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Inaugural Autumn Jewellery Fair in Melbourne
Inaugural Autumn Jewellery Fair in Melbourne
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Melbourne jewellery fair a royal event to remember

The big wedding wasn't the only regal occasion of this past weekend, as the Royal Exhibition Building played host to the inaugural Melbourne Jewellery Fair. Following the event’s success, Australia is set for three fairs again next year.

By launching an additional trade fair on the calendar – in between the Brisbane fair in March and the Sydney fair in August – jewellery retailers in the southern states were given the opportunity to access quality exhibits without the need to travel to interstate events.

Expertise Events managing director Gary Fitz-Roy was happy that this objective had been met and said the fair had matched his expectations – so much so that the 2012 fair dates have already been set.

Next year will again see Australia staging three fairs; the Autumn Jewellery Fair from March 4 to 5 in Melbourne, the Brisbane fair from March 25 to 26 and the Sydney fair from September 2 to 4, a few days later than this year’s fair which will take place from August 28 to 30.

“Launching a new fair is always difficult, and while Melbourne achieved what we had hoped, it was all about establishing a foundation,” Fitz-Roy said.

“We delivered what we came here to do and we are quite happy with the quality, rather than quantity of visitors. While I would have liked visitor numbers to be slightly higher, there is no doubt that there’s a need for a jewellery fair in the Southern states,” he added.

For some of this year’s Melbourne Fair exhibitors, there was disappointment in the number of visitors. Overall, however, the fair distinguished itself courtesy of the magnificence of its surrounds, and the laidback, congenial atmosphere that was evident amongst exhibitors and retailers alike.

Retailer Alice Sarian who owns Chelsea Jewellery in Melbourne said she preferred the Melbourne fair to Sydney. “Everyone is more friendly,” she said.

Ellani Collections director Paul Hicks expressed a similar opinion. “I find this fair to be quite well supported, it is held in a beautiful venue and there is a good atmosphere which is what a lot of retailers have commented on.”

Some exhibitors even preferred Melbourne to Sydney.

Fashion jewellery distributor Carat*’s operation manager Bianca Bloomfiel said the boutique Melbourne fair was more “positive and personal than Sydney” while Queensland-based jewellery designer Renee Blackwell said the ambience in Melbourne was better.

For some exhibitors business was particularly sluggish on Saturday - the fair’s opening day. Many exhibitors attributed the shortage of visitors on day one to the fact that many retailers operated their businesses on Saturday.

Pendants Australia owner Duncan Michealis said for him, the fair was “fairly quiet” and Alcay Sevinc-Martin, co-owner of Zahir Jewellery echoed his views, adding “[t]he silver prices are high and the market is very slow so we have not been doing well,” she said.

Conversely, many exhibitors were delighted with their sales over the weekend.

Helen Hagerty, operations director of Tuskc
Helen Hagerty, operations director of Tuskc

Industry big gun Pandora reported strong sales on both days. Business development manager Ali Hoile said she was getting a lot of business from retailers stocking last-minute Mother’s Day offerings.

“We were busy. We’ve had a steady flow of business from retailers coming as far as Western Australia and South Australia with a few local retailers as well,” Hoile said.

Suppliers who held a significant point of difference to other exhibitors also did well.

Urban jewellery supplier Tuskc was inundated with buyers on both days. Operations director Helen Hagerty said Tuskc’s jewellery was still a novelty amongst retailers.

Jewel Trail owner Amritaa Sekhon said her one-off gem set pieces attracted many new buyers, despite it being Jewel Trail’s first jewellery fair.

“We have participated in many Reed gift fairs but this was our first jewellery one. I have found our jewellery fills a gap in the market for affordable designer pieces,” Sekhon said.

Jewellery suppliers were not the only ones reporting positive sales. Nicolette Jones of Ring Box Company said the point-of-sale wooden handcrafted boxes that she launched at Melbourne performed well.

“Business has been fantastic. We have attracted all new customers. We are expanding into a new channel of customers who include retailers that want handmade packaging to go with their handmade product,” Jones said.

Duraflex managing director Phil Edwards said Spinning Jewelry had garnered fantastic responses, but – reminding us all that sales aren’t the only means to a successful trade fair – emphasised that for Duraflex, the Melbourne fair was also a marketing exercise.

“We had the chance to spend quality time with our existing stockists and forge better working relationships,” Edwards said.

The fair was not so kind to some first-time exhibitors who had few existing stockists prior to the fair. Simply European managing director Tony Busuttil said it was hard to attract retailers’ attention because they were there looking to meet with their existing suppliers.

“I think it would be better to segregate the exhibitors into sections because someone who is looking at pearls next to us, for instance, won’t want silver jewellery,” he suggested. “We’ve had a few interested parties but not as many as we would have liked.”

Kiwi jewellery designer Julie Eynon – who made her first foray into the Australian market at the Melbourne fair – experienced a similarly hard time.

“We’ve had a few positive responses but it has been fairly quiet. People who came to us only came because they’d heard of us,” Eynon said.

But, as Fitz-Roy points out, “all shows have to start somewhere”. He also pointed out that when the Sydney jewellery fair was first launched 20 years ago, it had fewer exhibitors and fewer visitors than Melbourne did this year.

Chris Worth of Worth & Douglas
Chris Worth of Worth & Douglas

As with any first time event, there are lessons to be taken from the Melbourne fair. Attendee numbers will certainly have a bearing on how many of this year’s exhibitors choose to return in 2012. For some, the improved footfall on the second day – Sunday – gives hope that the Melbourne fair does have a place in the calendar.

Chris Worth, the name behind jewellery manufacturer Worth & Douglas said, “Today [Sunday] has been a lot busier. I’d come back next year.”

Emma Brown from Missie von Lubbe said she would not have contemplated reappearing at the Melbourne fair next year if sales were as they were on the first day, but said day two was another story.

“Today [Sunday] has been good and a lot better than yesterday. Our Lotus range has done very well and we’ve attracted a mix of new and existing stockists,” she said.

Fitz-Roy confirmed that both the Melbourne and Brisbane fairs would switch to a Sunday-Monday format in 2012 to replace this year’s  Saturday-Sunday opening.

“We were restricted in date availability this year for the venue (Royal Exhibitions Building) and because of date changes to some of the major overseas fairs in 2012, including Hong Kong being shifted to middle of February next year, both of our events are scheduled for after Hong Kong and before Bangkok and Basel,” Fitz-Roy explained. 

He also stressed that both the Brisbane and Melbourne events will remain low-key events that follow a simple format, compared to the Sydney equivalent.

“What many people forget is that the industry has changed dramatically over the last few years,” Fitz-Roy explained. “Jewellery suppliers have less and less sales reps out on the road these days; it’s more important to have a cost-effective trade show where buyers effectively visit the supplier. Suppliers rarely compare the cost of a sales rep visiting stores to the number [of customers] they can see at a trade show in a day.”

Summarising this year’s Melbourne Fair, Fitz-Roy said that in addition to being satisfied with attendance figures - given that it was the fair’s first year - he was also pleasantly surprised that a number of buyers came from Western Australia and New Zealand.

Looking ahead, Fitz-Roy added “[We] will concentrate harder on Tassie next year as well, so that retailers see that we are committed to an annual event for southern retailers, and that it was not a one-off.”

To view more pictures of the fair, visit our Facebook page at

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