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Fairs and Events

Sydney Fair unifies jewellery industry

This year’s International Jewellery & Watch Fair has been praised for bringing together retailers, buying groups and supplier.

It’s appropriate that the theme of the 2019 International Jewellery & Watch Fair (IJWF) was ‘Unity’ as the event brought together Nationwide Jewellers, Showcase Jewellers and Leading Edge Jewellers’ buying days under one roof for the first time.

Amid tough trading conditions, exhibitors and visitors welcomed the decision to create a single buying event for the industry, which relieved some of the pressure on suppliers and boosted foot traffic.

Expertise Events general manager Joshua Zarb described the overall atmosphere throughout the event as “overwhelmingly positive”. “It was so nice to see everyone really pull together; it made for a relaxed but still exciting show,” Zarb added.

Duraflex Group Australia managing director Phil Edwards agreed, saying, “My impression of the fair was very positive. It had a good vide and, as always, was well organised by Expertise Events.”

Edwards praised the decision to have all three groups buying at the fair as “excellent and about time”, adding, “It is essential for the trade that this type of unity remains.”

Ken Abbott, Timesupply managing director
Ken Abbott, Timesupply managing director
“It’s been a great fair, as usual. We are seeing more people coming through who probably would have gone to buying days”
Ken Abbott, Timesupply

Chris Worth, business development manager at Worth & Douglas, said the fair seemed “more positive on the floor and the numbers seemed good as well”, adding that he preferred this year to the 2018 event.

Steve der Bedrossian, CEO of SAMS Group Australia, echoed the sentiments of unity, saying, “It’s nice to see everyone in the same place; it was a lot easier, that’s for sure. More efficient and the numbers seem to be good as well.”

The presence of all three buying groups unequivocally helped visitor numbers, according to Ken Abbott, managing director of Timesupply.

“It’s been a great fair, as usual. We are seeing more people coming through who probably would have gone to buying days,” he said. “It’s good having all three [buying groups] under one roof.”

At the West End Collection booth, business was bustling.

We were very successful this year; we had a lot of new brands to offer and exclusive new releases to show,” managing director John Rose said. “When you’re giving the retailers something exciting and meaningful, it makes it better for them and better for us as well.”

While Rose said numbers were about the same as the 2018 show, he did notice that the consolidated show “drew a lot more of the buying-group members along, which was definitely a good thing”.

“We showed 15 different brands at the fair and it’s much nicer for us to show our products in a big beautiful display,” Rose added. “At buying days, we don’t have enough room and time to show them all so it’s hard to tell the full story of the brand you’re representing.”

“At the Peter W Beck booth, the sentiment was equally upbeat. “It feels livelier and there’s a better vibe in general, more positive,” marketing co-ordinator Olivia Baird said. “There are more people around and I think having all three buying groups is a massive reason why. It was a great move.”

Some exhibitors did find it more challenging. “I think it’s brilliant [to have all three buying groups at the fair] but we did expect, having normally done three buying days in advance, there would be a greater spend [at the fair],” Helen Thompson- Carter, managing director of New Zealand-based Fabuleux Vous, said.

Colin Pocklington, Nationwide Jewellers managing director
Colin Pocklington, Nationwide Jewellers managing director
“We had 182 stores here, up on last year’s 160 stores, and our comprehensive program had something for everyone which no doubt contributed to strong attendance”
Colin Pocklington, Nationwide Jewellers

Fabuleux Vous had a bumper event in 2018 but Thompson-Carter said this year was quieter, adding that Australian retailers seemed more apprehensive due to depressed retail conditions, especially in the drought-affected regional areas.

Der Bedrossian also noted the impact of the drought: “A lot of the people here are from regional areas; a lot of our business comes from mum-and-pop stores there and the drought really affects them. I think the industry has turned a corner and there’s more of a positive attitude – as long as we get some rain in the country areas, where the strength is.”

Edwards said of DGA’s results, “I felt overall numbers were down from previous years but for those that did attend, I felt they were positive and willing to be pro-active for their business in the current difficult retail environment.”

Meanwhile Darren Roberts, managing director Cudworth Enterprises, said this year’s event “was not too bad – about the same as last year”. “While it’s pleasing that we’re all together, we [suppliers] need support from the retailers now that we’re all under one roof,” he added.

Results were also steady for Moda Group. “The fair was different to last year; this year we picked up on the second day,” managing director Trent McKean told Jeweller. “I’d say sales are quite similar and we did bring a different mix of our brands to last year.

“Having all three buying groups here was much better for us,” he added. ”For us as wholesalers, not doing all the other buying meetings beforehand lets us be more organised for the Fair.”

The buzz on the floor on the opening day was excellent as visitors streamed in early in the morning and a steady flow continued throughout the day. Most exhibitors said the show was more upbeat than expected and they’d seen improved business from last year.
Hampar Erdogan, CEO Golden Mile Jewellery, noticed a similar pattern of traffic: “It started off quite slowly on the Saturday then picked up quite quickly. It was better than last year – last year was quite sparse.”

One of them was David Paterson, managing director Paterson Fine Jewellery: “I’ve been very impressed – last year we were okay, and this year has definitely exceeded last year,” he said.

Nick Hoogwerf, representing New Zealand supplier Kagi Jewellery, told Jeweller the IJWF made a great first impression: “It’s been really good. We’ve been able to connect with new customers and other suppliers, which is fantastic,” he said, adding that the next 12 months should see the industry become “more aligned so everybody can work together and grow together”.

