My sense of the JCK Show, as I leave Las Vegas …
Most of the comments I heard were along the lines of “okay,” “not too bad,” “pretty good” and — quite frequently — “it beat expectations, but expectations were low.” But I did talk to some happy people. (Imagine that!) And, yes, some unhappy ones.
This show was very much a product of its time. Traffic was down, and so, for the first time in memory, was the number of exhibitors. The good news was, it was a show, and not a morgue. Business was done, even if quite a bit of it involved negotiating, memo, and “hold for confirmation.” I also heard particularly good things from Luxury.
For as long as I’ve been doing this, whenever a trade show has mixed traffic, organizers will say something along the lines of: “Those that were here, were here to buy.” This time, though, that may have really been true. With retailers watching every penny, they weren’t going to Vegas for a vacation. It’s also promising that jewelers are more open than ever to changing their business; new-fangled concepts like social networking were all the rage at pre-show seminars.
If you want ominous signs, you could certainly find them. There was Warren Buffett’s prediction, relayed through Borsheim’s Susan Jacques at a JA panel, that 20% of jewelry retailers and wholesalers will close within the next year. The Rapaport banking panel was particularly bleak – and it’s telling that almost no bankers wanted to be on it this year. (It would have been too uncomfortable, one told me.) There was also talk that some companies were just holding on through this show, hoping it would bail them out. That probably didn’t happen. This could be a tough summer.
Still, the show was a welcome sign the industry is waking up. And with De Beers’ next sight rumored to be around $400 million (which would be about four times what it sold in January), we are seeing the trade continue its very slow climb out of its very deep hole.