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Salvador Dali: The Persistence of Memory
Salvador Dali: The Persistence of Memory
 









Time for a change at Jewellers Association

Australian business has undergone dramatic change over the past 5-10 years, but COLEBY NICHOLSON asks how relevant are industry associations in today’s business environment?

I don’t take too many long lunches these days, so when a colleague recently invited me to one, I accepted – not so much because he wanted to pay but because, being a Kiwi, he rarely opens his wallet! 

So I ordered up big time! Over quite a few drinks – he would only order New Zealand wines – we discussed how much business had changed over the past decade before moving onto the topic of the internet and social media. 

We noted how a person’s views on the importance of social media seem to be determined by their age. For the young, it’s an important part of their lives – some might say “overly important” – but it seems the older you are, the less likely you’ll be concerned about it. 

As our conversation continued, my friend raised a question: Are industry associations relevant anymore and do we even need them? 

At first I thought he was speaking tongue-in-cheek but the more we discussed it, the more I began to see his perspective. He suggested that one of the traditional roles of an industry association is to encourage people to communicate about important issues, and that social media now facilitates this far more effectively and easier than ever before. 

Yes, an industry association has many other roles also, but I'll admit that this point got me thinking long and hard about his original question. 

Dramatic change
Consider for yourself how much the Australian jewellery industry has changed in the past 10, or even five, years. If you’re a retailer or a supplier, think about how much your own business has changed in that time also.

For example, Pandora didn’t exist in Australia a decade ago, and yet it changed the entire industry in just a few short years. Branded jewellery was also almost non-existent 10 years back, and how much gold jewellery do you sell now compared to a decade ago?

For many readers the industry has probably changed so much that it’s now almost unrecognisable. Hell, the industry has changed so much for local jewellery manufacturers that most, unfortunately, no longer exist! 

The business world, and the Australian jewellery industry specifically, have undergone enormous change over the past five years, let alone 10, but how much has the Jeweller’s Association of Australia (JAA) changed over the same time? 

Thinking back to my friend’s question, I believe industry associations are still needed but only if they remain relevant. While we can debate the meaning of “relevance”, one vital part of being relevant is changing with the times. 

Has the JAA changed with the times? Do the declining JAA membership figures of the past few years indicate a lack of “relevance”? 

The JAA will argue that declining membership is only a reflection of the current economic climate but I would argue that the JAA is inept at communicating to retailers and suppliers the benefits of membership to Australia’s only jewellery industry association. 

Too large, too old and too male
There is much wrong with the management of our, so-called, “peak industry body”. Take the board of directors for example. To me, the board is too large, too old and too male (all bar one). 

Okay, before you fall off your chair, allow me to explain. 

Much has been written about the optimal size of a board and how it affects its operation and efficiency. Surely, with 12 directors, the JAA board is too large. 

To put it in perspective, 12 directors (and it was 13) equates to approximately one director for every 70 JAA members. That’s absurd!

I think the JAA board is also too “old”. The industry begrudges the lack of young people coming through the ranks and yet its own representative body reflects the exact opposite of what it seeks to change. 

If youth is needed, then it is needed at all levels, which includes the board. 

Now here’s the “doozy”. It should not surprise you to know that I abhor political correctness, and that I don’t support positive discrimination as a matter of principle but surely an industry with a customer base comprising almost entirely of women should have more than one female director, right? 

To have just one woman representing the entire jewellery industry, let alone indirectly representing millions of female “customers”, is crazy and begs the question, “Why?” 

Does the industry lack capable women? I hardly think so given that there are plenty of female-operated jewellery businesses in this country. 

Arguably, some are as successful, if not more successful, than those of some of the JAA’s male board members over the past 5-10 years. And many of the highly successful jewellery suppliers over the past five years have been female-operated.

Yet for more than six years there has been only one female board member! 

Time for a re-think?
Consider all of the above and ask if these attributes are the hallmarks of a progressive industry association, one that changes with the times, or has the time arrived for a re-think? 

