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Sydney Jewellery Fair set to “heal” the industry

As Australia begins to overcome the COVID-19 health pandemic all eyes are set on the International Jewellery & Watch Fair still scheduled for September. It’s shaping up as more important than usual given the international economic crisis, so what’s in store for retailers and suppliers?


The International Jewellery & Watch Fair (IJWF) and Spring Gift & Lifestyle shows are still planned to proceed at the ICC Sydney on 12-14 September 2020

The Expertise Mate Rebound Care Assistance package offers exhibitors up to $1,000 in savings through discounts and credits, as well as extended payment terms

This year’s IJWF offers an opportunity for the jewellery industry to heal and reconnect after the COVID-19 crisis 

Expertise Events is negotiating with third parties to potentially offer more benefits to retailers who wish to attend

New safety protocols and procedures, compliant with all government guidelines, will be in place to protect exhibitors and attendees at the show


• Retail Summit: Continuing the theme of support and reconnection, the IJWF will feature an extended educational program including a Retail Summit exploring the impact of COVID-19 and strategies for business recovery

• Platinum Club: A special invitation-only lounge area will be available on the show floor for selected retailers, and will include a number of special perks and benefits

• Wine O'Clock: An ever-popular networking event for exhibitors, Wine O’Clock will return on one evening during the event allowing suppliers to unwind and reconnect

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the worldwide events industry resulting in many international jewellery fairs being postponed and/or canceled. Locally, decisions by the Federal Government and various state governments had an immediate impact on the Australian events industry.

“Commercially, we have been devastated,” says Gary Fitz-Roy, managing director Expertise Events, which in addition to the International Jewellery & Watch Fair (IJWF), manages more than 25 trade and consumer shows each year.

“We were shut down 10 weeks ago when mass gatherings of more than 500 people were restricted. The events industry has been decimated – but as the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I'm working under the three P’s: patience, persistence, and be proud of what you do,” Fitz-Roy told Jeweller.

“This isn't the time to feel sorry for ourselves. We've got a choice: you either change the outlook and get on with it, or you have to accept it.”

Fitz-Roy explained that unlike many other businesses, the events industry has no products to sell, no trading online and no other income – and while jewellery suppliers and retailers are doing it extremely tough, they have the ability to sell online and through other channels even though it may be at a lower volume.

That aside, this year’s IJWF remains scheduled for 12-14 September, and, for the first time, will run concurrently with the Spring Gift & Lifestyle fair at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

Fitz-Roy says the IJWF represents an opportunity for ‘healing’ within the jewellery industry, which had already been devastated by the impact of the summer bushfires.

“We made a very conscious decision to keep in regular contact with our clients, to provide information that could help them, and maintain a position that we need to be optimistic, yet realistic,” says Fitz-Roy.

In order to help suppliers and the industry, Expertise Events has released two documents. The first was Bounce Back, which set a plan for suppliers to navigate their way through the early stages of the crisis; and in the last week, it released a support package called Expertise Mate Rebound Care Assistance.

It offers a combination of discounts, credits, extended payment terms and services to assist suppliers exhibiting at the Sydney trade fair.

“We have a mantra: walk in the shoes of your client. We decided that a package of support would be a good gesture given that we're a family business too, just like much of the jewellery industry – and experiencing the same pain they are,” Fitz-Roy explained.

Download the Business Bounce Back Plan »
Download the Expertise Mate Package (for exhibitors) »

Expertise Mate was developed four weeks ago, and was designed to absorb many costs of exhibiting – for some companies, the package represents a saving of $1,000.

According to Fitz-Roy, releasing the package early was a critical priority to both support the jewellery industry and reflect the family values of Expertise Events.

“Our [company’s] revenue has dropped 50 per cent in the financial year, and we could have sat back until June or July, saying, ‘We’ll see.’ But we haven't,” he said.

“We are still a family business, like so many of our jewellery wholesalers and distributors. My son is involved in the business and I want to impart on him that when the chips are down, you show that you are prepared to support your clients and the industry early on so they have confidence and optimism.

Gary Fitz-Roy, Expertise Events managing director
Gary Fitz-Roy, Expertise Events managing director
“This was about us saying, in the middle of May, and still four months before the trade fair, that we will support our clients to the end”
Gary Fitz-Roy, Expertise Events

“This was about us saying, in the middle of May, and still four months before the trade fair, that we will support our clients to the end.”

The package covers “every part” of exhibiting costs. “Whether it be insurance, electrical, modular carpet, and so on, we wanted to help adjust those margins. We have agreed to underwrite these margins; we haven't gone to any of our suppliers or contractors and asked for a discount, as they have been as affected as we have and we are all in it together. We will subsidise [the discounts] and help our clients get through this period.”

Many sales representatives lost jobs or were stood down while others have been unable to meet with retailers face-to-face, so Expertise Events decided to include marketing in the support package, with Fitz-Roy emphasising the importance of customer communication in the lead-up to September.

Each exhibitor who has booked by 30 June will receive a $150 credit towards a Marketing & Promotions package, and all exhibitors receive access to the free online exhibitor directory where they can upload a company profile, pictures and brochures.

“We have an extensive database and with the combination of the Gift fair, we can now leverage an even greater database and provide even more value for our clients,” Fitz-Roy adds.

While it’s still early days, Fitz-Roy said the feedback on the Expertise Mate package has been positive – and tinged with surprise.

“The general comment is that no other organiser in Australia, or in the world, has released a support package with real money involved as well as value-adds. Talk is cheap – for years we've always been on the front foot and made our decisions very clear. And our clear position in this is we need to support the industry and we're prepared to do that early on,” Fitz-Roy said.


