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Articles from INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS (263 Articles)

Long road ahead for the JAA

The 2017 Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) Jewellery Tradeshow has been cancelled and although the writing was on the wall for some time, COLEBY NICHOLSON says the association’s problems are not yet over.

It has been almost 12 months since the JAA decided to initiate a bold and brave plan – some would suggest gamble – to morph the industry association into an exhibition business.

On 23 May 2016, the JAA announced the JAA Jewellery Fair after what it said was “an overwhelming amount of support from the industry when researching this idea”. The event was quickly renamed the JAA Jewellery Tradeshow because of a legal dispute.

The JAA’s media release stated that the new jewellery fair was “being delivered amidst great excitement, after detailed research, analysis and discussion”; however, that was surprising news given Leading Edge Group Jewellers knew nothing about the inaugural show.

So much for detailed research and overwhelming support!

Amanda Hunter, former JAA executive director
Amanda Hunter, former JAA executive director

Worse, Nationwide Jewellers, Australia’s largest buying group, subsequently declared that it would not make a decision on whether or not to support the 2017 JAA event until after the 2016 International Jewellery Fair (IJF), which was, at the time, still three months away.

History showed that following the 2016 IJF, and after substantial research of their members’ and suppliers’ needs – including onsite visits to the JAA’s Moore Park venue – both Leading Edge and Nationwide decided to remain supporters of the Expertise Events-run IJF. Each group also officially announced they would not support the JAA event.

Showcase Jewellers had declared that it would “exclusively support” the JAA, which meant that two of the three buying groups did not have enough confidence in the JAA’s new show.

They were not alone either, with the great majority of exhibitors choosing not to support the JAA. At last count more than 150 jewellery suppliers were booked at the IJF at Darling Harbour while only around 20-25 had provided a commitment to the JAA event at Moore Park.

Regardless of readers’ allegiances in this sorry, torrid affair, even the JAA now accepts that the industry has spoken: the old Sydney Showground at Moore Park was not the place for a world-class jewellery fair.

What confuses me is why the JAA believed it was the right venue given that there had been two previous failed attempts to run a jewellery fair at the Showground by Jewellery World.

History repeats … a third time!

Pointing fingers

The sad thing is that this disaster is not yet over, not by a long shot!

The blame game has already begun and, of course, the JAA has, and will, continue to point the finger at others for the disastrous outcome.

‘None of this has been our doing’, the JAA will claim, even though two of the three buying groups did not support the event from the very start and the third changed its decision after it became clear that exhibitors were not supporting it either.

Further, the buying groups surveyed their members and the overwhelming message was clear – the industry trade fair should be located at the International Convention Centre at Darling Harbour.

A comprehensive survey of 200 retailers by Jeweller in March showed the same result: 82 per cent of JAA members said Darling Harbour was the preferred venue for a jewellery trade fair while 18 per cent were undecided.

Only 1 per cent of its own members supported a JAA trade fair at Moore Park!

Indeed, less than 43 per cent of JAA members agreed that the JAA should organise and run an industry tradeshow as a commercial venture in the first place. How much “detailed research and analysis” was actually conducted by the JAA?

This saga has come at an enormous cost, not only to personal and professional reputations and the JAA’s finances – one wonders what it has lost in payments to the venue and legal fees – but it has lost dozens and dozens of members who have quit the JAA throughout the past 12 months.

There are many former board members who, after devoting an enormous amount of time in honorary positions to the JAA over the years, have cancelled their membership. That includes suppliers and retailers alike!

JAA membership is most likely at an all-time low. While JAA executive director Amanda Hunter is now on record as stating that it was not “the JAA’s intention to cause disruption and division” by announcing a second industry trade show, the fact remains that there was no substantive support for the show from day one.

If there was, the JAA would not have endured a perfect storm for 12 months, JAA membership would be at an all-time high and Hunter would not have needed to resign.

Yes, there were many people who initially paid lip service to the JAA but when push came to shove, even they – understandably – chose to act in the best interests of their businesses rather than the JAA. Do you blame them?

Again, regardless of the allegiances readers have, certainly most would agree with what one major supplier told me this morning: “The jewellery industry has spoken; it’s now time for the JAA to stop blaming everyone else and start looking at where they went wrong.”

Long road ahead

The past 12 months must surely go down on record as the most inglorious period in the JAA’s history and the JAA would be well-advised not to divert blame but rather accept responsibility for what has occurred.

Selwyn Brandt, JAA president
Selwyn Brandt, JAA president

For instance, I have been perplexed for some time as to why JAA president Selwyn Brandt’s own company was not a supporter of the JAA Jewellery Tradeshow.

Brandt’s business, Australian Jewellers Supplies, is conspicuous by its absence on the list of JAA Moore Park exhibitors. The JAA Jewellery Tradeshow website still displays around 25 wholesalers but none of them is Australian Jewellers Supplies!

JAA members and readers are entitled to ask: how could it be that the JAA president’s own business chose not to exhibit at the new JAA Jewellery Tradeshow, the very show he helped create and promote?

The JAA, and a small vocal minority, can continue to blame everyone else but history will record that the ‘peak industry body’ lost its way a long time before this latest ignominious outcome.

Indeed, some may prefer to shoot the messenger, turning a blind eye to the real cause of the industry turmoil but the fact remains, of the seven people originally involved in the JAA’s decision to launch a tradeshow – not all were in favour - four have now resigned from the board and/or quit the JAA.

Much of the damage is irreparable.

If readers think this sorrowful saga is over then they probably don’t understand that the past 12 months has had little, or nothing, to do with industry trade shows!


More reading:
Amanda Hunter resigns; 2017 JAA Jewellery Tradeshow cancelled
Buying groups call for unity: urge industry to support one jewellery fair
Another JAA board member resigns
Showcase pledges support for Expertise Events jewellery fair
Nationwide, Leading Edge make 2017 jewellery fair decision
Sydney jewellery fair organiser hits back at JAA
More industry division over two jewellery fairs
JAA fails own Vision and Mission Statement

Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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