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Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (845 Articles), GOLD JEWELLERY (610 Articles), PEARL JEWELLERY (300 Articles)


Making the most of it

Less buyers at this year's Vicenza Charm didn't diminish the spirits of organisers, who insist the fair provides a valuable service for the industry. COLEBY NICHOLSON attended.

The strain of the recent global financial crisis upon Italy's gold sector was never more firmly evident than at Charm, Fiera di Vicenza's second annual Vicenza trade fair. Charm faced enormous difficulties before it even opened on May 16, with official Italian statistics showing a decline in domestic market revenues of 39 per cent, and a 24 per cent slide in value terms (17 per cent in quality terms) of the most recent exports figures.

The impact of the global financial crisis has also had a direct impact on fair numbers with just 1,300 exhibitors displaying their product, a whopping decline of 20 per cent on the same fair last year.

Official visitor numbers were not available at the time of reporting, but it was apparent that these would also be lower that previous years. To make things worse, many exhibitors opted against presenting new products or ranges. Nevertheless, organisers were in an optimistic, defiant mood throughout the five-day event.

"1,300 companies and entrepreneurs are taking part in this edition of Vicenza Charm to face up to the market, to struggle and compete and to find, even during a crisis, opportunities for a renaissance," said Dino Menarin, Fiera di Vicenza president, in his opening address.

This view was echoed by Fiera di Vicenza chief operating officer, Domenico Girardi, who added, "Many of our customers have decided to invest a lot of money in the fair. The crisis has changed the market. Some companies will not be here because they are not able to answer the crisis.

Girardi believed that, although many companies were suffering as a consequence of the financial crisis, there were many others that saw opportunities in the difficult times.

This is certainly true of Australian company Autore, the pearl company that took a prominent stand in the B1 Hall, which is set aside for up-market brands. It was Autore's first time at Vicenza and not only did it decide to expand its international presence during an economic downturn, it did so with a bang.

"Autore is very fortunate to be offered this prime space, which a long-term exhibitor decided to forego, opening the way for us to have an effective presence at Vicenza," said Autore's marketing and communications manager, Penny Arrow.

It is often difficult for international brands, or companies that aspire to have far greater international presence, to book appropriate floor space at the major international events. Not only is there usually a long waiting list, but also quality exhibitors will not book space that's tucked away in corners. They would prefer to wait until premium exhibition space becomes available, meaning that many companies have chosen to sit out in recent years while waiting for a company to give-up its location.

Autore is one company actively taking advantage of the crisis affecting so many of its competitors.

"Since exhibiting at Baselworld, Autore has been waiting to secure the best location possible at Vicenza and an example of a favourable opportunity arising from tough economic times," Arrow explained. "Vicenza has always been the most important trade fair for Europe in terms of pearl jewellery. Given the rise of new markets in proximity to Western Europe, such as Russia, Ukraine and the Middle East, the Vicenza fair provides us with an excellent opportunity to meet with existing clients in the region as well as showcasing our South Sea pearl jewellery collections to new clients visiting Vicenza."

Arrow explains that the company has had a presence at Baselworld for the past three years that has "continued to bring overwhelming response from buyers and media alike", adding that Autore "launched new collections for the year in March."

Such a move by the company seems a large gamble, given the dire state of global economies and the fact that Vicenza commenced only a few weeks after Basel. But Arrow is adamant the strategy has worked, agreeing that the decision to take prominent space at Vicenza was a big decision but explaining that all major decisions taken in this economic climate are done so with a great deal of planning and strategy.

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"Because Vicenza Charm takes place just weeks after Baselworld, it gave us the opportunity to spend more time with clients, to meet new clients we may have missed in Basel, and to give more time to media from all over Europe and neighbouring regions," she said.

"In tougher times, every client counts, and having more time in Vicenza following our jewellery launch at Baselworld has proved valuable to a relatively new brand such as ours," Arrow added.

From an organisational view, Girardi saw Charm as a way for Vicenza to stamp itself as one of the four major international fairs, or at least locations - a way to create a unique point of difference with Vicenza pushing its Made in Italy "marque".

"Vicenza aims to be one of the four major international jewellery fairs with particular attention and specific specialisations in the manufacturing for top of the range products. There is Basel, and Las Vegas will be there for specifically for the American market, and Hong Kong will serve Asia. Vicenza and Italy will be known as top production especially with gold and where style and design are important," Girardi said.

Arrow agreed with Girardi about Vicenza's position in the world and saw Basel and Vicenza filling different needs: "Basel has very strong international representation as the number-one fair for watches and incorporates pearls and pearl jewellery. Vicenza is exclusively jewellery. Basel takes place once a year whereas Vicenza is held three times a year; in January (first jewellery trade fair of the calendar year), May, (follow up to Basel) and September (in preparation for the Christmas selling season). Most major brands value a presence at both Basel and Vicenza."

Asked at a press conference whether there was still a need for three Vicenza fairs, Girardi answered that there was, because each fair was different, adding that the fairs were not run for the benefit of the city of Vicenza but because of an industry need.

"Customers these days do not tend to buy for the whole year, they buy in shorter time frames and therefore three fairs are still needed."

A post-fair report issued by the organisers stated, "It will be the individual exhibitors who will assess the effectiveness of their presence at the (Vicenza) fair: despite the difficulties reported by many companies there were also positive signals from some others, signals which indicate that the path to follow to overcome the crisis is that of quality and creativity combined with proactive marketing policies, capable of intercepting new consumption trends and especially new markets.

"Despite the particularly delicate economic situation, companies such as Autore, Roberto Coin, Zydo, Ziio, Lorenzo Ungari, Chiampesan, Palmiero, Mc Gemas, Mineral Gemme di Antonucci, Picchiotti and various others showed that they could manage the change in a constructive manner," the statement added.

Even given the low numbers at the fair, Arrow said Vicenza exceeded her expectations: "It was a relatively quiet fair, yet we achieved excellent results and continued to receive an amazing response from visiting media

and guests," she said. "Some attendees at Vicenza visited us from hearing about our presence in Basel, and Autore's stand was easy to locate in the prestigious B1 pavilion. Italian jewellery companies are famed for leading the world in design; it was a great surprise to see those who did not know our brand discover that we were an Australian-based jewellery company."

Arrow agreed that the path to success, at least in Europe, is quality: "Our success in tough times lies in outstanding pearl jewellery design."

Coleby Nicholson attended Vicenza Charm courtesy of fair organisers. The next Vicenza fair - Choice - will be held from September 12-16, 2009.

Coleby Nicholson

Managing Editor • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson is publisher and managing editor of Jeweller magazine. 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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