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How many fairs is too many? Well as it goes, 'Advance Australia Fair(s)...'
How many fairs is too many? Well as it goes, 'Advance Australia Fair(s)...'
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How many jewellery fairs is too many?

How many jewellery fairs does Australia need? How about 6? Or maybe 5! And when should they be scheduled? COLEBY NICHOLSON explores the issues with Mr Market. 
It’s jewellery trade fair season again and I don’t just mean Australia. The first three months of the year see a flurry of major international events (Hong Kong, Bangkok, Basel) and also two Australian fairs.

With the Melbourne fair at the beginning of March followed by the Brisbane fair only a few weeks later at the end of March, the ‘debate’ about whether Australia needs three jewellery fairs has started once again.

Most people would agree that we need a second trade fair after Sydney but some say a third fair is one too many. Mind you, I remember when the Brisbane fair began many pundits said there was no need for a second fair. They were wrong.

These days the debate is about whether there should be a third fair or whether Brisbane and Melbourne should alternate each year. I think the market has a way of working these things out, but I must say I often hear a lot of irrational and illogical comments surrounding the issue.

It should be remembered that trade fairs are not run for exhibitors (sellers) they’re run for visitors (buyers).

I recently had an absurd conversation with a supplier who believes that three fairs is one too many. Fine, you might say, he’s entitled to his opinion, but for some strange reason he was extremely angry about the matter. 

He couldn’t understand why the Melbourne fair was started last year so I proffered one simple explanation: Victoria is Australia’s second largest jewellery market.

He agreed that the Brisbane fair had become an important industry event and he also remembered when many people said there was no need for a second jewellery fair but he couldn’t explain why he was vehement in his position: the Melbourne fair should not continue.

So I asked, “What harm is it doing?” The only answer he could offer was that it was too costly for suppliers to attend all three fairs, to which I stated the bleeding obvious: “Don’t exhibit at Melbourne, no one forces you to exhibit.”

He countered that point by saying, “But my competitors might be at the Melbourne fair.”

The conversation didn’t get any more sensible and, strangely, he remained angry. However, you can imagine my complete surprise when I later discovered that his company didn’t even exhibit at Brisbane.

Coleby Nicholson
Coleby Nicholson

So here I was debating someone who was angry about three fairs when he had only ever exhibited at one!

I don’t know whether the Melbourne fair will become a permanent fixture on the industry calendar, albeit as a low-cost event, or whether Brisbane and Melbourne alternate each year. The other option is that Melbourne becomes the secondary fair and Brisbane becomes the ‘third’ fair.

What I do know however is that ultimately it’s the buyers (retailers) who decide a fair’s success not the sellers (exhibitors). 

Mr Market has taught me many things, most importantly sellers always follow the buyers not vice versa. 

Perhaps that truism is the reason why the announcement late last year by Jewellery World publisher, John Abolins, that he was starting a second Sydney trade fair - Jewellery World Show - was doomed to fail.

Why Abolin’s believed Sydney needed a second jewellery fair, one week before the JAA’s official jewellery fair, was astounding in itself, but given that it came after a previous failed attempt in 2007 is even more astonishing!

Sure, the Jewellery World Show promotional material showed exhibitor space for over 300 exhibitors (more than the Sydney JAA fair) but the suppliers wouldn’t have a bar of it – they didn’t believe the buyers would attend.

Interestingly, after an extensive marketing campaign for his new fair, including devoting a self-promotional, three page story in Jewellery World magazine (and still onlineexplaining why the industry needed a fourth jewellery fair, and two Sydney fairs one week apart, the only explanation about its failure was this single line in the magazine’s latest editorial – “PS: The Jewellery World Show has been postponed indefinitely.”

Sellers follow buyers not vice versa. 

Do we need three jewellery fairs and/or should there be a review of their timing? 

I don't know, but I'll leave that to Mr Market to decide, he's much smarter than me!

Coleby Nicholson

Former managing editor • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson was publisher and managing editor of Jeweller magazine for over 12 years. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than a decade and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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