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Editor's Desk, State of the Industry Report

The past cannot be changed; however, it can help determine the future.
The past cannot be changed; however, it can help determine the future.

Listen to what is not said, for there, the true story lies

Editor SAMUEL ORD explains some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into this study and discusses expectations and reality.

On the first day I joined Jeweller, my publisher told me to leave my expectations about the industry at the door.  She said that it was an industry you could spend a lifetime studying and still retire feeling clueless.

She was right! In two short years, I’ve learned a great deal. At the time, I assumed she was referring to the intricacies of gemmology, the complexities of retail trade, or perhaps the precarious relationship between media and business.

What I realise now – having completed the State of the Industry Report – is that the advice was also about human nature.

Philosopher Alan Watts once described the hypnotic ‘illusion of time’. He believes the way we view things - the present moment - is dominated by our obsession with a causative past.

Indeed, even at the best of times, how often do we find ourselves preoccupied with the painful memories of yesterday and apprehensive expectations for tomorrow?

Watts says that living life in this manner – which most people do – leaves you fundamentally ‘out of touch with reality’.

The past cannot be changed; however, it can help determine the future.

The focus of this State of the Industry Report (SOIR) is on reality, to analyse the ‘present moment’; a study of the jewellery industry as it is today.

Pleasant surprises

What I didn’t understand about the friendly advice was that it also related to the expectations of people and organisations.

Before joining Jeweller, I worked as a newspaper journalist, covering two specific rounds – sport and court.

Contrary to popular opinion, athletes are reluctant interviewees at the best of times, while the legal system is even worse – the police, magistrates, lawyers – few are eager to stand in front of a microphone.

"No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now."

What I never expected was the number of people who pride themselves on their ever-expanding expertise on any given topic – whether it be diamonds, gemstones, precious metals, or the intricacies of supply and retail.

Their knowledge astounds me, as does their willingness to assist in my ‘education’ of the wider industry.

Every 15-minute conversation with someone about one story inevitably leads to ideas for half a dozen more – whether it be a new approach to a long-debated topic or profound insight into an unexplored area.

I mention this because many of these people have played a vital role in the construction of this comprehensive report, and for their time, I’m grateful.

With that said most people do not realise that, for a journalist, a story often begins with what’s not being said.

Bitter disappointment

As a reporter, the search for the deeper truth begins when you disregard what you’re being told and start paying attention to what is being avoided or not being said - as this study uncovers.

Returning to the nature of expectations, while I didn’t anticipate that so many people would freely offer their time to help me better understand the industry, I’ve also been shocked by those who have rejected the opportunity to contribute to the report.

As an example, consider the Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) – an organisation that claims it’s on a mission to ‘advance and represent the industry from manufacturing, wholesaling and distribution to retail’.

The JAA claims to be the peak industry body - the industry leader - and it could be argued that the onus of producing a study such as this should be the responsibility of JAA.

At the very least, you would think the association would assist in every way possible.

Well, that was my (reasonable) assumption. After all, the project benefits the industry. If only I had listened to my publisher’s advice about ‘expectations’!

I contacted the JAA on 1 September about two simple figures: the number of retailer and supplier members.

"The past cannot be changed; however, it can help determine the future."

After a week without a reply, the request was resubmitted, which resulted in a response from the JAA’s operation manager, who said she had been unable to reply due to '‘numerous conflicting priorities in the previous months”.

She said she would endeavour to “look at them" - the two figures - "sometime next week". As I write this in November, three months after the first request, the JAA has been unable to provide a membership number.

Compare this experience with my exchanges with other organisations. For example, James Pascoe Group – with 460 stores across three different retail chains – provided a comprehensive state-by-state count within 24 hours.

It’s worth noting that the James Pascoe Group has more stores than the JAA has members.

The same could be said for Nationwide Jewellers – Australia’s largest jewellery buying group – also quickly provided detailed information; it too has more members than the JAA.

In fact, there’s no need to single out Nationwide. Showcase Jewellers and Independent Jewellers Collective also returned information post-haste, as did Pandora, the world’s largest mass-market jewellery brand.

Now consider this - the entire purpose of the JAA is to attract members.

Its website states: “We endeavour to demonstrate leadership through our respectful and thoughtful communications and actions”. Note that the bold ‘leadership’ is the JAA’s emphasis, not mine.

As you will discover, there are many other examples of the JAA's failures over the past decade, and our industry survey appears to reflect this sentiment, even from its own members!

If the so-called peak industry body cannot lead through actions, then one must ask: does it have any right to claim it represents all sectors of the industry, let alone any part of it?

