Mood Upbeat at Centurion Jewelry Show

The ninth annual Centurion Jewelry Show opened on Sunday, and the sentiment among exhibitors and attendees was 180 degrees different from one year ago. In general, sales among both sets were trending upward. For example, Steven Mazza of The Mazza Company told JCK that he "wrote up several big orders" on Sunday while Don and Dorothy Vodicka of The Gem Collection, Tallahassee, Fla., revealed that their January 2010 sales were up considerably over last year. Added Steffany Shelton of Kenneth Edwards Fine Jewelers, Little Rock, Ark.: "We had a killer January."

To be sure, many still fret over the current state of the economy-some of Mazza’s customers confided that January 2010 was one of their store’s worst on record. Yet, resourceful efforts on behalf of savvy stores might have helped stave off worse conditions for more storeowners. Think lower-priced sterling and contemporary metal lines to bring down price points, and retailers who’ve picked up bench business as a result of the demise of one-time competitors. Among them are Shelton, and Sue Abrams, of Meadowlark Gallery, Corte Madera, Calif.; once the Bailey, Banks & Biddle stores in their respective markets closed, former clients looked to their stores to fill service gaps like repairs. At a Monday morning panel discussion dubbed Surviving & Thriving Through Major Market Changes, Susan Eisen of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, Texas, revealed that her store was "doing more and more things in its shop than ever before" as a result of other consumers looking to simply freshen up their existing jewelry.

Efforts from the design and manufacturing sector have also likely helped aid the recovery that the industry is starting to experience. One year ago at the Centurion show, Gumuchian unveiled efforts to boost custom-design work in stores, Henderson Designs offered cost-free opportunities for retailers to drive more trunk-show traffic (which resulted in 80+ in-store events for owner Lecil Henderson), and this year Peter Storm unveiled proprietary research initiatives to enable his clients to reach new customers. These kinds of measures, coupled with inventory-reduction efforts led by retailers over the past year, should help to improve sales in 2010.

"Retailers were anxious to attend [last year]," says Howard Hauben, president, H2 Events. "Now, they have a little bit of money."

In 2009, 180 stores were represented at Centurion; Hauben anticipates a gain of more than 20 percent this year. Meanwhile, changes to this year’s show include the elimination of the basement level-a "deliberate" effort, notes Hauben-who called the location "a distraction" from the core intent of the show, to create a high-energy show on one floor. Some 107 exhibitors are present this year, a total loss of 10 compared with last year, according to Hauben, who claims to have a waiting list of 150 vendors eager to join the show.