The buying groups also reported positive results. Colin Pocklington, managing director Nationwide Jewellers, said 90 per cent of the suppliers he spoke to were very happy with the results, which were aided by having all of the group members present: “One large supplier said his only problem was not enough staff to handle all of the orders!”

Erdogan also believes suppliers may have struggled to see everyone, especially clients they would’ve previously met with at the traditional buying days.

Carson Webb, Showcase Jewellers general manager
Carson Webb, Showcase Jewellers general manager
“We are all feeling the domino effect of what retailers are going through at store level. This fair was a fabulous event and I commend the hard work put in by Expertise Events”
Carson Webb, Showcase Jewellers

“There are a lot more people as a result; however, we used to get quite a few orders on the buying days. Only having four sales reps here means we have seen clients walk past and not be able to place their orders. They leave messages for the reps to come and see them in store but normally we’d be getting those orders here,” he explained.

Pocklington added that numbers were good: “We had 182 stores here, up on last year’s 160 stores, and our comprehensive program had something for everyone, which no doubt contributed to the strong attendance.

“We also had more major initiatives to launch this year – in particular our new digital platform, which has been embraced by members. There has also been strong interest in our new shop-insurance scheme, which will deliver significant savings to members.”

Carson Webb, managing director Showcase Jewellers, had an equally positive outlook on merging the buying days into the fair.

“We really had to all come together and give it a real go for success this year. It is tough out there and this certainly made things easier for our suppliers to see everyone in one location,” he told Jeweller.

“We had a great event – each of our training days, member and supplier dinners sold out! It was one of our best conferences to date and we were about 25 per cent up in member attendance.”

For Webb, there was “no comparison” between 2018 and 2019: “This year was much better. It’s tough retailing at present for all of us and it’s not down to suppliers or event organisers; it’s just really difficult.

“We are all feeling the domino effect of what retailers are going through at store level. This fair was a fabulous event and I commend the hard work put in by Expertise Events to create a great atmosphere for us,” Webb added.

“I’m sure there’ll still be some tweaks as we trade through uncertain times; however, everything seems to be pointing towards a more positive 2020 ahead for retail.”

Looking ahead to the challenges of the next 12 months, it is clear that the IJWF in Sydney provided a much-needed sense of community and purpose in the jewellery industry.

Looking ahead, retailers, suppliers and buying groups must continue to embrace new strategies, positive thinking and forward momentum in order to overcome tough conditions.

The panel takes questions at the 'marketing strategies for manufacturing jewellers' question-and-answer session.


Workshops and seminars

Fair organisers Expertise Events ensured education was a priority at this year’s Fair, offering workshops and seminars under the IJWF Create and IJWF Talks banners.

Retailers looking to boost both online and in-store traffic were well served by an in-depth presentation from Podium’s Taylor Cutler. The session focused on managing reviews and boosting your business’ Google presence when potential customers search ‘best’ and ‘near me’.
Ian Cunningham from retail designers ID Solutions brought fresh insights to bricks-and-mortar retailing. Cunningham stressed the importance of creating a “unique, branded experience” in store as well as online.

He described the retail jewellery store of the future as a “sanctuary” that seeks to foster customer connection through tactile elements, emotional imagery and a design that funnels people through the store.

One of the most popular of the IJWF Talks series was a special question-and-answer session on promoting manufacturing and custom design. Panellists included Vince Bonfa from Janai Jewels, Pallion’s Chris Botha, Lester Brand, Georgina Staley of Georgies Fine Jewellery, Bolton Gems founder Brett Bolton, Podium Australia’s Steven Garcia, Greg Lilly from Diamond & Co in New Zealand and Romel Santos of Santos Customs.

Attendees were given insights into challenges like the sales spiral, internet price-matching, creating enriched experiences, margin erosion and turning customers into ‘super endorsers’.

Finally, the topic of lab-grown diamonds sparked lively debate. “I particularly liked that education was offered in various forms, aimed at people improving their business,” Staley told Jeweller.

“Lab-grown diamonds will be a controversial topic for a while to come until they find their place in our market. The best thing a jeweller can do is educate yourself about them, then decide if they are right for your business.”

Several members of the panel recommended buying a diamond detector.

Meanwhile, the IJWF Create workshops were a popular addition to the fair. Samantha Kelly, who taught the sketching sessions, told Jeweller, “Every attendee did a really amazing job and I was beyond impressed. It was incredible to see the different ways people visualise designs.”

Meanwhile George Palos, who presented the coloured gemstones workshop, said they were “very well attended, with the Saturday session full and the Monday session oversold.”

The watch-repair workshop hosted by Grant Menzies was also a success.

Trophies galore

The 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup was a hit at the Pallion stand. Crowds gathered for a photo opportunity with what is arguably the nation’s most iconic trophy. The ‘Loving Cup’ design is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and is produced by Pallion subsidiary ABC Bullion.

Finally, the second edition of the Jewellery Design Awards were also held during the fair, giving recognition to the most creative designs from the nation’s professional jewellers and apprentices.



Image (left to right): Darren, Jenny and Larry Sher
Image (left to right): Leanne Holme, Peter Beck, Jennifer Van Den Broek and Olivia Baird
West End Collection's John Rose and Georgini's Gina Schafer  
Time Supply
Duraflex Group Australia


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