Results from this year’s International Jewellery Fair (IJF), which ran from Saturday 27 to Monday 29 August, were arguably always going to be varied given the difficult retail landscape.
As Gary Fitz-Roy, managing director of fair organiser Expertise Events, explained: “Like all fairs, some exhibitors do better than others. There hasn’t been a show yet where everyone does well and this year wasn’t a lot different. I think there is equally an appreciation that the market is currently tough.”
Adding to this was Colin Pocklington, managing director of Australia and New Zealand’s largest buying group Nationwide Jewellers, who said his member attendance was down on previous years.
“[Retail] Trading has been flat for the last three months and I think this was reflected in the attendance,” he commented. “We registered 400 people this year compared to 440 last year.”
Pocklington and Fitz-Roy noted, however, that several exhibitors – spanning a range of product categories – recorded strong sales, with some having had their best fair in many years.
“It shows that it’s not about the number of buyers attending but about the quality of the buyers,” Fitz-Roy said. “I was quite surprised by the amount of extremely positive emails and calls we received after the fair from exhibitors who did very well and who commented on and appreciated the Expertise Events' team assistance during the fair.”
Watch supplier West End Collection was one business that reported positive trading, with general manager John Rose telling Jeweller that more sales were conducted by midday on Sunday than the total sales made during the 2015 event.
Rose identified the Olivia Burton women’s range, which had its official debut at the fair, along with the Christian Paul Sydney collection as performing particularly well.
While Duraflex Group Australia (DGA) managing director Phil Edwards said it felt as though the overall number of visitors was lower than previous years, his new ranges received excellent attention, interest and orders.
DGA generated hype in the lead up to the trade show having acquired a number of watch brands including Roamer, Police and Jag as well as an interchangeable French jewellery range called Les Georgettes.
Les Georgettes president Eric Lefranc attended the first two days of the show to introduce the collection to Australian and New Zealand retailers.
“I am only here for one and a half days but it was important for me to come to meet the Duraflex team and the Australian retailers,” Lefranc said. “Australia is a very important market for us.” He added that the offering had expanded into 12 countries since launching in September 2015.
Representatives from German-based Engelsrufer and Dutch-based Nikki Lissoni, also distributed by DGA, were in Sydney for the fair as well.
Engelsrufer key account manager of internal sales Simon Korner said he had received encouraging feedback and a lot of interest from visitors, while Nikki Lissoni managing director Caspar Assmann stated he was surprised by the upbeat sentiment of retailers.
“Prior to the fair, I had heard that it [local retail market] had been tough but I am surprised by the positive response,” Assmann said.
Another international visitor was Robbie Smith, sales manager of the new sterling silver jewellery line by high-profile brand Waterford Crystal. Smith, who was presenting the range in conjunction with local distributor Nordic Jewellery, said he had high hopes the range would be successful Down Under.
“The Australian market is very similar to Ireland [Waterford’s place of origin] and we’re confident that the range will do very well under the hands of Nordic Jewellery,” Smith added.
While he didn’t travel overseas to attend the show, another special guest at the fair was Commando Steve of The Biggest Loser fame. The fitness trainer is an ambassador for Garmin and was at the exhibitor’s stand on Sunday to launch a new range of smartwatches.
Garmin sales representative Emilio De Ingeniis said the IJF was Garmin’s first push into the jewellery market. “We’re happy that we now have a quality, refined product and we have gained much insight from being here,” he stated, adding, “Having Commando Steve obviously helped to create a bit of excitement for the brand.”
As is traditionally the case, suppliers releasing new products and initiatives typically drew visitor attention.
Karin Adcock, CEO of Alex and Ani local distributor House of Brands, noted that the brand’s ‘shop-in-shop’ concept launched at the fair had proven popular.
“Retailers are loving the shop-in-shop furniture,” Adcock said. “One customer asked if they could take it home straight away.”
She added the supplier, which also introduced its Charity by Design initiative ahead of an official launch on 13 September, had appointed several new retailers.
When speaking with Jeweller on Sunday, Worth & Douglas head of marketing and sales Chris Worth said the long-time New Zealand-based exhibitor had been “flat out”.
