RAPAPORT... Diamond exhibitors ended the first day of the JCK Las Vegas show confident that a stable U.S. market would compensate for weaknesses elsewhere. Buyers were focused on gaining a feel for prices and are expected to make stronger offers for goods during the weekend.
Dealers noted that the market has returned its attention to the U.S. as Europe remains weak and demand in China has slowed due to global economic uncertainties. Many indicated tough conditions in the manufacturing and trading centers of India, Belgium and India.
There was similar sentiment among retail exhibitors at the Couture show, a high-end brand-focused show that started on Thursday. Chris Casey, vice president of Couture, noted that much of the consumer confidence that went away during the recession has returned. “There is increasing enthusiasm in the market and it seems that the focus has turned back to the security that the U.S. market provides as we are seeing a hiccup in the growth markets of India and China,” Casey said.
One exhibitor at Couture added that while there has not been a huge pick-up in demand, the unease about the U.S. market has settled and prices have stabilized. Another jeweler reasoned that consumers were feeling more confident about spending on luxury items again and that the “guilt” factor of splurging while others were struggling had diminished.
“The high-end didn’t go away during the recession. High-end buyers didn’t quit buying because they couldn’t afford it but because it was considered bad manners,” he explained. “You don’t have that so much anymore.”
While most were confident that demand would prove relatively strong during the rest of the show, they also recognized that the U.S. economy was still vulnerable to weaknesses. Financial markets fell on Friday after a weak May jobs report showed the lowest level of monthly job creation in a year. Unemployment rose to 8.2 percent during the month.
Still, the mood in Vegas was positive as the weekend approached. “No-one is complaining, which means things must be good,” said one diamond exhibitor. “Then again, this is Vegas, and there is generally a spending atmosphere here."