Business was robust for many vendors at the JCK Las Vegas Show at Mandalay Bay in June, particularly for companies in the Plumb Club. The response was positive despite expansion renovations that altered the pavilion’s location, which is now adjacent to where it was in 2015.
“The vibe in the Plumb Club was very positive. Everyone I spoke to in the pavilion was pleased with the overall business, and so were we,” reports Jeffrey Cohen, vice-president of sales, KGS Jewels, New York City, noting that sentiment was not necessarily felt all over the show. “We work with the majors and have some exciting opportunities coming up with our core accounts.”
The Plumb Club benefited from its move, as the pavilion “monopolized” the upper level, says Corinna Bhasin, general manager F.D. Worldwide Merchandise, New York. “Customers had no problem finding us. The feedback from buyers was that they were more comfortable, and spent more time with us. There’s great synergy in the Plumb Club that creates an added value experience for buyers.”
Because the Plumb Club was separate from the main show floor it felt more like a destination for attendees, adds Crystal Oyler, marketing coordinator for Alison & Ivy, a Fantasy Diamond brand in Chicago.
Overall, business this year is steady, not over or underwhelming, and buyers are cautious but optimistic, and searching for something new and different. “No one is crying, but they’re not knocking down doors either,” describes Michael Lerche for Goldstar Jewellery, New York.
People are distracted as it’s a presidential election year, says Todd Wolleman of Color Craft in New York. “I expect the holidays will be fine, but people won’t be thinking about jewelry between now and the elections except for got-to-gets like wedding, anniversary and birthday, which jewelers should keep top of mind.”
Undoubtedly, buying habits have changed, acknowledges Richard Greenwood of the Greenwood Group, New York. “There’s so much merchandise available to retailers that they don’t need to buy much.” He notes that everyone is trying to find the right formula to capture the millennials.
Neil Shah of the New York-based brand Shah Luxury says he was pleased to meet with more new, stronger accounts at the Plumb Club, noting that retailers who know themselves and their customers, and aggressively promote their brand across channels are doing well.
Beyond specific needs, retailers want the next big thing, says Shyam Jagirdar for Rosy Blue, New York. “Buyers look for differentiation in the items they pick.” The challenge is to identify what’s special and unique to your customers, says Lori Kluempke, senior vice president of the Dallas-based Prime Art & Jewel. “Our goal is to wow customers with new collections. We work with our buyers to find white space opportunities and design product specifically for their consumers.”
For some, that white space is in colorless lab created diamonds. Monica McDaniels for Chatham, a pioneer in lab created gemstones in San Marcos, California, reports a record-breaking show in the Plumb Club, with greater acceptance among better retailers of lab grown diamonds. “The conversation around lab grown has a lot of people curious. The show was busy everyday and we closed new accounts. Jewelers love our bridal mountings and we saw a lot of interest for our lab created colorless diamonds.” She says Chatham research shows millennials come to the brand looking for products that are conflict free, eco friendly and revolutionary in technology. “They’re drawn to the story.”
Cohen notes that for the last several years, jewelry has become a seasonal purchase—with Christmas the strongest period, and Valentine and Mother’s days showing smaller spikes. “We need to reinforce jewelry’s connection to people’s lifestyles.” He notes that while bridal is the strength of the jewelry business, the challenge is that people are waiting later to marry.” In fact, research reveals marriage is no longer the most important decision in an adult’s life.
Bhasin believes industry-wide messaging is needed to make jewelry relevant again. She applauds news that the Diamond Producers Association will launch a generic fourth quarter ad campaign, “Rare is Real,” tapping into millennials’ sense of individuality and search for ‘real’ moments in a world where virtual communication has made such connections hard to come by.
DPA CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr describes the strategy to establish an emotional connection with young consumers who haven’t been exposed to diamond category messaging. He notes that the most successful brands and categories appeal to consumers on an emotional level, not as luxury symbols.
The diamond producers say they are in this to make a long-term generational commitment. With an initial budget of $18 million over three years, the campaign will use mainly video advertising on digital platforms. Bhasin hails this overdue and important for the trade.
Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group and founder of Rapaport Diamond Report, reminds retailers we’re not in the diamond/jewelry business; we’re selling the idea behind it. He defines jewelers as curators for consumers begging for ideas of what to buy. “How you add value, the stories you tell can create moments that last forever.”