the stronger players will survive.”