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The Daily Diamond Dish

Insights from JCK 2008

Jun 3, 2008 9:34 PM   By Leah Granof Geffen
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RAPAPORT... JCK-Day Four: Manufacturers Continue to Invest in American Market
June 3, 2008

There is a Chinese proverb that states a starving camel is better than a fat horse. In this case the American market is the thinning camel and the rapidly growing markets in Dubai, China and India are the plump horse. In line with this Chinese philosophy, manufacturers at the JCK show revealed they have no intent on giving up on the camel. Manufactures, big and small explained why they believe continued investment in the American market is necessary.

Shmuel Pluczenik from DTC sightholder Pluczenik Diamond Company told me that longevity and success are dependent on strong partnerships and long term relationships. With the weakening market, he believes that the strength of his partnerships will not only help his buyers, but also his own company in the long term.

“We have an advantage because we choose a few partners and we do it right,” Pluczenik said.

Sightholder Eli Kaufman of EFD, who was having a “good” show explained that as the market restricted, brand recognition and proactive sales strategies were more important than ever. He has recently hired new sales people for the U.S. and offered that “any good salesperson who is looking for a job, can knock on my door.”

As other manufacturers reported mediocre show results, all acknowledged that even though new customer acquisition was down, their existing buyers still needed goods from them. Some even expressed trepidation about taking on new American clients.

“It’s a bit worrisome to sell to American customers that you don’t know because you worry about them coming through with payment, said Yigal Hausman of Hausman Diamond Manufacturers. Nevertheless Hausman was optimistic about the future—whenever that may be. “America will pick up and take its position again. It will continue to play a dominant role in our industry.”

Blogging JCK: Day Three Shines on Fancy Colors
June 1, 2008

Location. Location. Location. Not every exhibitor is doing poorly at the show and those with better positions are drawing more traffic.

Exhibitors near the plush Plumb Club as well as the strategically juxtaposed big names with big booths could be seen participating today in a flurry of meetings while other booths in less fancy and promoted areas languished without a customer. The converse, of course could also be true. The exhibitors that are doing well can afford to pay for their prime locations and are grouped together because they are strong companies who have solid strategies for selling—even in a weak market.

Nevertheless, Israeli exhibitor, Eitan Mor with Mor Brothers, who moved his booth this year to the Israel Pavilion reported more sales this year than in previous ones. He attributed his success to the new location and to arranging appointments ahead of time. With scant walk-through traffic compared to past years, and some companies reporting sales down from last year in the range of 30-to-75 percent--preparation counts.

Surprisingly, some companies reported brisk sales of 1-caraters and under, especially if sellers were willing to match price points. Retail activity was slow with dealers showing the most interest in loose diamonds.

Fancy colored diamonds might emerge as the hit of the show---with black diamonds appearing in quite a few designs like the Arctic Night Collection showcased by the Waldman Diamond Company and in the new designs introduced during a red carpet fashion show today by high profile jewelry designer, Le Vian.

As part of its trend forecast, Le Vian predicted that “chocolate brown” and “strawberry gold” diamonds would be the “it” colors for 2009. One of the many new items on display at the fashion show was a double strand necklace created from natural brown diamonds totaling 84 carats.

Although many manufacturers held out hope for improved activity throughout the day, the end of tomorrow will bring more definitive results with the show ending on Tuesday, June 3.

Bigger is Always Better
Day One FeedBack
May 30, 2008

There were few surprises on the first day of the JCK show. In line with expectations, the “bigger is better” mantra was prevailing. Despite markedly decreased foot traffic, rumors of exhibitor pullouts before the show (Dave Bonaparte, Group Vice President, JCK Events, flatly denied this noting that nothing unusual had occurred this year), and empty and cheaper hotel rooms at the Venetian and nearby venues, most exhibitors were determined to weather out the financial slump in the U.S.
Many manufacturers noted that economy had failed to deter the super rich—especially those from Russia, the Middle East and the Far East from buying up goods.

Show exhibitors offered up various strategies for dealing with the slow market. Bigger players of high end goods said they had no plans to desert the American market and that they would maintain a consistent marketing approach to prepare for the eventual economic upturn.

Almost everyone agreed that the midlevel manufacturer would suffer the most in a weak U.S. market. One savvy dealer of melee goods said that he makes a profit by only buying in cash and never on memo---preferring to shun the glamour of flashy goods in favor of stability.

For others the show is about face-time and reconnecting in person with their customers and meeting detailed orders.“The days of window shopping are gone. Our customers contact us with very specific requests,” noted one dealer. It is too soon to tell exactly how the show will fair, however, and we will resume coverage on Sunday Day 3.

Russell Simmons Delivers JCK Keynote
May 30, 2008

Russell Simmons, the highly successful entrepreneur, hip hop mogul and founder of record label Def Jam Recordings, kicked off the JCK show with a keynote address followed by a question and answer session moderated by our own Martin Rapaport. In a packed room with pulsating background music, Simmons, who is also the founder of Simmons Jewelry Co. spoke about his personal evolution from thinking that diamonds and fur were harmful and wasteful luxuries to realizing that “through a transparent diamond you see an empowered Africa.” His source of inspiration: Nelson Mandela, who convinced him on a trip to South Africa that “diamonds unlike fur---are dramatically different and can have a great effect on Africa.”

Armed with this knowledge and his highly spiritual beliefs in the importance of giving back to society what one takes from it, Simmons created the nonprofit Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) in 2007 which handles the proceeds from Simmons’ newly launched Green Bracelet. Composed of malachite and a single rough diamond, the bracelet retails for $125 ($70 wholesale) and profits nearing $20 per bracelet are donated to Simmons’ signature project in Africa—the Johannesburg CIDA school which gives impoverished students a four year liberal arts college level education. Since its official launch in the fall of 2007, 25,000 bracelets have sold raising close to $400,000 for a school that supports 3300 students and needs a $35 million endowment to keep it running.

Surprisingly spiritual, open, funny and authentic, Simmons fully acknowledged that he was still “green” to the jewelry industry and that he could always do more with charity. He encouraged the industry members to donate what they could and left us with this thought—“The industry needs self-reflection, I need self-reflection. Why do we give? We give because we are all selfish. When we give, we feel better.”

So far DTC’s Varda Shine and former Botswanan president, Festus Mogae have joined the DEF board.
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Tags: China, DTC, Dubai, Economy, India, Israel, JCK, Jewelry, Russia, Sights, South Africa
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