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There was another change to the JAA’s board of directors in October - the third in 12 months. As a result, the JAA board has never been less representative of the overall industry in the past three decades than it is today.
There was another change to the JAA’s board of directors in October - the third in 12 months. As a result, the JAA board has never been less representative of the overall industry in the past three decades than it is today.

Is the current JAA board representative of the industry?

The past problems, missteps and pitfalls of Australia's jewellery industry body have been well documented. And yet, as membership continues to fall, the 2024 State of the Industry Report revealed how the JAA board is in no way reflective of Australia's jewellery industry.

There was another change to the Jewellers Association of Australia's board of directors late last year - the third in 12 months. As a result, the JAA board has never been less representative of the overall industry in the past three decades than it is today.

The six-person board consists of four small retailers and two individuals who do not work in the industry.

Yet, the JAA claims to cover ‘all areas of the jewellery industry – from manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution to retail’.

There are no directors representing the manufacturing, wholesaling, or distribution sectors, as has traditionally been the case and which was stipulated under the previous Constitution.

In November 2022, a special resolution to amend the JAA Constitution was passed to allow the alteration of the board's composition. It effectively means that the board can be composed of 'anyone', which is how the current board can fairly be described as unrepresentative of the industry.

Following the resignation of Jo Tory, a former JAA president, in October 2023, the board has not had a director representing suppliers (wholesaling). Tory operates Najo, a jewellery supply/wholesale business that once enjoyed a high profile in the industry.

She joined the board in 2017 and was president from 2019 to 2021, having taken over the presidency from Selwyn Brandt - another supply sector member.

As previously documented, the buying groups now hold a far more critical position in the industry than the JAA - both in terms of membership and reputation - yet, there is no director representing buying groups.

Additionally, in terms of other retail categories, there is no director representing chain stores, and there is also no director representing distribution, another critical sector according to its mission statement.

In past years, the board had members who operated chain stores. It has also had buying group representation via George Proszkowiec from Showcase Jewellers and Colin Pocklington from Nationwide.

Proszkowiec resigned in September 2019, and Pocklington quit the board as well as the JAA in 2016 - after a 25-year association - following the indecorous claims by then president Brandt, vice president Laura Moore (nee Laura Sawade) and then CEO Amanda Trotman (nee Amanda Hunter).

Mystery in the making

A review of the board make-up dating back to 2010 and earlier shows that there was always an endeavour to have the various sectors represented; however, the current board makeup is curious, with four current directors owning small jewellery stores, two of which are considered ‘retailer no-storefront’.

Directors Cameron Marks and Daniel Anania operate ‘upstairs’ style jewellery businesses in Sydney CBD office buildings - Percy Marks and Anania Jewellers, respectively.

On the other hand, President Joshua Sharp and vice president Ronnie Bauer operate small traditional ‘high street’ style jewellery businesses (with storefronts). Bauer’s Klepners is in the Melbourne CBD, and Ian Sharpe Jewellers is in Toorak.

Following Tory's departure in October, the JAA appointed Mary Storch. Not only is her appointment a mystery, given that the board has no representatives from the sectors it claims to represent as apart of is Mission (manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution), but Storch is also a retiree.

According to the JAA website, she has not worked in the industry for more than 20 years. The board member page acknowledges Storch's predicament: "In 2002, Mary left the jewellery trade due to personal family commitments but has always held a long interest in the industry and remains in contact with various industry associates".

Storch’s new appointment is even more curious, given that Meredith Doig is not employed in the industry. She is a co-opted director listed as ‘professional company director and governance consultant’.

This means two directors do not have day-to-day senior management positions in the jewellery industry.

Further, Doig’s appointment in September of 2022 was not without controversy. She has commercial dealings with Bauer and, in November of 2022, was ‘caught out’ not declaring the possible conflict of interest when asked about her appointment.

Dr Meredith Doig OAM
Dr Meredith Doig OAM
"I was approached because there was a vacancy on the board. Somebody who has expertise in board governance is what they were looking for, and that’s why they approached me."
Meredith Doig, JAA Director

At the time, she initially explained her new position this way: “I was approached because there was a vacancy on the board. Somebody who has expertise in board governance is what they were looking for, and that’s why they approached me”.

The statement was important because Doig had confirmed she was offered and accepted the position because of her board and corporate governance experience.

Her biography on the JAA website mentions that she is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and taught their flagship Company Directors Course for five years.

When questioned further, Doig confirmed that her position as director was unpaid (voluntary) and that it was JAA vice president Ronnie Bauer specifically who had approached her to join the board.

“We have been friends since 2016,” she explained. It soon became apparent that Doig was not entirely forthcoming in her explanation about the ‘relationship’. Records from the Australian Security Investments Commission (ASIC) paint a different picture of the ‘friendship’ between Doig and Bauer.

