JA show ‘satisfactory’ despite heat, attendance

The 2006 Jewelers of America Summer Show, held during one of New York City’s hottest-ever Julys, had little gain in attendance, but still provided good business for vendors and buyers, said show officials and many exhibitors. The show was July 30-Aug. 3, at the Jacob Javits Center.

There were about 1,750 exhibitors, and attendance (13,900) was “about equal to 2005’s summer show (13,750),” said Drew Lawsky, JA New York Show director. Exhibitors, said some attendees came from as far as California, Florida, and even Russia and Guatemala. Most, though, were from the Northeast. The show’s first day was crowded, but midway into its third, many aisles were near empty.

Even so, many jewelry designers, watch vendors and service providers had steady business, though some thought foot traffic, overall, was less for a JA summer show. A few suggested the four-day show is too long, but many blamed heat—both outside, where the heat index rose to a scorching 115, and inside the show, which seemed warmer than usual—for discouraging buyers from coming into the city.

Still, even flat attendance was “a positive, in view of this challenging economy, gold’s high prices and New York’s heat-wave,” said Lawsky, “and the buzz inside the show was positive, given what’s happening in the world and in the jewelry business, where sales are a little sluggish.” For retailers, he contended, “this is a good-looking, easy-to-work show.” Cautious buying in July bode well, he added, for the three-year-old JA NY Special Delivery Show (Oct. 29-31), a cash and carry show where retailers—who “buy later and later”—can stock up for the holiday season, produced by VNU Expositions, owner/operator of the JA NY shows.

There was some discontent about warmth inside Javits. Many exhibitors complained, whether inside the show or in the all-glass-domed “Crystal Palace” lobby where the sun’s heat could be sweltering. Many assumed air conditioning was lowered due to a general city request to prevent power outages. However, Lawsky said the Javits put it “100 percent on” for the show and “never turned it down.”

A popular sector was absent due to heat, and is unlikely to return. The Concourse d’Elegance, an annual exposition/show of several dozen mid- and luxury-priced watch brands, was held in a large open pavilion in the Crystal Palace. The seven-year-old event grew annually and was popular with visitors, who came not only for watches, but also special guests like actor/watch collector Eli Wallach and events (with mountain climbers, vintage cars, and even an antique airplane). However, vendors complained annually about heat, and organizer Bert Kalisher early this year asked Lawsky to move it into the show. Told there wasn’t room (though the show’s Watch Village later added a few brands from the Concourse), Kalisher canceled. (The 2006 Concourse still will be held, with less exhibitors, Nov. 18 – 19 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, N.J.) Lawsky acknowledged logistical issues involved space and the lobby’s warmth. “We tried it a few years, but it’s not working,” he said.

Despite weather and flat attendance, many vendors said they wrote orders, made new contacts, and called their show business “satisfactory.” The Hong Kong and Italian sectors (among 15 international pavilions) were busy much of the show, as was the Couture/IJDG Pavilion, in its own fourth-floor site, which showcased couture designers, International Jewelry Design Guild collections and, for the first time, the two-year-old Natural Color Diamond Association.

The show’s educational seminars—offering useful industry information and practices applicable to jewelers’ businesses—were well-attended, especially one concerning diamond certification.

Among jewelry for the fall and holiday seasons, delicate necklaces and earrings, particularly hoops, were popular. Many designers expanded into new colored stones, complementing gold pieces. Rose gold and sterling silver jewelry were on many retailers’ buying lists.

Among watch sellers with good sales and contacts were Oceanaut’s new Swiss-made watches, and the revitalized, expanded Ernst Benz luxury timepieces. Eclissi, known for sterling silver watches, had a traffic puller with its Bali-esque style watch, with white mother of pearl (MOP) mosaic dial. Cristian Geneve (Brokoe Corp.) had a fast-seller in its new ladies luxury gold line with MOP dial and diamond markers.

Giorgio Visconti’s red gold and diamond V-One was a best-seller, while Boston-based Essence offered mid-priced watches of ceramic and tungsten. Festina, in addition to its 18k line, did well with its colorful Dashboard chronographs with dual-textured rubber straps. Another crowd pleaser was Vetania’s five-year warranty with guaranteed seven-day service, or it gives a free watch.

Ecco, a Korean mid- to luxury-priced brand (with Swiss and Japanese movements) made its U.S. debut with high-tech ceramic watches, seeking a U.S. agent and jeweler retailers. London-based Storm did well with mid-priced Regal cuff watches with large square steel cases. A popular watch type in Italy catching on here are good, affordable watches with transparent plastic or polycarbonate cases and bracelets. New ones at JA included Ritmo Mundo’s Drops line (starting at $120) and Zoppini’s Manuel.Zed (under $100).

Among other product introductions were Wolfe Design’s small Model 3.0 single watch rotator; designer Mark Silverstein’s The Wartch, [stet], a steel ring watch with interchangeable bezels (including diamonds), and Cherie Dori’s mid-priced petite aluminum watch, with interchangeable colored bezels set with tiny Swarovski crystals as hour markers. The Gem Certification & Assurance Lab (GCAL) announced its new digital certificates, known as GemFacts, which come on a mini-CD with full graphics of a GCAL certificate. In addition, moving a cursor over any of 19 keywords on the certificate, i.e., “clarity” or “color,” produces a pop-up window, an effective sales tool for jewelers, says the company.

Those winning the show’s Golden Apple for publicity and marketing campaigns included jewelry designers Sonya Ooten, Andrea Levine Jewelry and Mathew Trent. The 2006 Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year award went to Geoffrey Giles.