An opportunity to meet with suppliers face-to-face once again and explore new opportunities, while saving time and money by attending both IJWF and Spring Gift & Lifestyle

Interaction with fellow retailers; networking and sharing experiences

Education about post-COVID strategies on how to rebound and reconnect with consumers

Focus on retail

While the support package is designed to assist suppliers, Fitz-Roy emphasises a commitment to also support retailers. The supplier support is the first stage as it’s an area that he can control, so he has actioned these first. He notes that conducting the two shows – IJWF and Spring Gift & Lifestyle – at the same time and at the same venue is particularly important for country retailers, and reflects their stock mix.

“Last year, we made the decision to change the date [of the IJWF] to 12-14 September to co-locate with the Gift fair, and that was more about the change in buying patterns. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, that decision may well be one of the better decisions we could have made,” Fitz-Roy said.

“I think that it's a win-win for everyone, retailers and suppliers alike. Country retailers will be big winners and we now have a really good formula that makes it cost-effective for retailers in tough times, because running the two shows together gives them more in terms of total offering.”

Fitz-Roy believes the jewellery retail environment will adapt and evolve in the post-COVID period, and the trade show will reflect that.

“There will be more diversity in retailers and jewellery stores. Some will go to the top end [of jewellery] and some will diversify and introduce other product categories. It could be fashion accessories – and the reality is, there's no reason why the two product categories can't run in their own halls and we are making it easy by having the two events together.

“However, we have been very clear in saying that retailer attendance and entry into the jewellery fair has separate qualifications from the gift fair,” he adds.

With the focus firmly on retailers, Fitz-Roy says there will be numerous resources available at the IJWF.

"I'm working under the three P’s: patience, persistence, and be proud of what you do. This isn't the time to feel sorry for ourselves"

“I'm a realist – I'm not saying that we're going to have a huge buying fair because retailers will all be at different trading levels, depending on whether they had online sales or implemented other selling methods over this period.

"What we're going to have is a ‘healing’ fair, an event where the industry can reconnect and even celebrate, where they can talk about what they learned in the past few months. We are launching a Retail Summit, with our educational program stepped up a gear.” 

At the top of the agenda is how retail businesses can recover from the crisis.

“It's not just about how we all recover from COVID-19 from a business perspective – it's also how we come out of it mentally and even physically,” Fitz-Roy explained. “The Retail Summit will deal with re-building, rebounding, and re-connecting with consumers. How do we get people to start purchasing again?”

Another benefit for retailers is the Platinum Club – a lounge area designed to re-engage key buyers. A number of Platinum Club invitations will be issued to exhibitors based on their stand size, so they can then invite their favoured retailers.

“It’s very encouraging that shopping centres are now opening up and we're hoping by the time we get to September, there will be some increased purchasing from consumers and a need to replace stock, as well as be prepared for Christmas and the New Year. But equally, we recognise that there are retailers that are really important to exhibitors as far as the relationship goes, and our Platinum Club is a way of supporting that relationship,” Fitz-Roy explains.

When asked about further incentives for retailers to attend the show, such as potential accommodation discounts, Fitz-Roy revealed that negotiations are taking place with third parties – “Everything is on the table,” he told Jeweller – though it is currently too early to confirm final details.


 Expertise Mate Rebound Care Assistance package makes it more cost-effective than ever to exhibit at the show

Opportunity to meet with retailers face-to-face once again, all in one place, and foster key buying relationships

• Networking with fellow suppliers and buying groups; building a sense of unity and connection within the industry

Looking ahead

At the time of publication, Fitz-Roy is confident the two shows will proceed in September, citing the significant progress that has been made to curb the spread of COVID-19 within Australia.

“Two months ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that everything would be closed until September – a six-month shutdown. Within eight weeks the governments have relieved or relaxed a lot of the rules, and we’re still four months away from September, so I’m quietly confident,” Fitz-Roy says.

He emphasises that some new protocols will more than likely need to be implemented to ensure safety at the show, which will be based on government guidelines as well as procedures at overseas shows.

“There will be some changes, but I don't think they will be onerous – they will be changes that everyone will accept and understand. China has trade shows up and running already, while Germany has announced they will be hosting shows in June, and the US has announced shows for July, so there are a lot of protocols and systems in place. We will look at those and apply what's relevant to our market,” he says.

“If we take a common sense approach, we will hopefully come out of this the better for it.”

The theme of this year’s fair is ‘Be Reconnected’, and the official website has been updated with new information and graphics to reflect the concept of reconnection.

"I'm a realist – I'm not saying that we're going to have a huge buying fair. What we're going to have is a ‘healing’ fair, an event where the industry can reconnect and even celebrate"

Fitz-Roy explains, “The difference this year is that the fair will serve an important healing effect, because the jewellery industry is very tactile – seeing and talking to people – and it’s personal. It’s personal for the consumers, and it's personal between the wholesaler and the retailer.”

The traditional 5pm social function – ‘Wine O’Clock’ – will still take place, with Fitz-Roy noting that the fair may be the first opportunity for suppliers to interact with each other as well as retailers.

“The best way for any industry to get through a crisis is to support and back each other, and I think for the suppliers getting together and reconnecting is going to be equally important because those networks have also been shut down,” he explains.

“The fair will play a really pivotal role this year in how we reconnect and how we go through this healing process to regrow, because we will grow. We will come out of this. There will be lessons learned, things will be a bit different, but we will survive it,” he adds.

Indeed, the IJWF has always served a critical business function for the jewellery industry – yet its other role, as a unifying force amid both tough times and growth periods, is now more important than ever.

Visit www.jewelleryfair.com.au for details about this year’s International Jewellery & Watch Fair.


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