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There are many in the jewellery industry who not only clench their teeth, but also bleat and moan about the real world. They yearn for yesteryear. Maybe they may need some tough love too. | Source: Freepik
There are many in the jewellery industry who not only clench their teeth, but also bleat and moan about the real world. They yearn for yesteryear. Maybe they may need some tough love too. | Source: Freepik

Tough love for jewellers

Should you support a jewellery supplier just because it’s Australian-made product? COLEBY NICHOLSON cuts through the guff that some suppliers perpetuate.

I think it’s about time for some tough love. My daughter says I am an expert at it – though she often says that while clenching her teeth.

She recently realised that sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for the things she desires and that the world does not work exactly how she would like. I told her to stop moaning,  get over it and deal with her “issue” another way.

Her teeth clenched harder!

There are many in the jewellery industry who not only clench their teeth, but also bleat and moan about the real world. They yearn for yesteryear. Maybe they may need some tough love too.

I recently read a report about Australian jewellery manufacturers in which many complained about retailers not supporting locally-manufactured product. According to the complainers, Australian-made product is better quality and better value than its imported counterpart. Now, this may, or may not, be true.

After all, quality is a subjective issue and who am I to judge?

What intrigued me most about these jewellery suppliers is that some (not all) want retailers to buy from them because local buying supports the Australian economy.

In fact, some are so adamant that jewellery retailers should support local manufacturers that some (not all) believe import duties should be increased to protect their businesses – not only should the Federal Government support them, but the Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) should also be doing more for them by promoting Australian-made jewellery.

The JAA can speak for itself, but I don’t think it’s the role of any association to promote individual businesses. If it were, then shouldn’t the JAA also promote JAA members who import jewellery?

Regardless, let me expose some of the folly that is often perpetuated by some (not all) local jewellery manufacturers, including a few contradictory, or even insincere, positions.

Let me read your suit!
"Not all local manufacturers yearn for the old days, demand higher tariffs or want their business supported simply because they are Australian – but many do!"

Last year I sat with a supplier for an hour or so. He wanted to discuss his business and the state of the Australian jewellery industry. After listening to him go on endlessly about supporting local manufacturers, keeping jobs in Australia, believing in Australian-made jewellery and lamenting retailers who do not support his business.

He went on and on about retailers not supporting local jewellery manufacturers and consumers not supporting Australian-made product and when he finally took a breath I asked him to stand-up.

Looking bewildered he asked me why, and I replied, “Because I want to read something.” 

Somewhat confused, he stood and I turned down his suit collar and read it to him, “Made in Hong Kong”.

After a small silence, he began to offer all sorts of excuses to explain why he gets his suits made in Hong Kong and not Australia – speed, quality, fabric, convenience, blah, blah, blah!

You see, the same people who tell everyone else they should support Australian-made product and local jewellery manufacturers often do not do so themselves. They want one rule for them and another rule for everyone else.

I let this jewellery supplier try to convince me that his actions were not contradictory. He thought he'd put up a good argument for the reasons he chose an overseas tailor rather than supporting a local tailor until I asked him what car he drove.

He suddenly went pale! Needless to say it was not a locally-made model, and by now the supplier was not going to ty and qualify that.  He couldn't, he saw my point!  But back to the story ...

I often hear about suppliers wanting more government and JAA support because their product is locally made. Now, before I go any further, let me say that it would be a wonderful state of affairs if Australia could keep all of its manufacturing local, but we live in a globalised world. It’s a tough and sometimes confronting globalised world.

I respect Australian manufacturers who compete on the world stage. To that end, not all local manufacturers yearn for the old days, demand higher tariffs or want their business supported simply because they are Australian – but many do!

Think about this: Australia cannot expect for the whole world to buy our products and we not buy theirs. Globalisation, whether you support it or not, means we all buy each other’s products.

So, if Australians want to benefit from selling our expertise and goods overseas, then it is perfectly acceptable for other countries to ask us to buy theirs! But, for some reason, some (not all) Australian jewellery suppliers believe that’s a rule for other industries, not theirs.

Worse, they want governments and associations like the JAA to stop or hinder imports, or at least, promote their business to compete against overseas product.

So the next time you hear a jewellery supplier bleat and moan about Australian-made product, follow them to their car. I’ll bet London to a brick that it’s imported. Funny, eh?

 

FOOTNOTE:

When we think of competing against other countries or imported product, our minds immediately turn to “Asian product” or "Made in China". But here’s an interesting take on the same issue.

I found myself debating a New Zealander who was complaining about Australian jewellery suppliers “invading” New Zealand. His view was that New Zealand should be left alone and Australian companies should not enter the Kiwi market.

He was most adamant and forceful in his views until I respectfully point-out that the two major retail jewellery chains in Australia (Michael Hill and Prouds/Angus & Coote) are New Zealand companies.

Like the jewellery supplier who drives a foreign-made car at the same time he demands that retailers buy his Australian-made product, it seems that, in some people’s minds, it perfectly OK for Kiwis to “own” and dominate Australian jewellery retailing but Aussie companies should not operate in New Zealand.

My daughter has one thing right when she says, “Oh, pleeeaaaase!”











ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.

Athan Wholesale Jewellers
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