Jeweller sought further clarification, and Doig was asked if her friendship extends to other areas, including professional and/or business. She was also asked if she currently represents or acts for any of Bauer's private companies in any capacity, including formal positions.

Only then did she admit to further ‘dealings’ with Bauer: “Yes, I am company secretary of Klepners.”

Jeweller has previously noted that there is no assertion that anything untoward has occurred regarding this board appointment.

However, based on Doig’s self-promoted level of governance and ethics expertise, there was confusion about her hesitancy and/or delay in transparently admitting that she also serves as company secretary in the private business of the vice president of the JAA.

In addition, Doig’s previous statement casts doubt on her claim that she is 'someone who is from outside of the industry’ given she has provided services to Bauer’s jewellers business, Klepner’s, since 2016.

It is worth noting that this information has yet to be reflected on the JAA website as a matter of transparency - and governance - to its members.

Bauer caused a controversy in November 2022 when he was forced to apologise and retract bizarre statements he made as JAA vice-president about events in 2016, and for which he could have no knowledge given he was not a director at the time.

The big picture

While the JAA goes to great lengths to promote its claims as representing the Australian jewellery industry's manufacturing, wholesaling, and distribution sectors, the recent decision to appoint a second director who does not currently work in the industry - and has not done so for two decades - is intriguing.

Especially so given other sectors are unrepresented.

Despite the JAA's claim, the board consists of two individuals who own or manage small ‘high street’ jewellery stores, two who own or operate ‘no storefront’ businesses, and two who do not work in the industry. And, of the six people, two - Bauer and Doig - are commercially linked.

Readers can make their own judgement as to whether this is appropriate.

Further, it is reasonable to question whether the make-up of the current board is an ideal reflection of the Australian jewellery industry.
 

Despite issuing a new Mission & Values Statement the JAA claims to represent "all areas of the jewellery industry – from manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution to retail", the new six person board consists of two people who do not work in the industry and four people who own/operate small retail jewellery stores. The three important sectors nominated by the JAA - manufacturing, wholesaling and distribution - have no industry representation. The buying groups are also not represented on the JAA board. 

 

Past board members – Where are they?

There is no doubt that a large part of the JAA’s membership decline in past years – and which continues today – can be attributed to its ‘politicking’ and mis-management in the industry. All of which can be described as ‘own goals’.

In fairness, it’s reasonable to assume that the membership of the JAA – like many other associations – would suffer a natural decline. That is, a small percentage of the dramatic fall can be explained by retirements and store closures, for example.

The internal board bickering along with misguided campaigns promoted by JAA staff, and which could only be described as being at odds with the JAA’s purpose, have not helped.

Indeed, in an ironic twist the JAA’s standing in the industry is, perhaps, best illustrated by the board itself.

What is not well known is the number of former JAA board members who have withdrawn their own business from the JAA.

In other words perhaps one of the biggest indictments on its reputation is the number of jewellery businesses owned by former directors which are no longer JAA members!

There are as many as 10 former directors whose jewellery businesses still trade today that are no longer members of the JAA.

The question must be asked: Why?

It must speak volumes if a person, who devoted their time and energy in an honorary position - sometimes as president -  is no longer a member of the JAA. 

 

STATE OF THE INDUSTRY REPORT

ADDENDUM EXPLAINED

This article is an addendum to the State of the Industry Report published in December 2023. The purpose of the six-month study into the Australian jewellery industry is two-fold – it’s a historical document offering an in-depth examination of the trade from which a glimpse of the future may be obtained.

As is often the case with studies of this nature, the research often uncovers unexpected insights. These include significant changes due to advances in technology, the evolution of consumer habits and expectations, and the unforeseen impact of an unprecedented global pandemic.

In some cases, the space allocated to specific sections of the report was insufficient because of the additional detail and information obtained. This article is one such case where it was noted that the decline of independent jewellery retailers in Queensland far exceeded declines in other states. This was deemed worthy of further analysis.

There is a host of additional information uncovered during the SOIR research period, which was also unable to be included in the initial report due to space and time limitations. Jeweller will continue to publish addendums to the SOIR to analyse and clarify an ever-changing industry.

 

 

STATE OF THE INDUSTRY REPORT
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.

 

 

STATE OF THE INDUSTRY REPORT - ADDENDUMS
SINCE JANUARY 2024

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:
JAA: The past is haunting, and the future is unclear
JAA: Legacy of past presidents and their achievements
New appointment made to JAA board
JAA’s commitment to transparency tested by undisclosed relationship
Former president bids farewell to JAA, new director appointed
Another JAA board member resigns

 

 


















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