I think it’s the latter. Indeed, over the past few years a number of people have suggested that there is a need for a break-away association, one that better reflects the current industry. Or, more importantly, one that is in tune with where the industry is headed rather than where it has been

I think that any move to create a new jewellery industry association would be a tragedy and would simply create division, not unlike in New Zealand where three industry associations exist in that small market.

Regardless, I believe it’s time for a complete re-think of the JAA and that “re-think” should be conducted independently of its own board. 

That is, jewellery and the jewellery industry will always be relevant to consumers, but that doesn't mean that the JAA will remain relevant (and important) to the jewellery industry. 

Perhaps it’s ironic that the very first thing you read about the JAA on its website is, “Established in 1931, the JAA …”, so maybe you understand why my friend’s question wasn’t a throw-away line after all, and why our long lunch was most beneficial.

And although I didn’t say so … I must admit the New Zealand chardonnay was excellent, but don't tell my Kiwi friend!

Editor’s Note: Although Jeweller is the official publication of the Jeweller’s Association of Australia (JAA), the magazine is published independently of the JAA and all views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the JAA. 

Login and have "Your Say"

Plugging the hole 
The JAA has plugged the hole from falling member numbers with memberships from buying group members. The problem with this is that most of these buying group members are not jewellers - they are simply jewellery retailers. 

This means that the JAA is really an association made up of mostly jewellery retailers - not jewellers - which I find incredibly misleading. Just imagine the outrage if the Australia Medical Association was made up pharmacists and drug companies!

Posted by Nikhil Jogia on August 27, 2013 17:52

  * * *

JAA
I think the JAA is a good medium between businesses and clients if there are problems. They have a good system of in-house back up and advice. I agree that they need to move with the times.

I do think that they focus their interests on 'big' business though and don't give us small members much consideration. We are an important group in the industry and they should not just focus on the buying groups.

Posted by Michel Frost on August 28, 2013 12:08

  * * *

A solution, not a separation
Hi Coleby - 
I found your article very interesting.

I joined the industry (where I felt) there are huge improvements to be made: Jewellery Insurance Claims. 
This was my vision: People with jewellery qualifications and knowledge who will not benefit from the sale, providing advice for insurance claims.

I saw the JAA was keen to support younger members and drive innovation. I have made many suggestions to assist the industry (with no cost to the JAA), but for some reason they never respond.

Despite this - I think it is important to NOT start a second association. The industry needs leadership that listens and responds, not a totalitarian dictatorship. If people are unhappy with the JAA - make a suggestion on how to improve. I honestly think the JAA is trying to work in the best interest of the jewellery industry, but perhaps their communication lines for some members are not working.

We need a solution, not a separation.

Posted by 
Matthew McHutchison
 on September 24, 2013 4:33

Editor’s Note:
Dear Matthew - 
Unfortunately, you are not an orphan; the JAA’s lack of communication is a consistent complaint we receive. And interestingly, since my story was published, two separate people have told me about their experiences in attempting to join the JAA. One reader points out that even though membership is declining, she is still waiting for a reply after emailing the JAA many months ago. 

That aside, I completely agree that a split is something to be avoided, and that the industry “needs a solution, not separation”. 

However, as one industry “leader” said, “If there was ever a time we needed a strong industry association, it’s now, but the leopard isn’t going to change its spots. We don’t need a re-think [about the JAA] we need a re-start. We need new blood!”

Unfortunately, he’s not an orphan either! 

I might add that I did receive one critical response to my article – though I think the writer misunderstood some of my points – but when I suggested publishing her reply, she (a retailer) declined. 

One of her complaints was that my articles were “counterproductive and discouraging”, saying that my role should be “to talk the industry up”. 

I respectively replied that it’s not the role of the media to talk anything up, or down, it is our role to report and inform, adding that a problem never goes away by pretending it’s not there. Perhaps we have pretended for too long that all is well, and as I am writing this reply I have literally just received another email (700 words) from a jewellery retailer, which makes for sober reading. 

The email is detailed and somewhat heart-wrenching in places as he describes his current difficulties. He writes, “I need to be re-invented as a person. Just as the industry needs re-invention.”

