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Missie von Lubbe picked up a trophy for best small stand
Missie von Lubbe picked up a trophy for best small stand

Better than expected Brisbane fair

Business was better than expected for the majority of exhibitors at last weekend’s JAA Jewellery Fair in Brisbane, although many admitted they had lowered their expectations as Queensland continues to reel from recent natural disasters.

Prior to the fair many had been worried that the mood at the show would be affected by the after-effects of the January floods. Encouragingly, the atmosphere at the event was cautiously upbeat – although it appeared the wider consumer mood may have taken a hit.

Local jeweller Samantha Anderson, who runs a contemporary jewellery store in Fortitude Valley, admitted, “The mood [of consumers] is quite sombre; I think people almost feel bad to spend, like it’s a bit frivolous when some people have lost everything and are starting from scratch.”

However, many suppliers reported that their stockists had, on the whole, been optimistic. Jo Tory, founder of sterling silver brand Najo, said she was pleasantly surprised about trade at the fair. “It’s tough, it’s slow, but there’s still a positive feeling here,” she told Jeweller.

“Everybody has said we’ve been through tough times before – this is just one of them – and it’s going to start moving again. It’s not stopping people needing to restock or buying. It’s optimistic and I’m really happy I’m here.”

Similarly, Charles Bosse, national sales manager at Legacy New York, said, “Anyone that’s here is very optimistic about the future – they’re looking for something new.”

He said that the fair had been good for Legacy, but like many others, his main complaint was the number of people coming through the doors. This was the first time the brand had attended the Brisbane fair, after launching in Australia last year.

“In general there just hasn’t been the volume. I don’t know if it’s the floods or the economy or just the Brisbane fair,” he said.

Although many exhibitors said retailers seemed surprisingly upbeat, John Papaioannou from Time Essentials, which distributes premium watch brands including Bulova, Police and Jag, suggested that retailers who are not optimistic during this difficult period were less likely to attend the event in the first place.

“The stockists that we’ve seen are fine, and that’s what you find – the people who come are usually the ones who are looking for opportunities and want to work with you.”

Papaioannou also said less people had attended the show than he had expected. “So maybe that tells me that there’s not as many out there who are having a good time? I don’t know,” he said. However, he added that the quality of business had actually been better than expected.

“On the whole we’ve pretty much achieved our objectives, it just felt like it was a lot more work in getting there,” he explained.

Lower than expected visitor numbers was certainly the biggest complaint at the fair.

Hetvan Desai from diamond supplier World Shiner had mixed feelings about the show. “It’s not as good as last year,” he admitted. However, he added, “It’s not disappointing either, but we would have expected more people to come.”

“It looks like problems in Queensland have affected things,” Desai added. The fact that it was held just one week after the major Hong Kong jewellery show, which attracts several hundred Australians each year, was put forward as another possible reason for the fair being lacklustre for the company.

Georgini and Pandora – both of whom were located at the back of the exhibition hall – were both quieter than in previous years. Georgini founder Gina Kougias said, “There’s no turnout. It’s ridiculous.” The sterling silver brand revealed it has just signed up to participate in UK trade fair International Jewellery London (IJL) in September and will now focus its efforts in that direction.

Kougias said, “We had the best February on record. But you see it’s not reflected here. We start selling our packs in February, so most of our customers are done [by now], but regardless the numbers are not here anyway, which is very disappointing.”

Despite trepidation about the state of the local market prior to the show, retailers and suppliers alike reported that Queensland’s stores had got back on their feet quicker than onlookers might have expected.

Darren Roberts of Cudworth Enterprises, which launched German men’s jewellery brand Cai at the fair, said, “You wouldn’t really know it had happened. The worst thing that affected [stockists] in the city is that no one came in to Brisbane city for a week, so they lost a week’s trade.

That’s a lot to lose. You’ve still got to pay your rent and everything else,” he said. However, he added, “No one’s really lost their store.”

Roberts admitted that he had expected the fair to be worse than it was, because of recent events. “On Saturday the fair was constant – it surprised us,” he said, reporting that Cudworth’s new range had been well received.
Other suppliers believed the subdued mood manifested itself through smaller orders or more conservative buying lists.

Morellato, which intended to use the fair to build its Queensland stockist base, found the event to be mixed. However, sales and marketing manager Mark McNeil believed that was partly to do with the time of year.

“I think they’re here this time of year to have a look but not necessarily to purchase,” he said. “You’re leading into winter trade, so it’s not a strong retail time of year. I think people are doing their research now.”

Like everyone else though, McNeil’s main complaint was the lack of attendance. “I believe it was a lot busier visitor numbers last year. We were in a similar location last year so had a lot of people filtering through. I just don’t think we’ve got the same visitors coming through the door [this time].”

Gary Fitz-Roy, managing director of Expertise Events, which organises the show, said that visitor numbers were not significantly lower than last year. “My understanding is that it’s pretty close to last year – I wouldn’t say it was largely down. If it’s down you’re talking a couple of per cent.”

He added, “In our straw poll three out of four [exhibitors] said they wrote better business than the previous year and were very happy. It always comes down to two things: the product and how they work their stands.

“I think the reality is that Queensland was a lot better than anticipated after the floods.”

Best stands: ‘attitude will get you everywhere’
This year Expertise resurrected its awards for best stand of the trade fair. House of Jewellery won the prize for best big stand while Missie von Lubbe picked up a trophy for best small stand.  

Jason Berman, who oversaw the event this year, said, “We’ve brought the awards back to the event to encourage exhibitors to focus on the art of exhibiting. A great stand is more than just its initial presentation.”

Bergman said that, to some extent, having a well presented stand was a given – rather, attitude is what sets apart the best stands. He praised House of Jewellery for the level of interaction evident on its stand.

“It’s all about demonstrating; it’s very interacting. You’ve also got a team that’s very knowledgeable about their products, they’re all in their uniforms so you know exactly who is who on the stand, they’re always on their feet, they aren’t having lunch or anything like that.”

Similarly, with Missie von Lubbe, he said, “It was a lot about the attitude, we were watching covertly from the sidelines. They had two members of staff, constantly working their clientele (even though director Suzanne Sundin had almost completely lost her voice).”

“You can do big things with a small stand,” he concluded.

Expertise Events

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