Jeweller: What have you learned about the Australian jewellery industry in your short time in the role?
Hunter: The main things surround the JAA Code of Conduct, the need for ongoing training and a shortage of people with technical skills. The other key issues facing the industry include crime and overseas competition.
The high cost burden of retail space for jewellers has also been an eye opener – I am pleased to see the JAA already has a number of projects underway to assist the industry such as our involvement in the retail leasing inquiry, data gathering plans, webinars and articles to assist retailers when renegotiating leases. The need for education and to attract new people to the industry is something I now see as being key, and not something I was aware of before commencing at the JAA. And finally, I have learned just how important the bridal market is to our industry.
What have your initial impressions been of the industry and its members?
It has been great to see how many passionate people there are who really care about the future of the industry. After my appointment was announced many responded by welcoming me and offering their time, which was a lovely way to start a new role. I think coming from “outside the industry”, so to speak, is also a benefit because along with my own consumer experiences, I am able to provide a very fresh approach with new ideas. Of course, I will also be able to call on the experience of others.
Have your impressions changed since taking up the position?
I don’t think so. However, it is becoming obvious that there are many issues that are industry wide and then there are obviously specific needs depending on business focus or location for instance. I still have a lot of work ahead when it comes to engaging with the different sectors, and after the Sydney trade fair, I am looking forward to visiting many locations in Australia to continue my learning and listening.
I am aware of the numerous industry bodies within Australia and overseas now and I’m keen to investigate how we can all work together and share ideas and resources for maximum industry benefit.
I can see that many businesses have had it tough with increasing costs and competition, not to mention an economy that has not been kind to those in the luxury goods market, so I am excited to explore how the JAA can assist as much as possible.
What are the JAA’s strengths and why?
The core JAA team is experienced and hard working. There is a great deal of knowledge and passion among the Board and the wider community we are engaging with, which are fantastic strengths and provide me with a great starting point. There are great partnerships in place and there is an opportunity to expand on these for member benefits.
Industry integrity and gaining the trust of consumers is of huge importance to our industry and I can see how the JAA’s assistance and offering fits in so well with this. I can also see how the JAA assists businesses with everything from guidance and discounts to helping our professionals gain recognition.
Do you see any weaknesses and why?
I think they are more “opportunities” than “weaknesses” and that is why my skillset has been brought on-board to the JAA. There is a need for our membership base to grow and be engaged in our activities so we can be sure we are delivering on industry priorities. Of course we need to look at developing new revenue streams outside of membership so that there are more funds available to put back into serving the wider industry to assist our members in making their businesses more profitable.
How do you intend to deal with these issues?
Growth and relevant project delivery will be achieved through careful strategic planning, strong financial management, reaching out for input and taking the time to get out and meet the industry. Also learning from other countries, industries and bodies is important, as is developing new and creative marketing ideas to reach consumers. Given that different sectors like to receive information in different ways, we will conduct research to ensure we are using the most effective communication mediums. We will also call on others where appropriate, making use of all that passion and the offers of assistance that I received when my appointment was announced.
What are the challenges facing retailers and suppliers?
I think many of the challenges are faced by both sectors. There is increased competition for instance, amongst suppliers within Australia for precious metal services. There is also increased local and overseas competition for wedding rings. I am informed that local suppliers are going above and beyond for retailers, which is affecting their bottom line and that manufacturers have very high material costs.
There is a requirement for both suppliers and retailers to keep up with technology and the fact that consumers are so much more technically savvy gives rise to the need for industry members to stand out amongst a crowd and communicate via online. Brand awareness and conveying the differentiators of offerings are also key factors for businesses to keep in mind.
What are the solutions to these issues?
From my short time in the role, it would seem the key focuses for the JAA include:
• Assisting with apprentice training and partnering with those in the industry that need these apprentices the most;
• Helping suppliers and retailers stay up-to-date with training on technology, new trends and communicating with customers;
• Promoting the quality offerings and unique items that are Australian-made and supporting our local businesses both at a national and state level;
• To connect with the industry and help the participants connect with each other;
• Increasing the brand awareness of the JAA;
• Collaborating with other associations and industry bodies, and;
• Specific projects such as ensuring our website is easy to navigate and is offering all the information it can.
Have you received feedback on whether membership benefits are equal for both suppliers and retailers?
I am not aware of anything specific where the JAA is letting a segment down. I think it is more an issue of how do we cater for the different experience needs – for example, students versus those new to the industry versus those that have very established businesses – and I look forward to considering this and how we can deliver to all segment needs.
However, I do feel that many of the benefits and projects underway are very relevant to both retailers and suppliers as they offer business discounts and processes that help the whole industry. Some of these include assisting to resolve consumer complaints or concerns as well as working with the Government and the ACCC on industry-wide areas of interest.
Prior to your commencement at the JAA, a number of major changes were initiated. Can you explain the need for these changes and are there any others needed?
It would seem to me that the progressions in the Code of Conduct, proposed changes to the size of the board and having a National Industry Council focused on the different industry sectors were all great changes.
This, in addition to utilising task forces and project teams as I propose to do going forward on specific projects, will be great in ensuring we represent the whole industry, are flexible in our approach, have the best skills where they are most required and guarantee we have efficient teams that can see projects through to completion.
The other changes will be made after our AGM in September, where we will finalise our board structure and national councillors. I also plan to conduct a more in-depth member survey than we have used in the past and to get out and meet members and non-members, which will also provide an opportunity to gain great feedback. Until we have the full picture it is hard to comment on any other changes that may be needed.
UPDATE - 9 September 2014
The JAA Annual General Meeting was held on Monday, 1 September, and members voted to adopt a new Constitution.
As a result, the JAA board has been reduced from 13 to six and the following directors were elected at the AGM:
- Selwyn Brandt
- Toby Bensimon
- Ronnie Bauer - Retail member
- Laura Sawade - Supplier member
- Colin Pocklington - representative of a Buying Group Entity.
A sixth director is still to be elected in time for the commencement of the new board, which takes affect 1 January 2015.