Rapaport Magazine

U.S. Retail

By Lara Ewen
Industry Re-energized

The JCK and Couture shows rolled through Las Vegas this June, and the overall feeling from retailers who attended the show was that the industry is re-energized and feeling upbeat. Buyers were on the lookout for attention-grabbing styles, especially in bridal, as well as moderately priced fashion pieces. They were also looking to establish and re-establish contacts, and touch base with vendors they rarely see. Among those who did not attend, what they said they missed most was not being able to network. In an online age, it’s the face-to-face time that reminds this industry that a personal connection is still its most valuable asset.

Best in Show
   For some retailers, Vegas is a must. “We went to JCK for sure,” said Steve Quick, owner of Steve Quick Jeweler, with three stores in Chicago. “The vendors I spoke to were all very upbeat and happy with attendance. That’s a very good sign for all of us that things are beginning to improve. In 2012, the comments from some of the exhibitors were depressing.”
   Others were pleased to find that the show has made some improvements. “This year, it was easier to navigate JCK,” said Gary Gordon, of Samuel Gordon Jewelers in Oklahoma City. “We became more comfortable with the layout.” Gordon, whose store bought both bridal and fashion pieces, has been a long-time attendee of the Vegas trade fairs. “I’ve been going to trade shows for 44 years, and the fact of the matter is, they haven’t changed much.”
   Still, not everyone thought this year’s JCK was a home run. “I did go to JCK for a good eight hours,” said Tara Silberberg, co-owner of The Clay Pot in Brooklyn, New York. “I mean, what can I say about JCK? The edited section has gotten very weak and they’ve lost a lot of good people to Couture. JCK is either all boring or the quality is just not there.” Even so, Silberberg still feels she needs to visit JCK. “It’s worth attending, and we went just to see what’s coming out in the market. There are definitely good parts to it.”

Why Some Stayed Home
   For those who did not go to JCK this year, the reasons for staying away differed. For Judith Arnell, owner of Judith Arnell Jewelers, with a brand new store in downtown Portland, Oregon, and another store in Chicago, Illinois, she simply wasn’t able to fit the show into her schedule. “Even though we were in the midst of our move to the new store, I was tempted to go to JCK for a couple of days,” she said. “I like to go, and I like connecting with the vendors we don’t see all year. They don’t always call on you anymore, and I like seeing what’s new.”
   Some also find that other trade shows are offering more incentives than JCK. “We joined the Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO), and they offer a lot of credits and perks for going to the IJO show,” said Leslie Crothers, buyer at Butterfield Jewelers in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “So we decided we were just going to do that show this year, in terms of a buying show. We already have our vendors, and most of the vendors we use are there, and we get a discount as well as credit, so we usually don’t end up paying to attend.”
   Still, Crothers hasn’t given up on Vegas. “I’ve been going to JCK for quite some time. I went in 2012, and the year before that. We may go back next year. It’s gotten better and better every year, and we go to Couture and combine the two shows, though it would be better if they had Couture and JCK at the same place.”

JCK Versus Couture
   Many of the retailers who go to Vegas attend both JCK and Couture, and they are quick to point out the differences. “JCK lost a lot of its high-end vendors,” said Silberberg. “What they’ve been able to do at Couture is create a special buying environment where you want to be there. It’s a pleasure to do that show. There’s a very pleasant buying environment for the VIP buyers, and Couture lures you over to the Wynn, and then you want to stay there. You get an awesome lunch and they put you up, and it’s an awesome space, and it’s smaller and easier to navigate. Plus, the quality of the vendors there is what my store is doing right now.”
   Not everyone agreed, however. “Couture is a caricature of a show,” said Quick. “Retailers there are treated like second-class citizens. The staff sounds like they are taught to sneer the word ‘retailers.’ There are many great designers there, but they are pompous and in bad need of some sensitivity training. I think we might replace Couture with Centurion next year. The good shows are catering to their customers and making the experience more enjoyable. The more enjoyable the show, the more we spend. Seems simple.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2013. To subscribe click here.

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Tags: Lara Ewen