He added the latest collection from Karen Walker Jewellery, of which the supplier is the local distributor, had performed really well and the brand’s new marketing campaign featuring the hands of mature-age models was a talking point among visitors.
The stands of other long-time exhibitors such as Paterson Fine Jewellery, Pallion, Bolton Gems and Ice Australasia also appeared to attract a vast number of visitors.
In fact, Paterson Fine Jewellery chairman Ross Paterson said that although visitor numbers were lower than expected, the 2016 fair was one of the best he’d had in many years.
New kids on the block
The IJF played host to about 30 first-time exhibitors and one that received significant attention was US-based diamond jewellery manufacturer SK Diamonds.
“We are very happy with the results from this fair,” SK Diamonds operations manager Darshit Chokshi stated. “Saturday and Sunday were really busy but Monday morning has been a little slow, which is to be expected at trade fairs – the last day is normally slow”.
SK Diamonds exhibits at trade shows in the US, UK, Canada and Mexico, and when asked why the business decided to target Australia, Chokshi said: “We have a loyal Australian customer from JCK Las Vegas and so we thought it would work well.”
Graeme Eckert, of Allen Jewellers in Adelaide, believed SK Diamonds was a beneficial addition to the fair. “They were absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It’s a point of difference for our store in that it offers a different range than what we would normally choose to stock. It’s a 1-carat diamond – yes, that 1-carat diamond might not be absolutely the best diamond but it’s 1-carat and we have customers that just want a 1-carat regardless of other specifics.”
Hipp, local distributor of fashion watch ranges Oozoo Timepieces and Dukudu, was also a first-time exhibitor with a stand that appeared to be busy across the three days. Hipp managing director David Faraday said he was very pleased with his first attendance at the fair.
Meanwhile William MacMahon, managing director of men’s jewellery supplier The Russell Collection, was another exhibitor who said that while visitor numbers may have been less than expected, quality buyers were present.
Supporting the industry
In addition to the business transactions between suppliers and retailers, a number of activities aimed at educating and supporting the industry took place on the show floor.
Kicking off the three-day fair was a ‘Winning Breakfast’ hosted by Pallion. The event was held in recognition of the supplier’s subsidiary ABC Bullion, which was awarded a five-year contract in 2015 to produce the Melbourne Cup.
Those in attendance were given an up-close-and-personal view of the cup and had the chance to watch a short film explaining the processes involved in manufacturing the trophy, which comprised 1.65 kg of 18-carat gold and is valued at $175,000.
Speaking at the breakfast, Pallion CEO Andrew Cochineas said the appointment was significant because it helped to preserve the skills of the local jewellery and precious metals industries – the Melbourne Cup is mined, refined and manufactured in Australia.
The Jewellery Design and Manufacturing Championships (JDMC) was another initiative designed to celebrate the trade. Situated on the fair floor, competitors were required to produce jewellery pieces in a set timeframe. The championship generated much attention from visitors and more details including a list of winners can be found here.
Two apprentice jewellers and WorldSkills Australia competitors were also given a dedicated space to demonstrate their talents, while other activities such as the panel discussion Natural vs. Synthetic diamonds – the impact on our industry and the National Independent Retailer’s Conference were aimed at educating jewellers on various aspects of the industry to help improve business.
The last day of the IJF is typically quieter than the first two and although this was true for many exhibitors, Ken Abbott, managing director of Coeur de Lion local distributor Timesupply, said Monday trading was the “best” he could remember. One could also observe several people at the Najo stand 10 minutes prior to close on Monday.
While the 2016 IJF took place against a difficult retail backdrop it would appear as though the local industry isn’t one to give up and many exhibitors did much better than expected. The key message of the suppliers that had a successful trade fair was that they had invested in marketing and promotion leading up to the event.
This year could be considered the end of an era, given it marked the last time the IJF would be held at the temporary Sydney Exhibition Centre @ Glebe Island. It will move to the re-developed Darling Harbour venue in 2017.
There is also no ignoring the fact that two jewellery fairs, the IJF and the JAA Jewellery Tradeshow, are scheduled to run concurrently next year. Jeweller will provide further post-IJF coverage and announcements in the coming months.
Watch the making of the melbourne cup