The untold truth of Kay Jewelers

Kay Jewelers has told just about everyone in America, "Every kiss begins with Kay." The chain jewelry store with locations in seemingly every shopping mall in the United States, Kay Jewelers has been a staple of American retail for decades, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Teenagers look in the store windows at the mall, dreaming of diamonds and charm bracelets, and 20-somethings stare at the engagement ring display, designing the perfect rings in their minds. Kay Jewelers has been a huge part of the shopping experience for almost everyone.

Whether or not you own a piece of Kay jewelry, you probably know someone who does. The company is huge, and, with its unique history, there's actually a lot more to Kay Jewelers than you might think. From their parent company, their sales, and their controversies, there's a lot more to Kay Jewelers than what meets the eye. Obviously, the company specializes in sparkly romantic gifts, but it's so much more than that. 

Kay Jewelers been around for over 100 years

If it seems like Kay Jewelers has been around forever, that's because they have. Well, almost. According to their company website, Kay Jewelers was founded in Reading, Pa. in 1916. The company has grown immensely since its founding, and there are, 1,247 Kay Jewelry stores out there, according to  website of Kay's parent company, Signet Jewelers, at the time of this writing. That's quite a growth spurt over the last hundred years or so, but it makes sense that there would be so many Kay Jewelers out there.

After all, most people will go looking for a piece of jewelry to buy at some point in their lives. And with its catchy jingle and plethora of locations, Kay Jewelers is the perfect solution to those looking to avoid intimidatingly expensive and high-end jewelry stores. And while 1,247 stores might seem like a lot, Kay Jewelers is maintaining them all quite well, so who knows what the next 100 years will hold for the store. 

Kay Jewelers used to sell more than just jewelry

Before the days of walking around the mall or catching a Kay Jewelers commercial on TV, the store used to sell a lot more than just necklaces and rings. In fact, according to the Kay Jewelers website, Kay Jewelers originally sold things like eyeglasses, as well as music boxes, appliances, silverware, and even razors! As strange as that may sound, keep in mind that people shopped very differently 100 years ago. And really, the original Kay Jewelers doesn't sound all that different from a modern-day department store, as Macy's sells jewelry, appliances, silverware, and glasses, as well as clothes, shoes, and handbags. 

Kay Jewelers, however, eventually just started selling only jewelry, which is now what the brand is known for. So while these days you won't be able to head to your closest Kay Jewelers and pick up both a microwave and a new necklace, customers used to be able to do just that back in the day.

Kay Jewelers' parent company owns a lot of jewelry stores

While everyone knows of Kay Jewelers, the store is actually owned by the larger parent company Signet Jewelers Limited. Signet bought Kay Jewelers in 1987, as noted by Racked, and the company has been booming ever since. In addition to Kay Jewelers, Signet also owns Zales, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, Peoples, and Piercing Pagoda, as well as the popular online jewelry store JamesAllen.com, according to Kay Jeweler's website. Much like Kay, Zales is commonly found in many malls across the United States, while Jared the Galleria of Jewelry tends to be a standalone store near shopping centers.

Still, Kay Jewelers stands out from its sibling stores. Additionally, while Kay Jewelers tends to be only in malls, the Signet website states that the company is actively trying to expand Kay stores to non-mall locations, much like Jared locations. Clearly, under parent company Signet, Kay Jewelers is only growing, and the brand's presence is broadening every day. It might not be too long before Kay Jewelers are found in every town across America, which we assume is Signet's goal.

Kay Jewelers specializes in middle-class shoppers

There's a reason Kay Jewelers prefers to be in malls or high-traffic shopping areas. Kay Jewelers has perfected the art of appealing to the middle-class shopper. "They have a sweet spot in what their positioning is," Kosha Gada, a retail and media strategist with A.T Kearney, said in an interview with Racked. "They know their shopper is in the middle class with an income of $35,000 to $100,000, and they've figured out how to serve them." 

As Racked reported, a significant portion of sales for Signet and Kay Jewelers is for items priced between $100 and $10,000, which is considered the "midmarket jewelry segment." Kay Jewelers is well aware of who their average shopper is and that's exactly why they play commercials on TV and set up stores in malls and shopping areas. Buying jewelry can be intimidating, especially if it's an engagement ring or a similar romantic piece, but Kay Jewelers specializes in being un-intimidating, and they've nailed the art of middle-class jewelry shopping.

