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US Jewelers Hail In-Person Fairs

After a long period of virtual and scaled-down events, store owners are ready to place orders, catch the latest styles, and make new connections.

By Lara Ewen


After a long period of virtual and scaled-down events, store owners are ready to place orders, catch the latest styles, and make new connections.

Show season is back, and after two shaky years of Covid-19, retailers are looking forward to some semblance of normalcy. Store owners welcomed the chance to reconnect with vendors and industry contacts and to see new product. While some said they preferred smaller, more curated shows such as AGS Conclave to the bigger, more expensive Las Vegas events, others liked the networking opportunities the big shows had to offer.

One thing everyone seemed to agree on was a disinterest in online-only events. After years of Zoom meetings and digital engagement, many in the traditionally tech-shy jewelry industry have dismissed virtual events completely.

The go-to gatherings

Eric Wagner cited a scheduling conflict as the reason he wouldn’t be able to attend the Las Vegas shows this June.

“We’ve typically attended the Las Vegas show at least every other year, and [we] always enjoy it,” said the owner of Showcase Jewelers in Hays, Kansas. “But it also seems to have gotten super expensive to attend.”

Instead, Wagner is considering going to a smaller show later in the year. “We’re not always looking for new vendors anymore, but we do love to look for new products and trends that maybe our current vendors are not keeping up with.”

One way or another, digital events don’t appeal to him. “I’ve never attended a digital show and would probably not like it or ever feel in the mood for one,” he stated.

Local Las Vegas jeweler Jenny O. Calleri, owner of Huntington Jewelers, always attends the shows in her city. Calleri, who is opening a second Las Vegas location this summer, also goes to Centurion, the Tucson Gem Show, and AGS Conclave.

“I went to [this year’s] Tucson just for the day,” she related. “I would normally stay a few days, but a lot of those designers I had already seen at Centurion.”

Centurion impressed Calleri, who usually spends between $100,000 and $150,00 at shows. “Space was limited, so the suppliers have products ready to sell, and the retailers are the top of the top. You’re among the elite, and it’s just a higher level of other store owners across the country.”

As with Wagner, digital shows don’t suit her needs. “An online-only is a complete waste of time,” she asserted. “I am not going to buy a piece of jewelry, let alone a diamond or a gemstone, from a video.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Mock, owner of Mock & Co. in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, is planning to attend only JCK and the related Las Vegas shows this year.

“You can get a whole variety of vendors and suppliers there, all at one time,” he said. “Because of everything going on overseas, it’s safer to stay over here. And you still get everybody that normally would go to other shows.”

He is also considering the Jewelers International Showcase (JIS) fair in Miami, but not any of the digital shows.

“We want to be hands-on with the other owners of companies and sales reps,” he explained. “We want to be face to face.”

Trend-spotting

Wagner looks for trends when he goes to shows, he said, but he also keeps an eye out for them on vendor websites, in industry magazines, and in his travels.

“When [we’re] out of town and visiting a larger city, I’ll stop in the mall stores to see what trends might be visiting us in the next year,” he elaborated. “And our vendors all still have an ‘on-the-road guy’ that I typically see twice a year.”

For Calleri, shows are good for both trend-spotting and educational opportunities.

“Education is very important,” she stressed. “Conclave is amazing, because they stay on top of the latest and greatest trends. I also love the newsletter that Centurion puts out.”

The shows are important for relationship-building as well, said Mock. “Every show I’ve been to has grown my business. It’s had a major impact. And if you’re a small fish in a big pond, you want to introduce yourself to every shark, whether they want to eat me or not. I want you to know me. I want to know everything about you, your kids, your dogs. So if I need a stone, you’re going to answer my phone call.”

By the numbers
  • Retail sales will likely grow between 6% and 8% to more than $4.86 trillion in 2022.

  • US consumers spent $1.7 trillion online in the first two years of the pandemic (from March 2020 to February 2022). That’s $609 billion more than for the preceding two years combined.

  • Nearly half of millennial and Generation Z shoppers would buy a lab-grown diamond given the “price-versus-size-versus-quality equation,” according to a survey, while 32% would opt for a mined diamond; 22% were not sure which they would pick.

  • Swiss watch exports increased 24% year on year to CHF 1.99 billion ($2.14 billion) in February, the best performance the sector has seen for that month. Shipments to the US jumped 33% to CHF 298.9 million ($320.8 million).

  • US jewelry sales rose 12% year on year in March.

Sources: National Retail Federation (NRF), Adobe, MVI Marketing, Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Mastercard SpendingPulse

Image: Participants at the 2021 JCK Vegas. (JCK Events)

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2022. To subscribe click here.

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