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Editor's Desk

Chance for breath of fresh air in 2019

The industry politics of the past few years has certainly quietened down. In fact, there’s far less controversy in general, particularly surrounding the JAA; however, this doesn’t mean dissatisfaction has subsided.

It’s been more than two years since the JAA made the disastrous decision in April 2016 to launch and manage its own jewellery trade fair, ending its relationship with Expertise Events and losing the financial support that came with it. History shows that the JAA’s decision split the industry – directors resigned, members quit en masse and Australia’s largest retail group Nationwide Jewellers declined to renew its membership after 25 years.

The fallout has been financially disastrous with the JAA reporting a $131,829 loss to members in its 2017 financial statements, a result that pushed the association into negative equity. Worse still, one can’t be sure if this loss is even accurate; the financial statements were riddled with errors, which are now under investigation by the compliance division of the Institute of Public Accountants.

"We rarely make use of the association, however we prefer to be a part of one for different reasons."

Not only were the original financial accounts issued to members last October error-ridden, they also showed that the JAA business model during that year was unsustainable given that its executive director was paid 52 cents in every membership dollar!

Around the same time, information emerged that JAA president and board member Selwyn Brandt had decided against his company, Australian Jewellers Supplies (AJS), participating at the new JAA fair. And this is despite he being one of the instigators of the decision to break away from Expertise Events and start a rival show. Brandt’s own business wasn’t going to exhibit at the very fair he was promoting!

At the time, some JAA directors declared that they were unaware of this, with one director telling me that he/she would not have supported the breakaway move if they’d known that the president’s business would not be supporting the new fair.

The JAA’s many missteps continued, and so has the resulting fallout. Just recently, I received a phone call from someone who expressed utter dissatisfaction after contacting the JAA head office. He said when his phone call was finally returned “they seemed to be disinterested in anything I said.”

I still receive emails about JAA membership, and the sad thing is that all carry the same message: we would like to support an industry association, but we also don’t want our money going down the drain.

It is perhaps expressed best by the following email, which has been slightly edited for clarity and anonymity: “I would like to know if you can offer a suggestion with regards to renewal of JAA membership. We have been members for years because we like to belong to the association or at least be a part of an association for jewellers. I am happy to pay membership fees as long as it’s not wasted because of their problems. We rarely make use of the association, however we prefer to be a part of one for different reasons.”

Sadly, this sentiment is rampant across the industry; while the noise may have stopped, the dissatisfaction hasn’t.

Now that the 2018 financial year has ended, it’s likely that the JAA will record another loss, and as expected, if up to $60,000 is written-off in bad debts, which perhaps should have been accounted for last year.

With JAA membership at an all-time low, I have previously called on Selwyn Brandt to stand down from the JAA in a bid to reconcile industry factions under a new leadership. Instead, Brandt stood for re-election, which is his right, and re-assumed the presidency.

However, there’s a chance for a breath of fresh air in 2019 given that the JAA Constitution precludes Brandt standing again. It states “a director shall not hold office for more than six consecutive years” and depending on the outcome of the accounting investigation, it may well be prudent for other directors to consider their position too.

Image courtesy: Pixabay | Manuela Pickart

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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Friday, 28 February, 2020 10:58am
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