Peter W Beck
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Industry issues discussed at Sydney Jewellery Fair

The International Jewellery Fair not only provided retailers with ample opportunities to view the latest products, but also many valuable business insights from leading industry professionals.

Expertise Events hosted three keynote seminars aimed at providing solutions to ongoing matters within the industry. Event organiser Garry Fitz-Roy said the event provided retailers with diverse insight into timely concerns within the jewellery sector.

“I think the two keynote seminars covering the Diamond Shift and Branded vs Non-Branded went down well and generated quite a healthy discussion and the sessions around social media had consistent attendance,” he said.

The following are some excerpts from the three keynote seminars, as well as sessions held at the Independent Retailer’s Conference:

Lab Grown vs Natural Diamonds – The Diamond Shift

Amish Shah, president of ALTR Created Diamonds attended IJF with Showcase Jewellers and explained the accelerating production of synthetic diamonds in the US. Shah discussed shifts in consumer habits both in the perception of diamonds and lab-grown products.

“Disruption is here and the media is assisting in getting it to the consumer... Diamonds are not an investment, consumers buy diamonds to cherish moments in life,” he said, stressing that regardless of a diamond’s origin, all diamonds hold the same symbolic value to the consumer.

“They’re symbolic representation of an event from a father to a daughter, a daughter to a mother, a guy to a girl and every time it changes hands it represents a moment. This is very critical for us to understand [when selling synthetic diamonds].”

Gem Studies Laboratory owner Bill Sechos joined the panel moderated by Fitz-Roy and offered a local perspective on the synthetic diamond sector while voicing concern for the resale value of consumers’ lab-grown purchases.

“Natural diamonds that are mined have a resale value much lower than what you buy it at retail. The fact that if these gemstones have the lab grown tag, it may be a disadvantage later on when it comes to reselling,” he explained.

Rent is killing my business!

“At least 18 months prior to your lease expiry, there is a list of things you should start to do. You should do your research, start comparing yourself, start analysing and start forward-projecting your next lease cycle.”
Phillip Chapman, Lease1 chairman

Lease1 chairman Phillip Chapman was joined on stage by Leading Edge Group Jewellers managing director Joshua Zarb for a seminar about managing lease agreements with landlords.

“In leasing, we really need to change our mindset and with our landlords, we need to start to consider seeing them as part of our supply chain. You’re looking at leasing as a return on interest on a piece of time, not on a piece of land. It may be subconscious but it is effective,” Chapman said, going on to compare lease agreements to marriage certificates with “a built-in divorce”.

“When you first enter into a lease, it’s like the honeymoon period; the first year is great and then at the end of the first year the figures start coming in, you look at them and start to say ‘hey this isn’t what I thought I was getting myself into, this doesn’t meet my expectations’,” he explained.

“All of a sudden the relationship starts to take different paths, but you’ve still got to maintain that relationship along the way, all the while knowing that it will come to an end.”

Both Chapman and Zarb explained the importance of building and maintaining relationships with landlords throughout the lease period.

“At least 18 months prior to your lease expiry, there is a list of things you should start to do. You should do your research, start comparing yourself, start analysing and start forward-projecting your next lease cycle,” Chapman said.

“At 12 months out, you have to giddy up and already have spoken to your landlord about your lease renewal. In doing that you can then put down the value you bring, they make the money off you; you’re the customer, the landlord is just another supplier.”

Branded vs Non-Branded – The Consumer View

The final industry-leading seminar saw editor of Better Homes and Gardens Julia Zaetta and managing director of Hyland Media Tessa Cavalot share their expertise in effective branding strategies.

The pair discussed the importance of maintaining brand heritage while balancing the drive to maintain relevance in the fast-paced retail industry.

“You have to stay current and sometimes even a little bit ahead of your competitors, but you have to do it without destroying your heritage. Because it is your heritage – the strength of your experiences and what you have delivered - that enables you to go forward in a consistently positive manner,” Zaetta cautioned.

“You have to be careful about how you do it, so you don’t abandon that along the way in hopes of staying timely.”

Cavalot echoed these sentiments and went on to explain the importance of understanding the brand’s target market, referring to her experiences working with brands that fail to recognise their target market.

“Have a clear understanding of who your consumers are and stick to it. Brands don’t get heritage in just one or two years, it’s a long process. But once it’s established it can extend out,” she said.

“Your consumer market must absolutely be established before you consider rebranding, regardless of whether it’s changes to your typeface or your archetype, understanding your consumer is key.”

The pair went on to explain the industry’s obsession with marketing to Millennials who “are not brand loyal” and in focusing on the one target market, brands are failing to market to what they believe is the latest generation: ‘Generation C, the culture generation’.

“What we need to remember and we tend to forget in this pursuit of younger people, is that culture can bind the 19-year-old to the 90-year-old. They both might be interested in sapphires for instance, so they become a group of their own,” Zaetta explained.

“So what we’re learning is that we have been so focused on age group and keeping up with being modern, we’ve forgotten groups who have similar interests. If we start to consider that in how we put businesses together, that matters as well.”

Independent Retailer’s Conference

A number of seminars held at the Independent Retailer’s Conference space covered a variety of topics across the three-day event. Founder of the Social Potatoes, Sylvia Huang shared her experiences as a former social media influencer to help retailers with their marketing strategies.

Huang compared the benefits of organic social media marketing (unpaid to reach existing followers) and paid advertising strategies: “Social media is low-cost, I wouldn’t say it’s free, because it does take time and the employee you hire to run your social media does spend time honing their skills. That said, it is dynamic and keeps evolving. It’s something you can change anytime anywhere.”

“When you’re starting out, the first thing you need to aim for is visibility, so people know who you are. Depending on your services or products, you can also use social media to build credibility,” she said.

Huang went on to explain that consumer interactions with social media marketing must be frequent in order to translate into sales.

“You need seven points of contact in order to build a relationship with your audience and an estimated 20 hours of them consuming your content before they are likely to consume your products,” she said.

Retailers were also given an opportunity to learn about capitalising on raw materials through metal refinery. Pallion’s Chris Botha explained that retailers should look to have their raw materials refined on a biennial basis to rid old or poor performing stock.

“Gold is today what it was yesterday and what it will be tomorrow. It will never change. As things get cheaper, more expensive, harder or faster to make, you still have the same thing,” he explained.

“See what’s not selling and ask yourself, ‘can you mark it down or can you move it through?’ and if you can’t, then what can you do with it?”

Botha went on to explain the importance of finding a reputable metal refinery that should charge money for its services, given the cost of running the ovens that heat metal to 10,000 centigrade.

“It is imperative that you ask your refinery where their laboratory is and what it is testing. If they cannot tell you where the lab is, or cannot offer to take you on a tour, then you should be very careful,” Botha said.

“The ovens that do the refining stand nearly twice as tall as me and run on gigawatts of power. If somebody is offering to do their refining for free as part of some other service beware,” Botha said adding that investment in a laboratory ran into millions.

“Can they guarantee your return is what you will actually receive? It is imperative you ask for it.”

Retailers took Botha’s advice on board and applied it to all aspects of the conference. All seminars were followed with ample question time in which retailers and guests had a chance to have any burning concerns answered.

Between back-to-back demonstrations, seminars and workshops, all involved with the IJF walked away having learned something.

LJ West Diamonds

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