But business isn't always booming for Kay Jewelers

While Kay Jewelers and its parent company, Signet Jewelers, may be well aware of its market, that doesn't mean they don't struggle. In fact, an April 2019 report from CBS News found that Signet was planning on closing nearly 150 storefronts. But that wasn't all, as Kay Jewelers' parent company has launched a three-year plan to shutter 13 percent of Signet Jewelers locations. So, while Kay Jewelers may be doing well, Signet as a whole has struggled and is closing stores as a result.

According to the same CBS News report, Signet Jewelers had a two-percent drop in same-store sales, which led to the announcement of store closures. Of course, just because some Kay Jewelers stores might close down, that doesn't mean the company is going anywhere. In fact, Signet Jewelers seems to be planning on making more online sales with all of their jewelry stores, including Kay Jewelers, according to CBS News.

Kay Jewelers has received their fair share of bad press

Kay Jewelers has been around for over a century, and, in those years, it hasn't been all sunshine and romance. Kay Jewelers, as well as its parent company, Signet, have been accused of unequal pay more than once. In April 2019, a New York Times report found that several former employees had tales of being paid less than men for the same work.

The New York Times reported that there was one woman "who said that after five years at Kay and six years of experience at another store she made $2 to $4 less per hour than her more-recently-hired, less-experienced male colleagues."

After the New York Times report was published, Signet released a statement to Benzinga that refuted the claims, saying the article was "primarily based on decades-old allegations." Additionally, the statement alleged that "Signet is a recognized leader among companies for gender diversity, with women making up 74 percent of store management positions and full gender parity in both the C-Suite and Board of Directors."

Kay has been accused of swapping diamonds more than once

In addition to accusations of unequal pay, Kay Jewelers has also faced more than one accusation of diamond swapping. One 2016 BuzzFeed News report detailed how a woman allegedly took her engagement ring in for a regular inspection at Kay Jewelers, only to have it returned looking and feeling different. When the woman went to another jewelry store to have it looked at, it turned out that what was once a one-carat diamond was allegedly now a moissanite — a much less expensive stone. BuzzFeed News reported that several other women had similar stories.

In 2018, People reported that another woman took to Facebook to share her story of Kay Jewelers allegedly losing her engagement ring when she had sent it to be repaired, claiming that the store tried to give her back a different ring. After the woman complained, Kay's parent company, Signet, launched an internal investigation to find out what had gone wrong. "Like all customer complaints, we have launched an investigation into this particular matter and remain in close contact with the customer in question as we work toward a resolution," the company said in a statement, according to People.

There's a reason Kay Jewelers are located in shopping malls

It might seem odd for stores to continue to pop up in malls, with the rise of online shopping across the world, but, for Kay Jewelers, it's what works. Obviously, Kay Jewelers' market of middle-class shoppers help to make their mall locations so successful, but the stores are strategic in more than one way.

"There's a lot of talk out there about 'the death of the mall,' but if you look at the numbers, it's much more nuanced than malls going out of business," A.T Kearney media strategist Kosha Gada told Racked. "Signet is one of those companies that can help a surrounding retail atmosphere because they operate so successfully. Ultimately, I think they are going help the broader landscape of malls." Really, a Kay Jewelers being in a mall can only help the mall, because the store will bring in shoppers looking for jewelry who might not have been at the mall otherwise.

Employers have accused Kay stores of sexual harassment

Kay Jewelers hasn't only dealt with diamond-swapping allegations or accusations of unequal pay. The jewelry store has also faced a lawsuit from former employees detailing alleged sexual harassment. According to The Washington Post, a 2017 case alleged that hundreds of "female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed." The court documents, which The Washington Post obtained, alleged that female employees felt pressured to perform sexual favors in order to receive a raise or not be fired.

The company quickly refuted the allegations and released a statement denying any wrongdoing. "We have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture," the statement read, per Markets Insider. While the claims were denied by the company, the allegations remain something many people may associate with Kay Jewelers now.

Kay Jewelers donates to several charities annually

As a super successful company, Kay Jewelers likes to give back, and they regularly support two organizations that focus on deserving women and children. According to the Kay Jewelers' website, their philanthropic efforts go toward St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and the Diamond Empowerment Fund. 

