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Feature Stories, Fairs and Events

Melbourne jewellery fair attracts serious retailers for 2016

Despite initial reservations, a change in location for this year’s Australian Jewellery Fair didn’t appear to deter serious buyers. EMILY MOBBS reports.

The first jewellery trade show for 2016 was held at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne from Saturday February 27 to Sunday February 28, marking a return to Melbourne after a number of years.

Traditionally hosted in Queensland, the first fair for the year generally receives strong visitor support, so the move to Victoria naturally left people wondering how this would impact visitor turnout.

While there was no denying that foot traffic seemed to be down compared to previous years in the Sunshine State, it was the old adage of quality over quantity – retailers that were there were there to buy.

Perhaps what surprised most exhibitors was the number of orders taken from interstate jewellers visiting Melbourne for the fair.

“I’m shocked by the amount of interstate business we have conducted,” Timesupply managing director Ken Abbott said when he spoke with Jeweller at the event.

“We’ve had a few Melbourne retailers visiting today [Sunday] but there’s a lot of business coming from outside of Victoria – Queensland, the ACT ... we even had one jeweller fly in from Tasmania especially to see us.”

Commenting on the seemingly lower visitor numbers, Abbott noted, “It’s the perfect example of not needing a lot of people – just the right ones.”

Peter W Beck marketing manager Laura Sawade said the large presence of Queensland retailers was particularly apparent.

“We were surprised how many customers from Queensland we saw,” she commented, adding, “The fair was great for us. We were quite busy for both fair days and saw more customers than we were expecting.”

Helen Martin and Ken Abbott
Helen Martin and Ken Abbott
Alex and Ani
Alex and Ani's stall at the Melbourne Jewellery Fair 2016

Also gaining business from jewellers in the Sunshine State was Julie Sandlau Australia sales and brand manager Helen Martin, who said she had signed two new accounts from retailers located in far north Queensland.

“It’s clear that people are prepared to travel for a trade show, which is perhaps contrary to popular belief,” Martin remarked. “I think people like the idea of a Melbourne fair as they can also use it as an excuse to get away.”

In addition, a number of suppliers, including Pearl Perfection, Nash Pearls and first-time exhibitor Kurshuni, made specific reference to customers that had travelled from Sydney, Perth and New Zealand.

It should be noted that buying group Leading Edge Group Jewellers had conducted its conference just prior to the fair. Although this arguably helped to attract interstate visitors, Victorian retailers – both metropolitan and regional – were also in full force.

Diamond Sensation manager Peter Li said trade had been consistent across the two days of the fair, with many buyers coming from Victoria.

Gary Fitz-Roy, managing director of trade show organiser Fair Events, also stated that overall feedback had pointed to the large number of visitors hailing from country Victoria.

Expanding on the point that visitor numbers were not as high as expected, Fitz-Roy said, “Today’s market is about quality and buying over foot traffic. I think gone are the days of trying to sell to the masses. It’s about the relationship and repeat business.”

Sally Birtles, national sales manager of first-time Melbourne fair exhibitor Love Lockets, said she believed that a less crowded fair resulted in a positive experience as it allowed for informed conversations.

“When there are fewer people, retailers feel less pressure to rush into making a decision,” she explained. “It means we can have decent conversations and allows the buyer to make their own informed decisions as opposed to receiving a hard sell.”

Retailer Janine Wise from My Jewellers in Burnie, Tasmania, echoed Birtles’ comments, saying she liked the Melbourne fair because it was more personal than other trade shows such as the International Jewellery Fair (IJF) in Sydney.

“You get to spend a lot more time talking to some of the exhibitors here in Melbourne and it’s nice to see whether there is anything new and interesting,” Wise said.

Anthony Nowlan, director of CAD software supplier Evolution Jewellers noted that many visitors to his stand had remarked they were at the fair to speak with specific exhibitors and were happy to be amongst suppliers in a more intimate environment.

“We found far fewer ‘tyre-kickers’ at this event,” he said. “Almost everyone who dropped by was there for a reason.”

A social media presentation at the Melbourne Jewellery Fair 2016
A social media presentation at the Melbourne Jewellery Fair 2016
Pearl Perfection
Pearl Perfection's stall at the Melbourne Jewellery Fair 2016

Popularity across the board

Unlike in previous years, where particular jewellery categories appeared to attract greater interest than others, there wasn’t a clear front-runner in 2016.

Fitz-Roy explained that most exhibitors across the board – including those specialising in branded/fashion, bread-and-butter, CAD/CAM and gemstone products – all seemed to attract their fair share of attention.

The Opals Australia stand, for example, appeared to garner interest, particularly on Sunday, while the Evolution Jewellers stand was consistently busy throughout the two days.

Nowlan explained that the results from the show were far better than anticipated and acted as the perfect springboard for the release of its CounterSketch International program.

Similar sentiments could be said for both well-established and newer suppliers. The likes of Sams Group Australia and Duraflex Group Australia had a relatively constant stream of visitors, as did newcomers such as Oozoo Timepieces Australia.

Alex and Ani was arguably one of the more high-profile new exhibitors. However, Karin Adcock, CEO of the range’s local distributor, House of Brands, explained that although there were retailers aware of the US brand leading into the show, there were still many that weren’t, so it provided the ideal opportunity to introduce the collection.

More than product

In addition to acting as a platform for releasing new product, the Australian jewellery fairs have also become known for providing visitors with additional features like the Spotlight education seminars and live jewellery demonstrations.

This year was no different, with strong attendance observed for both the social media-based presentations by Debra Templar of The Templar Group and an information session on how to detect undisclosed synthetic diamonds presented by Gemmological Association of Australia president Bill Sechos.

A number of retailers that spoke with Jeweller said they found the seminars to be a helpful resource and tried to attend as many as possible during the fair.

“I went to all the seminars, which had interesting information,” Kristin De-Coi of Melbourne-based business Kristin Bree Designs said. “I found it [the seminars] really helpful. There was lots of information and really nice people to talk to.”

A live demonstration by apprentice jeweller and WorldSkills Australia regional gold medallist Chloe Biddiscombe also added another dimension to the trade show.

Visitors were able to watch Biddiscombe complete two modules in preparation for the upcoming WorldSkills Australia National Competition in October this year. She was also available to dicuss her experience as an apprentice and WorldSkills competitor.

With Australia’s first jewellery fair for the calendar year having concluded, it appears that although the recent show may have been small in size, overall support for the industry is strong. Eyes will now turn to the IJF, which will be held from August 27 to August 29 in Sydney.

The location for the Australian Jewellery Fair will alternate each year. The 2017 event will be held in Queensland at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

An overview of the trading floor of the Melbourne Jewellery Fair 2016
An overview of the trading floor of the Melbourne Jewellery Fair 2016

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.

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