Believe it or not, in less than a month, it will be JCK Vegas time. And this year, there is real hope in the air.
This mirrors larger trends: The economy is clearly gaining steam, even if it’s still not as robust as people would like. But the mood among retailers at AGS was good—and among the jewelers we surveyed for Mother’s Day, it was even better. Stats look strong: The Commerce Dept. found jewelry sales up 10 percent (!) in March. And checking with my sources—meaning the people down the hall—pre-registration is up 16 percent over last year for LUXURY, and 3 percent for JCK. (And of course, many LUXURY buyers stay for JCK.)
All this is especially striking after what was generally considered a lackluster Christmas. Now, every drop of optimism carries with it a bit of caution these days—so we will note that many jewelers are still struggling, and it is still quite tough out there. In fact, if we are seeing an uptick, it might be the result of a (still not over) shake-out, with some jewelers doing better simply because so much of their competition has disappeared. Which might also be why the good feelings aren’t necessarily matched on the supplier side: Vendors are now catering to a shrinking pool of customers. (Of course, supplier ranks have thinned as well.) “A lot of suppliers, their mood is nothing great,” one banker told me. “Retailers are asking for a lot of memo. Even with things getting better, jewelers don’t want a lot of inventory.”
But all in all, the majors look much stronger than they did last year at this time, and so do (most of) the independents. At Basel, many jewelers were reportedly reluctant to buy, saying they will “wait for Vegas.” Will they come through? At this point, I’m an optimist. As someone once told me, to work in the jewelry business, you have to be.