St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital is an amazing hospital that seeks to end childhood cancer. The hospital never bills families, so they rely heavily on charitable donations. According to Kay's website, the company has given St. Jude's over $70 million in 20 years, and has donated over $5.4 million in 2019 alone. The Diamond Empowerment Fund works to empower youth in countries where diamonds are sourced and has sent over 2,000 college-aged youth across Africa and India assistance in the form of financial aid or scholarships. Clearly, Kay Jewelers has chosen two charities close to their hearts and works hard to be able to give back to those in need. 

Every kiss begins with Kay because they spend a lot on advertising

As most know, Kay Jewelers' advertising slogan is "Every kiss begins with Kay." Basically, everyone on earth knows that, whether or not they've ever stepped foot in a Kay Jewelers store. And there's a reason for that. Kay Jewelers' parent company, Signet, prioritizes advertising more than most other jewelry stores and brands out there.

According to Racked, Signet Jewelers spends $333 million — just on advertising  — every year. But clearly, it's money well spent. "Every kiss begins with Kay" is almost household slang at this point, and so when someone thinks about jewelry, Kay Jewelers is typically the first store to come to mind. "It's all about consumer impressions, and no one can beat Signet," Ken Gassman, an independent jewelry industry analyst, told Racked. Truly, Kay Jewelers and their parent company, Signet, along with their sibling stores, Jared and Zales, are some of the most thought about jewelry stores out there, and that's no accident. 

Kay Jewelers does not sell conflict diamonds

Unfortunately, the diamond industry is wrought with conflict these days, but Kay Jewelers maintains that they take no part in seedy diamond mining. According to their website, Kay Jewelers never purchases conflict diamonds — diamonds which, when bought, help finance the purchase of weapons in African countries. So, if you own a diamond from Kay Jewelers, you can take comfort in the knowledge that it was not sourced illegally or through horrible means.

In fact, Kay Jewelers requires that each and every diamond they supply comes with a warranty that it is not a conflict diamond. Kay Jewelers' diamonds are in total and complete compliance with the United Nations Resolutions regarding conflict diamonds. Each diamond that comes from Kay Jewelers will include a written warranty as follows: "The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict-free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds." Kay Jewelers is very much against conflict diamonds.

Kay has an entire website dedicated to educating shoppers

It's no secret that purchasing a diamond, no matter the occasion, is kind of a big deal. Whether you are proposing to your partner, or just want to treat yourself to a pair of diamond earrings, it can be intimidating to make such a big purchase. However, Kay Jewelers offers it's own "Jewelry Education Hub" to inform potential customers about how the diamond-buying process works, how diamonds are certified, and so much more.

The Jewelry Education Hub also includes a "4Cs diamond guide," which is essential for anyone picking out an engagement ring, as well as information on diamond cuts, shapes, costs, and even an entire section on wedding bands. Kay Jewelers clearly knows that buying a diamond is a big purchase for its customers, so helping them know what to expect is crucial. In a world where so many jewelry stores can seem uptight and pretentious, Kay Jewelers makes their stores accessible to everyone, and the Jewelry Education Hub is just one way they do that.

Kay regularly has good sales and more

As big of a deal as buying a diamond or any other piece of expensive jewelry is, it can make good financial sense to shop sales for those items. Fortunately, Kay Jewelers reguarly has sales and promotions going on, which are easy to find on their website. For example, in July 2019, they boasted a "Summer Clearance" sale with items heavily discounted. They also even have an entire clearance section on their website for all your reasonably-priced jewelry needs. 

In addition to their clearance items and promotional sales, Kay Jewelers also has outlet stores where customers can purchase deeply discounted items, as well as previously owned jewelry, in order to save money and shop smarter. In fact, you can even shop the Kay Jewelers outlet store online to make the most of the reduced prices no matter where you are. But, with so many outlet locations, that might not even be necessary.

Kay Jewelers can help you create a custom design

For those customers who know exactly what they want — or at least the ones who think they do — Kay Jewelers offers a custom design service. Customers can bring in their inspiration to a Kay Jewelers location — whether it's a sketch, a photo from Pinterest, or just an idea of what they want — and Kay will work to make a model of the design. From there, customers can work to make any adjustments necessary and choose the right metals and stones. And there you have it! A custom jewelry creation fit for royalty. Moreover, Kay Jewelers also offers customers repair services. So, if you've received your dream jewelry creation, you can rest easy knowing that Kay Jewelers can repair it if anything happens.

Kay Jewelers may be a national jewelry store, but there's still so much more to the company than diamonds and gold. The truth is Kay Jewelers has been around for over a century, and it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere anytime soon.