Rapaport Magazine

On the Road Online?

U.S. May Retail Market Report

By Lara Ewen


The economy is picking up, and some jewelers are heading back into the market after a few years of forgoing show season. But with a number of trade shows to choose from, both nationally and internationally, the desire to visit a specific show, such as JCK in Las Vegas, may be offset by more practical factors, including travel expenses, timing and increased online access to vendors and new product lines. Making the decision to attend a particular show has become less of a need and more of a choice.

VEGAS OR BUST

Of course, plenty of retailers still feel that going to Vegas is important. For Harold Krasner, owner of Harold Steven’s Jewelers in San Diego, California, JCK is the only show he feels he must attend. “I don’t think it’s necessary to go to other shows,” he said. “JCK is an important gathering of vendors from around the world, and we can make connections with people we see only once a year, and view some of the newest products. Basel is a show I have been to, but it’s very expensive to go. It’s a great show, and it’s useful, but I haven’t been there in 15 years.”

Bob Moeller, president and director of sales at R.F. Moeller, with three stores in Minnesota, will also be in Vegas this year. “There are two main reasons you go to JCK,” he said. “First, to find out what’s going on in the industry as a whole, and second, to reinforce the vendor relationships you have.” Still, Moeller, who also attended Basel this year, and regularly attends Centurion and Conclave, doesn’t always buy a lot of inventory on the road. “I buy maybe as little as 10 percent at the shows,” he said. “I can remember years ago when you bought twice a year, in spring and fall. But now that everyone buys more often — you reorder every week or every month — the shows have taken on a different tone.”

SHOW STOPPERS

Richard Lee Mathis, owner of Symmetry Jewelers in New Orleans, Louisiana, will not be attending this year’s JCK, though he usually goes. In fact, he might not attend any shows at all in 2012. “I might go to the show in New York for a couple of days, but I’m not even positive about that,” he said. “We’ve been concentrating on keeping up with commissions and our own orders, and I have salespeople coming in off the road. And JCK is so big. It’s really too big. You have to have a mission, and you can’t just wander around. When they changed the layout around in 2011, it took a while for me to get my bearings.”

Others will be bypassing JCK because they can do their business closer to home. “All the stuff we’d see in Vegas, we can see at the New York show,” said Robert Tortoriello, sales manager at Bentley Diamond Importers in Wall Township, New Jersey. “The New York show is pretty big and we can get to it, and there are the same people at all the shows.”

Some retailers choose not to attend the Vegas show because they’ve been traveling to international shows instead. “I feel like the overseas trips give me a different niche,” said Doug Jones, owner of Dale’s Jewelers in Idaho Falls, Idaho. “I used to go to JCK all the time, but there’s more juice to the story of my going overseas, and it translates into my expertise and into my store’s niche. I’m not negative on the JCK show. I’d go if it were better timing, but I’ll have been in Bangkok the week before. And I feel like I’m treated better overseas. In Vegas, they’re trying to determine what kind of store you are, and how much business they can do with you.”

CHANGING TIMES

Moving forward, retailers are beginning to become more comfortable with using online resources to take advantage of business-to-business opportunities, and that may ultimately change the way trade shows function. “I think trade shows could become less important,” said Mathis. “The whole industry is changing. Most collections have websites, so I could pick up a collection just by doing a little research. You occasionally hear from people who don’t have any internet presence, and that’s crazy.”

Tortoriello also felt that the internet has had an effect on his need to physically be at some of the shows. “It used to be you had to go to the shows, but now I can order online instead,” he said. “That’s bad for the shows, but it’s good for retailers, because you can buy the same amount of inventory without having to go to the shows.”

 

THE MARKETPLACE

  • Round remains the best-selling shape, with princess and cushion cuts tied for second.

  • 1-carat diamonds sell best, though some customers will go smaller in return for a higher color or clarity.

  • SI1 is the most popular clarity, but an eye-clean I1 may sell if the customer wants a larger stone.
  • The top color is H.

  • Platinum and 18-karat white gold are both selling equally well, with rare but increasing requests for yellow gold.

  • The average price for an engagement ring, including stone and setting, is $6,125.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2012. To subscribe click here.

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