Rapaport Magazine

Vegas Shows a Hit

Japan Market Report

By Kazuko Ito
RAPAPORT... I like the JCK Las Vegas jewelry show the most among its peer jewelry shows of the world,” said Yasuhiro Fujimura, a trade observer. “I have been to European shows, but I recommend to my Japanese clients that they visit Las Vegas by all means. There are many Europeans exhibiting at JCK, so you can also view pieces from Europe. Not only is the show the largest of its kind, but it is also functional.

“It is not just jewelry pieces that I am talking about,” Fujimura continued. “In jewelry, the American tastes and styles may not exactly match those of Japanese consumers. But if you want to learn trends, merchandising, pricing, marketing, product development, business models, computer applications, internet adaptation — you can glimpse all of them in Las Vegas. Americans are way ahead of us in these areas.”

In addition, Fujimura said, “You can extend your trip to visit gigantic shopping malls that we don’t see in Japan. You may also add pleasure to your business. It is Las Vegas, after all.”

“I was surprised to see people in short pants and open-collar shirts at the show site,” said Miyuki Oi, a designer of costume jewelry for middle-class Japanese department stores. “And I was surprised by the size of the show. I needed more time to see it all.” Oi liked the American casualness as exhibitors invited her into their booths and allowed her to touch and feel the pieces “which is not the case in Europe,” she said. “I feel somewhat intimidated by the European ambience.” That is not to say she does not appreciate the European mannerism. On the contrary, she said she understood “that European styles and craftsmanship as we see them today are backed by the traditions and pride that have carried through for centuries.”

Europe vs. U.S.

From a designer’s point of view, Oi saw many similarities between American and Japanese merchandising and, in some ways, thought the Japanese were following American trends. “There is overwhelmingly so much more diamond jewelry than other colored stone or gold jewelry. Many diamond pieces are done with elaborate microsetting and the designs are streamlined and simple compared to European pieces.”

One difference she noticed was that Americans appear to be finished with pink gold whereas the Japanese still like the pink metal. Oi said one explanation may be that pink gold goes better with the Japanese skin tone.

Another show visitor from Japan also noticed that diamond dealers were drawing large number of buyers, particularly to larger sizes.

Kazuhito Takagi of Mareal Co., Ltd. of Tokyo has been associated with the JCK Las Vegas show a long time — as far back as the days when the show was called Pacific Jewelry Show. In addition to exhibiting regularly in Las Vegas, he has been a regular participant at Jewelers of America (JA) in New York, too. This year, however, he said he would not come to New York. “I like Las Vegas better. In New York, I see more wholesalers, while in Las Vegas, I see more retailers.” This year’s JCK was a success for Takagi as he made a number of new retailing clients.

In the past, Takagi has been a supplier to QVC, the TV shopping program. Several years ago, he turned to gold jewelry, and later to diamond jewelry. This year his lineup of products consists of stainless steel pendants and rings for men and women, both with diamonds. They are branded “Katana,” which translates into “swords” in Japanese, and wholesale for $30 to $50 a piece. When asked whether these prices weren’t too low for the high-end Las Vegas show, Takagi replied, “This is not regular stainless steel. These pieces are made by a precision machinery-manufacturing technique — a long-standing Japanese tradition that is used in watchmaking, for example. Japan always did — and still does — excel in manufacturing quality products. Katana is in line with that tradition.”

Takagi insisted that he is consistent in supplying quality products to the U.S. from Japan, whether the merchandise is diamond jewelry or stainless steel. He explained that although stainless steel may not fall into the high-end jewelry category, high-end jewelers who market expensive pieces also need lower-priced products to supplement their merchandising and these products fall right into that category.

“JCK Las Vegas was covered by the Japanese trade media, too,” said Masahiko Akaike of Orient 4Cs. “Important issues like conflict diamonds and man-made diamonds that were discussed at the show were also reported by the media. Trade leaders are aware of the seriousness of these issues and they discuss them at home, but retailers’ attention has not been heightened yet.”

The Marketplace

• 3 carats+ continue to be scarce.
• Other than large stones, the market is very quiet.
• As the yen has weakened, buyers are discouraged from buying. Higher precious metal prices also accelerate market weakness.
• Dealers are not willing to stock as they expect trading to stall during July and August and not pick up until the end of September.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2007. To subscribe click here.

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