Rapaport Magazine

Sales Slow at JA Winter Show

Cautious buyers combed the convention center for value.

By Margo Leab
RAPAPORT... Most wholesalers at the JA New York Winter Show, held March 9 to 11 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, stated that crowds appeared to be down or even from previous years. However, Drew Lawsky, group show director, announced that 8,150 buyers attended the show and that “given the market conditions, we’re pleased, even surprised, with our results.” Since management declined to release traffic figures last year, there was no way to determine if the number represents an increase or a decrease from winter 2007. But for the February show in 2006, the organizers reported 8,200 buyers, so attendance appears to have remained consistent. A spokesperson for JA stated that 700 designers and manufacturers exhibited, a drop from 965 in 2006. Lawsky pointed to challenges in moving the event to March and to a different floor plan than prior years, but stressed he was satisfied with the outcome.

Wary Shoppers
Avi Lusana, general manager of GN Diamond in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, categorized sales at the event as “slower this year,” remarking that “Usually, we draw crowds. This year, it’s not making it.” He described attendees as mostly New Englanders, with few arriving from farther locales. The company’s strongest sellers were bridal rings with stones 3 carats and up, in cushion and radiant shapes. Joseph Zalta, vice president of Globe Diamonds in New York City, observed that the show was quiet compared to the Atlanta Jewelry Show held earlier in the month, but that it matched his expectations, as the JA Show is “more for meeting people.”

At Stuller’s expansive booth, Steven MacDiarmid, director of public relations at the Lafayette, Louisiana–based company, conceded traffic was off “by a couple of percent,” but he saw “good activity in tools and equipment, loose diamonds and pearls.” He stated, “It’s not like the business has cratered.” Patrick Milam, northeast sales representative at Ritani in New York City, declared that his firm’s new items had “tremendous response,” which he credited to lighter weights, sensitive to current metal market prices. The most popular price point was in the range of $1,500 to $2,500, with 1 carat continuing to be the preferred weight for Ritani customers. Gina Renteria, a sales representative at MK Diamonds in Los Angeles, California, admitted that her company “sized down to one booth because we weren’t sure what to expect” when the show was moved to March, but she confirmed that her customers were filling in on bridal items. Paul Pilla, Midwest sales manager for New York City–based Christopher Designs, categorized business as “a little slow, but okay.” Pilla mentioned two sales as proof the vendor was holding its own: One of their JCK award-winning $30,000 rings and a $50,000 piece both found buyers.

Survival Tactics
Metal prices were top-of-mind for many attendees, making the Palladium Alliance’s seminar, “Palladium: The Right White Choice,” particularly well-timed. Speaker Kate Peterson, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Performance Concepts, opened by telling retailers, “It’s critically important that you really do understand what the metal is and how it’s working because your consumers are aware of it.” Peterson warned that the number one misconception about palladium is the belief that it is an alloy. While palladium can be used as an alloy, it is a pure metal. The one significant difference between platinum and palladium? According to Peterson, it’s all about density. “We’re using up a lot less of the metal to make what we need.” Stating that palladium casting houses have “exploded” in the past six months, Peterson cited A. Jaffe, Scott Kay and Cartier’s watch division as some top names working with the metal.

Many wholesalers were content to count their blessings. Diagem Imports, Los Angeles, California, had some excess inventory this year, but that meant the company could melt down older styles and circumvent spiking prices. Pilla was grateful that “bridal is now year round,” and Milam called it “the most recession-proof part of the industry.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2008. To subscribe click here.

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