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Sydney jewellery fair shines bright

The promise of more exhibitors, products and activities in the lead-up to the IJF appears to have paved the way for a well-attended event and positive sentiments regarding the trading period ahead. EMILY MOBBS reports.

The 2015 Sydney International Jewellery Fair (IJF), which was held across three days at the temporary Sydney Exhibition Centre @ Glebe Island venue for the second year running, concluded on Monday, August 31 with an overall sense of optimism.

This was something that came as a surprise to some exhibitors who had expressed concern over the current buying attitudes of retailers, particularly given the international share markets had taken a hit one week prior.

Concerns that moving the opening day from the traditional Sunday to Saturday would negatively impact visitor numbers also proved to be unfounded.

Fabuleux Vous
Fabuleux Vous
Stones & Silver
Stones & Silver

As Gary Fitz-Roy, managing director of IJF organiser Expertise Events, explained, there was a steady stream of buyers across the first two days of the fair – as opposed to the extremely busy opening day of previous years that would then trickle off on the second and third day.

“I think the reality is that rather than having an opening day on Sunday that was, if anything, too busy, a Saturday means that the crowd is spread across the two days,” he said. “So Saturday, for example would have been stronger than a traditional Monday, and today [Sunday] is reasonably strong again, meaning you now have two quite strong days.”

The concept, which was trialled several years ago, was supported by most exhibitors that spoke with Jeweller and Fitz-Roy has confirmed next year’s event will also begin on Saturday.

As is often the case, attendance numbers on the final day appeared lower than the first two days; however, those present on the Monday were serious buyers, with many seeking to avoid the weekend crowds.

Increased attendance

Figures released by Expertise Events showed visitor numbers were slightly up on the 2014 event, with 21 per cent being first-time attendees and 31 per cent having not visited for a number of years.

“Last year was the first time in a few years that we had a little lift. There’s
an overall positive vibe that I think has been lacking in the last few years. I think that people realise that where we [the economy] are now is the ‘new normal’ and whether that be good, bad or indifferent, it’s a realistic platform to build from.

“I would say that the exhibitors who had new products, invited and told customers what they had and who ‘worked the show’ went well. Gone are the days where exhibitors should just expect to be given orders,” he added.

The stands of larger suppliers such as Sams Group Australia and Duraflex Group Australia, which carries high-profile brands Thomas Sabo and Nikki Lissoni, seemed to attract a vast number of visitors, as did Pallion, which was awarded best large stand by Expertise Events.

Bolt International, local distributor for Ice-Watch and Lola and Grace, also generated buzz with its new season collections.

Bolt International managing director Larry Porter said the latest ranges had been well received and he was particularly excited to launch another stand-alone watch brand called Henry London.

Disney Couture managing director Michael Tran said he had no complaints regarding trade at the fair. Visitors couldn’t miss the six-foot Star Wars Stormtrooper figure stationed at the supplier’s booth, which retailers could stand beside for a photo.

Disney Couture
Disney Couture
Jesper Nielsen
Jesper Nielsen

The statue acted as a promotion for the supplier’s upcoming Star Wars range and was said to have sparked much intrigue.

Tran also expressed excitement about winning the award for best small stand which, in addition to featuring the Stormtrooper, centred on his team’s interpretation of the Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter tea party.

Buyers in attendance had the opportunity to meet with more than 50 first-time exhibitors too.

Danish brand Endless Jewelry was arguably the most high-profile newcomer. Peter Jakobsen, director of Endless local distributor Nordic Jewellery, said he found the fair to be beneficial as it provided the ability to meet with existing and potential retail stockists face-to-face.

Endless founder Jesper Nielsen was also present for the three days, making a daily presentation – which appeared to draw an impressive crowd – about his business and experience regarding the development of a ‘big’ brand.

Jenny Miller, founder and CEO of Miglio Designer Jewellery, and Julie-Anne Bosworth, sales and marketing director of local distributor Abrazi Australia, were two other first-time exhibitors who said they had received positive feedback and would leave the fair with a greater understanding of local market demands.

Swing to high end

Jewellery suppliers falling within the branded and fashion jewellery categories weren’t the only exhibitors that received attention from buyers.

Several exhibitors specialising in loose diamonds and coloured gemstones as well as finished jewellery were busy throughout the show, indicating a demand for higher-priced items.

Jim Lehman, managing director of Lost River Diamonds, said he was very happy with results from the show: “We had a great fair on the Gold Coast in March and now Sydney has capped it off.”

According to Macabi Diamonds managing director Yoni Levy, retailers are currently seeking high-end quality goods.
“Another trend that we’ve noticed is that people are looking for less colour and more clarity in diamonds and coloured gemstones – compensating on colour for less inclusions,” he added.

Levy said the business’ new Colombian emerald collection had also sold well, which was in line with comments from other suppliers like Mark McAskill Jewellery and Worth & Douglas that highlighted the popularity of coloured gemstones and brown (or chocolate) coloured diamonds.

Another apparent trend on the show floor was the increasing number of exhibitors offering CAD/CAM and 3D printing-related products and services, along with interest from manufacturing jewellers and designers.

Rapid Casting’s Ben Farago, LST Group’s Chris Hill, CAD Culture’s Melody Vincent-Winspear and Evolution Jewellers’ Anthony Nowlan all noted a great number of enquiries being made by jewellers throughout the fair.

Nowlan said he was quite surprised as not only were there people at his stand from the moment the doors opened but he was writing orders within the first 10 minutes.

Added features

The IJF has always been about the business transactions between suppliers and retailers; however, the event has also developed a reputation for offering a comprehensive education program.

“We’ve persevered with our education sessions and most of the presentations this year have been really well supported. I think we’ve got a good balance now.”

Visitors that spoke with Jeweller made a point of saying that having international guest speakers such as Nielsen and Julie Sandlau president Dennis Sandlau-Jacobsen in the schedule had been a drawcard for attending the show.

Roving musicians performing on the floor was another additional feature as was the inaugural Jewellery Design and Manufacturing Championships (JDMC), which drew much interest from visitors and, according to Expertise Events, was cited as one of the reasons for attracting visitors who had not attended the show in a number of years.

The contest, loosely based on a similar initiative in the US, required local jewellers to complete certain tasks based on a brief issued on the first day of the fair. Competitors undertook their challenges on the fair floor across days one and two. There were four categories, with the overall champions being announced on the last day of the show. The 2015 winners were Ben Preston-Black for the jeweller category; Shaun Staples for CAD technician; Chris O’Neill for hand engraver; and Dean Sansom for setter.

Another jeweller that gained recognition for her skills was Erin Coates. The designer won the People’s Choice Award in the biennial JAA Young Designers On Show exhibition for her butterfly-inspired diamond ring, Arabesque.

It seems jewellers, suppliers and buyers were winning and grinning during this year’s fair, which is arguably a mood that many hope will continue in the upcoming months.

Hazel Oxborough competing in the JDMC
Hazel Oxborough competing in the JDMC
JDMC competitors undertook their challenges on the fair floor
JDMC competitors undertook their challenges on the fair floor

Emily Mobbs • Former Editor

Emily Mobbs is editor of Jeweller. She has more than 8 years' experience in trade publishing and reports on various aspects of the jewellery industry.

Ikecho Australia

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