Therefore, I stand by my assertion that the problem will not go away by ignoring it. 

Coleby Nicholson - Editor

  * * *

Interesting about JAA
I used to be a JAA member when I first opened my store 12 years ago and recall it wasn’t easy to join and whenever we needed assistance as a small owner operated business it was unusual to even receive a response.

I put up with the treatment for 3 years and cancelled, now as a Nationwide member I feel more like being in a family club should have joined them years ago.

Posted by Tony Peters on September 25, 2013 15:27





_____________________

















Your Say

Plugging the hole
The JAA has plugged the hole from falling member numbers with memberships from buying group members. The problem with this is that most of these buying group members are not jewellers - they are simply jewellery retailers. This means that the the JAA is really an association made up of mostly jewellery retailers - not jewellers - which I find incredibly misleading. Just imagine the outrage if the Australia Medical Association was made up pharmacists and drug companies!
posted by Nikhil Jogia on August 27, 2013 17:52

JAA
I think the JAA is a good medium between businesses and clients if there are problems. They have a good system of in-house back up and advice. I agree that they need to move with the times.

I do think that they focus their interests on 'big' business though and don't give us small members much consideration. We are an important group in the industry and they should not just focus on the buying groups.
posted by Michel Frost on August 28, 2013 12:08

A solution, not a separation
Hi Coleby - I found your article very interesting.

I joined the industry (where I felt) there are huge improvements to be made: Jewellery Insurance Claims. This was my vision: People with jewellery qualifications and knowledge who will not benefit from the sale, providing advice for insurance claims.

I saw the JAA was keen to support younger members and drive innovation. I have made many suggestions to assist the industry (with no cost to the JAA), but for some reason they never respond.

Despite this - I think it is important to NOT start a second association. The industry needs leadership that listens and responds, not a totalitarian dictatorship. If people are unhappy with the JAA - make a suggestion on how to improve. I honestly think the JAA is trying to work in the best interest of the jewellery industry, but perhaps their communication lines for some members are not working.

We need a solution, not a separation.
Matthew McHutchison.

Editor’s Note:
Dear Matthew - Unfortunately, you are not an orphan; the JAA’s lack of communication is a consistent complaint we receive. And interestingly, since my story was published, two separate people have told me about their experiences in attempting to join the JAA. One reader points out that even though membership is declining, she is still waiting for a reply after emailing the JAA many months ago.

That aside, I completely agree that a split is something to be avoided, and that the industry “needs a solution, not separation”.

However, as one industry “leader” said, “If there was ever a time we needed a strong industry association, it’s now, but the leopard isn’t going to change its spots. We don’t need a re-think [about the JAA] we need a re-start. We need new blood!”

Unfortunately, he’s not an orphan either!

I might add that I did receive one critical response to my article – though I think the writer misunderstood some of my points – but when I suggested publishing her reply, she (a retailer) declined.

One of her complaints was that my articles were “counterproductive and discouraging”, saying that my role should be “to talk the industry up”.

I respectively replied that it’s not the role of the media to talk anything up, or down, it is our role to report and inform, adding that a problem never goes away by pretending it’s not there. Perhaps we have pretended for too long that all is well, and as I am writing this reply I have literally just received another email (700 words) from a jewellery retailer, which makes for sober reading.

The email is detailed and somewhat heart-wrenching in places as he describes his current difficulties. He writes, “I need to be re-invented as a person. Just as the industry needs re-invention.”

Therefore, I stand by my assertion that the problem will not go away by ignoring it.

Coleby Nicholson - Editor
posted by Matthew McHutchison on September 24, 2013 16:33

Interesting about JAA
I used to be a JAA member when I first opened my store 12 years ago and recall it wasn’t easy to join and whenever we needed assistance as a small owner operated business it was unusual to even receive a response.

I put up with the treatment for 3 years and cancelled, now as a Nationwide member I feel more like being in a family club should have joined them years ago.
posted by Tony Peters on September 25, 2013 15:27


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