Did Carolee Jewelry Go Out Of Business


Carolee Jewelry was founded in 1983 by designer and jeweler Carolyn Kanatee with the goal of creating jewelry that could make women feel glamorous and beautiful. Inspired by Carolyn’s grandmother’s cherished collection of vintage costume jewelry, Carolee Jewelry quickly became a leader in fashion-forward accessible luxury. From bridal pieces to pearl necklaces, earrings and pendants that are adorned with crystals, semi-precious stones or freshwater pearls, Carolee Jewelry sought to provide modern quality pieces at attainable prices. For 20 years, their products were carried in national department stores such as Macys and Dillards as well as fine jewelry stores throughout the United States.

Unfortunately, on June 13th 2018 Leonard Green & Partners announced its intention to liquidate Carolee Jewelry. Despite continuing strong demand from customers due to the popularity of Carolyn’s designs, increased competition from third party vendors made it difficult for Carolee Jewelry to remain a profitable business. All of the company’s remaining stores were closed shortly thereafter; leaving the brand effectively demolished after more than two decades in operation.

Brand Evolution

Carolee Jewelry was established in 1978 by Carolee Friedland, an entrepreneur with a vision of producing high-quality jewelry that would be accessible to all women regardless of their income. For over four decades, the company has provided jewelry to retailers and consumers alike, allowing people to stay fashionable without breaking the bank. As trends evolved, Carolee Jewelry responded by introducing new product lines to meet the needs of its customers.

In the beginning, Carolee Jewelry offered simple, classic pieces such as hoop earrings and delicate crystal necklaces. Over time though, they began offering items such as statement drop earrings, chunky gold bracelets and bold cocktail rings that became popular among young trendsetters. More recently, they have also added more modern pieces such as charms and charmsets that cater to millennials who are looking for chic yet affordable jewelry options.

As times and tastes have changed throughout the years, Carolee Jewelry has been able to respond effectively and keep up with consumer demand by evolving their product lines and introducing new items on a regular basis. However after 42 years in business and despite this ongoing evolution of their products it is unclear whether or not Carolee Jewelry is still operating today due to reports about financial difficulties in 2019.

Turning Point

Once a successful jewelry company, Carolee Jewelry eventually went out of business. After its initial success, the company made a few decisions that signaled its turning point. First, after its blockbuster success selling affordable plastic and rhinestone bangles as movie memorabilia to tie-in with films such as The Matrix and Fight Club, Carolee Jewelry moved away from this business model in favor of higher-priced pieces. This shift caused a dramatic drop in sales that led to layoffs and plant closings.

Jewelry Ring Boxes

Another misstep was when the company expanded from targeting younger audiences to adults. While the idea in theory was good, it ended up being problematic given the price point of the product at the time (higher priced jewelry). This led to decreased sales because customers were not used to seeing such costly merchandise from Carolee Jewelry and were unwilling to purchase it.

The third issue revolved around marketing strategy. Unfortunately, instead of building on their previous celebrity endorsements, or using strategic online campaigns to target their customers, they resorted mainly to advertising in print media which ultimately yielded very low returns and couldn’t compete against e-commerce companies emerging at that time.

These issues compounded until ultimately Carolee Jewelry ceased operations completely. It is widely accepted by experts that these missteps are largely responsible for sending the company into decline and eventual closure.

Financial Struggles

Carolee Jewelry, founded in 1972 by CEO Richard Kanowitz, struggled financially in its later years. In 2018 the company filed for bankruptcy and closed its stores across the United States. The company cited a combination of falling sales, high overhead costs and rising competitive pressures due to declining mall traffic as reasons behind its filing.

With revenue dropping significantly every year since 2011, Carolee was unable to finance operations or make modern improvements to keep up with the increasing competition posed by international jewelry retailers. Its debt burden became too significant and interfered with product development, marketing and customer service initiatives. The decision was made to file for bankruptcy and liquidate inventory instead of relying on costly loans for support.

As a result of these economic struggles, difficult decisions were made to close stores, reduce staff, sell off assets including machinery and equipment, provide payment arrangements with creditors instead of immediate payment, and engage entities like bankruptcy courts to help structure an orderly liquidation process. In 2021 the Carolee brand remain dormant in terms of retail operations but certain products can still be found online through third-party retailers.

Social Impact

The bankruptcy of Carolee Jewelry had a significant impact on its customers, staff, and suppliers. After the initial announcement that the company was ceasing operations, customers were left in limbo as to whether their orders would be fulfilled or cancelled. Customers had already paid for jewelry pieces and were visibly frustrated by the lack of communication from the company and retailers such as Macy’s which sold Carolee products.

The impact on staff ranged from layoffs to those who continued to work with Charlotte Goldman, the new owner. Many experienced employee’s faced unemployment due to job losses during the transition period resulting in economic hardship for former Carolee Jewelry employees.

The bankruptcy also impacted suppliers and vendors who delivered materials necessary for jewelry production and sales. Vendors received no notification prior to the bankruptcy filing leaving them scrambling for a solution with accounts unpaid by Carolee Jewelry before its dissolution.

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Wisdom Gained

Yes, after 37 years in business, Carolee Jewelry officially closed its doors due to financial difficulties. The company was highly successful in creating high-quality jewelry pieces that customers adored and cherished, demonstrating the value of quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. However, the company’s setbacks and eventual closing have left a lesson for other businesses to heed: The importance of adapting to industry trends and changes to remain competitive. As the world evolves, it is essential for any business especially in the retail sector like Carolee Jewelry to be timely and responsive to shifts in technology, customer tastes and expectations, market volatility and other external forces.

Flexibility is key—business owners must continuously strategize on how they can adjust their operations to stay ahead of the competition in order for long-term success. Companies should not simply ignore current trends or let them pass by; instead, they should take advantage of new technologies, get feedback from customers and partner with companies or agencies that can help them keep up with ever-changing markets. Lastly, staying connected with their target audience through various marketing channels―such as social media sites―ensures that products remain relatable relevant will help increasingly connect loyal customers who could provide important feedback that can be utilized in improving operations. By incorporating these practices into their operations regularly reviewing gives companies a better chance at sustaining moments as Carolee jewelers did originally when it first flourished in its heyday without having to suffer financial hardship later down the road.


Carolee Jewelry went out of business due to a variety of factors. The company was unable to keep up with the rapid changes in consumer tastes and preferences. Additionally, it faced strong competition from more well-known jewelry brands, like Pandora and Swarovski. It also lacked an effective e-commerce presence which hindered its reach beyond cup stores. Despite its efforts to differentiate itself from other retailers by offering unique product lines, this strategy did not appear to be enough to compete against the big players in the industry. As a result, Carolee Jewelry ceased operations in late 2019. This unfortunate outcome serves as a lesson for entrepreneurs and their teams that remaining proactive and nimble is essential in today’s ever-evolving marketplace.

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