As I’m involved with the American Gem Society Conclave this year as emcee, I haven’t gotten as many opportunities to talk to attendees as I’d like. But when I have spoken to retailers, I’m struck by one thing: The mood is good. In fact, if I weren’t so naturally cautious about these things, I’d say the mood was really good.
Granted, we are still stuck in a tough economy, and there is still a lot of anxiety about competition and high material costs. But many jewelers meeting in Phoenix told me that things have picked up considerably, and some have even seen record or near-record months. Quite a few even told me business was “excellent.”
This may be due to a natural survival of the fittest: A lot of companies have left the business, and while that’s unfortunate, it leaves more opportunities for the companies that remain. Going through a vicious downturn like we experienced in 2008–09 can also wake people up, in a good way. Jewelers are more willing to try new things; we see that in the way they have embraced everything from social networking to new brands. Years ago, people often described jewelers as “stodgy,” “old-school,” and “stuck in their ways.” That’s still true of some firms, but far less so now. In fact, this year’s Conclave featured a lot more young people, as AGS has deliberately tried to recruit more next-generation members.
I don’t want to sound too Polyanna-ish about this; some suppliers I spoke to weren’t quite so upbeat. And some retailers complained things were uneven: up one month, down the next. But overall, they were pleased.
In his keynote speech, former governor Mike Huckabee talked of how the key to life is being able to master “the curve ahead.” The jewelry industry was hit with a pretty nasty curve a few years back, and it’s taken a while to fully pull out of it. I don’t want to say the dog days are completely in the rearview mirror yet. But it’s truly impressive when you consider how far we’ve come.