Rapaport Magazine

U.S. Retail

By Lara Ewen
Show Time in Vegas

Those who attended the Las Vegas shows this year reported smaller than usual crowds. This might be because of skittish consumers during an election year, or it might be a natural result of more wholesalers offering online catalogs or going direct to consumers. That said, people who did attend felt that the shows continued to play an important part in the jewelry industry, both as touchstones for the overall temperature of the business and also as a way for people to connect in person and discuss and define overall trends. In any event, as 2016 rounded its midpoint, the overall feeling for both attendees and those who chose to stay home was cautious, hopeful and ready to see past the November elections.

The Las Vegas Mood
   For store owners and managers who chose to attend the shows, or who sent employees to the shows, the consensus seemed to be the same. Not as many people were spending time or money to make the Las Vegas trip. “I did not see crowds, and I was there all the way through,” said Wm. Mark Michaels, CEO of Michaels Jewelers, with ten stores in Connecticut and an additional 11 Pandora stores in five states. Michaels, whose stores are ahead by low single digits year on year, also didn’t do much buying while he was there. “Our primary mission in Las Vegas is to identify trends,” he said. “We went in to understand the lab-grown movement, and also, we do a majority of our vendor interviewing during the show. So that took up 85 percent of our time. Then there’s the educational segment. We’re working on building a new website this year, so this provides a convenient forum for that.”
   One of the reasons the shows might have been quiet this year is an increased access to online tools, said Richard Chador, chief operating officer (COO) at Mavilo Wholesalers, which operates a Tampa Bay, Florida, retail store as well as an online store and a wholesale operation. “The owner and a few staff members went this year, and I’ve heard it was a little quiet,” he said. “It’s kind of a social event for a good portion of the industry, but there’s not much buying going on.” Chador, who said his sales have been up month over month since the middle of 2015, noted that the same technology that allowed him to expand his customer base was also making trade shows less important. “We’re in an industry where you have to be on the cutting edge of the tools that are available to you. These days the tools that are there for you to buy inventory are so advanced from even five years ago that I don’t know if going to a show is even necessary.”
   Yet for Bill Jones, president of Sissy’s Log Cabin, with three stores in Arkansas and one store in Tennessee, the shows are crucial. Jones, who is also on the JCK advisory board, admitted that traffic for JCK was down somewhat, but said there were mitigating factors. “It’s a political year and everybody is concerned,” he said. “So there are a couple thousand less jewelers and buyers at JCK this year, and each buyer brought less people.” That said, Jones, whose stores are up 5 percent to 8 percent year on year, liked the new expanded Luxury format, which he said saw a slight increase in numbers. He also said he made significant purchases. “We did quite a bit of buying at JCK. We bought enough to make me nervous when we came back.”

Staying Home
   Not all jewelers went to the shows, though. For some, it was a matter of timing. “We did not attend the JCK show this year as we were celebrating our fiftieth anniversary,” said Jennifer Graves, certified sales associate (CSA) at Hal Davis Jewelers in Boise, Idaho. She said that she was ahead of her 2015 numbers, year on year, and she hoped to keep that trend going through the end of 2016. But she was also cautious. “You never know what will happen with the industry,” she said. “There are so many changes with ecommerce and working with the economic changes.”
   For others who stayed away, the consensus was that the shows did not provide a significant return on investment. “I have not gone for many years,” said Ken Stein, owner of Bensons Jewelers in Washington, D.C. “I always spend too much, since there is so much to see, and it’s costly.” Stein, whose sales are flat, year on year, also said he plans to buy very carefully for the time being. “We don’t really follow many of the trends, truth be told,” he said. “All I can do is hope we have a stronger Christmas.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2016. To subscribe click here.

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