I didn’t expect to encounter this degree of unprofessional management and shocking communication while preparing such a valuable report; however, based on the retailer responses to the industry survey, it appears many would.

Perhaps there’s truth in that adage – it’s better to set your expectations low so that you’ll be pleasantly surprised rather than constantly disappointed.

With that said, why dwell on the negative?

Let’s instead focus on the present moment – the State of the Industry Report you’re holding is packed with detailed and valuable information, and to all those who helped make it possible – you have my utmost gratitude.


Published dec 2023 - jan 2024

A Snapshot of the
Australian jewellery industry

To better understand the findings of the State of the Industry Report, it's important to be aware of the changes to the industry and how they affect the methodology.

Independent Jewellery Stores:
How many are there in Australia?
The results are in and you will be surprised.
How has the retail jewellery market fared over the past decade? How does it compare to other areas of the jewellery industry?  

Jewellery Buying Groups: The ups and downs of this vital sector
The nature of buying groups has changed significantly in the past decade and there's an important question to be answered.
Can Australia support four buying groups?

Jewellery Chains:
Stronger and stronger... for some!
The fine jewellery chains have performed well over the past decade; however, consolidation could be on the horizon as the 'big fish' look for new customers via retail brand differentiation.

Fashion Jewellery Chains:
Examining explosive collapses
The past 10 years have been a rollercoaster ride for fashion jewellery chains, defined by rapid expansions and dramatic collapses.
That said, the carnage continues in 2024. 
Is anyone safe?

Brand-Only Watch & Jewellery Stores: Is the sky the limit?
The most significant change over the past decade has been the expansion of the big international watch and jewellery brands as they take control of their public perception via a vertical market model.

Births, Deaths & Marriages:
See you on the other side!

No market is immune to change and no one escapes death. It’s time to reflect on the 'comings and goings' of the Australian jewellery industry over the past 13 years.

Shopping Centre Conflict:
Haven't you heard? We're at war!

Australia’s shopping centres are a towering figure in the retail sector and fine and fashion jewellery stores have played an integral part in their speciality store 'mix'.

Jewellers Association of Australia:
Where does the JAA go from here?

It's been a brutal decade for the Jewellers Association of Australia and much of the damage has been self-inflicted. Worse, the JAA's missteps don't seem to end.

Jewellers Association of Australia:
Does it represent the industry?
As membership continues to fall, the JAA is increasingly seen as a club of like-minded people rather than a peak body.

Jewellers Have Their Say: Prepared to be surprised and intrigued!
What do jewellers say about the past, present, and the future? A survey of retailers and suppliers revealed fascinating results.

Crystal Ball 2030: Bold predictions for the future of retail
Change is inevitable; however, progress is optional. How can your business benefit from upcoming changes in the jewellery industry?

Provenance or Proof of Origin: Does anyone seriously care?
Provenance or proof of origin is a hot topic. Conventional wisdom says it's an important issue, but in this digital era it's also important to challenge tradition.

You’ll never understand the universe
if you only study one planet
More often than not, the questions are complicated, but the answers are simple. Publisher ANGELA HAN reflects on the creation of the State of the Industry Report.

Listen to what is not said,
for there, the true story lies
Editor SAMUEL ORD explains some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into this State of the Industry Report and discusses expectations and reality.




Questions of legacy and accomplishment for the JAA
The structure of the JAA is unique, which causes complexity in measuring its success. To look to the future, one must recognise the success and failures of the past.

Why is Queensland so different? Well, the answer is: Because it is!
Over the past decade, Queensland's number of jewellery stores decreased dramatically more than any other state. Why? The answers are intriguing.

Grey areas: Jewellers operating without a retail storefront
As trends emerged and consumer shopping habits changed, so too has retailing.
The COVID pandemic probably hastened the move towards specialist jewellers, those that do not require a storefront.

 WHAT! You are telling me that your business doesn't have a website?
If you had to guess, how many of Australia's independent jewellery retailers don't have a website? Would you say 100, 200, or even 300? How about 400, 500, or 600?



More reading:
What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word, would smell as sweet.
A picture of yesterday, today, and tomorrow
When the window of opportunity opens,  don’t pull down the shade
Gratitude is an attitude – so don’t forget to say thanks
We cannot direct the wind - but we can adjust the sails

Samuel Ord

Samuel Ord is a Jeweller journalist covering day-to-day industry news and investigative long-form features. He has over seven years experience as a court reporter and sports journalist.

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