What I Learned at JCK Las Vegas 2016: Part 1

In addition, that is, to the single most obvious rule for show-going—wear comfortable shoes!

After 17 years of attending JCK Las Vegas, I should know better than to wear heels to the show. Or ignore booth locations when booking appointments. Or schedule 7 a.m. breakfast meetings.

I learned (and relearned) many things at this year’s market week. Here are a few of the most memorable.

Sales of jewelry on Overstock.com surpassed $100 million in 2015. My general rule of thumb when it comes to scheduling meetings in Vegas is to say yes to people who ask me in advance of the shows, and no to those who text or email me once the shows have already begun. So when I heard from Jeanne McPhillips, a vice president of merchandising at Overstock.com, on June 2, my third day in Vegas, it was mostly curiosity that led me to say yes. What was Overstock doing at JCK?

Like most of you, I’ve used the site to buy rugs, peruse furniture listings, and stock up on throw pillows. I had no idea that its jewelry sales—most of them white-label goods—surpassed $100 million last year, or that the category is seeing double-digit growth, mostly on the strength of engagement and wedding rings. Or that Overstock is so bullish about lab-grown diamonds that it’s working on an eco-friendly lab-grown diamond program designed to appeal to bridal shoppers.

“Jewelry is completely underpenetrated,” McPhillips told me. “We have big plans for jewelry and watches.”

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Watch this space: the jewelry landing page at Overstock.com

The keys to a good jewelry selfie are… If you spent any amount of time at JCK from June 2 to 5, you probably caught a glimpse of the woman in pearls—a strange yet beautiful figure wearing an eye-catching white headdress bedecked in heaps of (fake) pearls. She is Liza Urla, aka @Gemologue, a prolific jewelry Instagrammer and blogger based in London. It turns out that JCK Events hosted her in Vegas to help spread the word about the show internationally.

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Liza Urla, aka @Gemologue

During our hour-long sit-down in the press lounge at JCK, Urla told me a lot about herself and her peripatetic life as a jewelry nomad (Bali, Brazil, Moscow, and the Maldives all came up as recent or forthcoming destinations).

Before I met Urla, I knew her through Instagram as a selfie-obsessed jewelry lover with a wandering soul and (I guessed) the heavily inked passport to prove it. After getting to know her a bit and recognizing her as a fellow Russki, I was charmed by her simple observations about jewelry. For example: “I never publish product shots or third-party content. I believe jewelry needs to be worn. All the jewelry on my Instagram I’ve seen and tried on—it’s my integrity.”

The only jewelry Urla wears is a tiny heart-shape diamond on a fishing wire on her left hand, which she can easily hide from the camera. She brings so little of her own jewelry to her work because she’s constantly trying on new jewelry and fears losing the pieces she’s wearing. As an expert in posing for the camera, Urla shared these three tips for taking a great jewelry selfie: Be in a well-lit location, wear color, and, the one I will always fall down on: Have a good manicure.

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You can recognize blogger Liza Urla by her delicate diamond ring and her impeccable manicure.

It pays to hire a social media manager. Rebecca Hasson, director of marketing at Bernie Robbins Jewelers, reached out to me weeks before the show with a friendly email asking to meet up in Vegas. When we sat down in the press lounge, she brought along her newest hire, Peter Salerno, the company’s first social media manager, who started with the company in March. He walked the shows (Couture, LUXURY, and JCK) with Hasson, lugging around a video camera to shoot a series of designer interviews for the BR website.

I was impressed by the New Jersey retailer’s embrace of digital media and the inventive marketing efforts that Hasson told me about, including a Bash on the Bay party Bernie Robbins is hosting for 700 people at a private home in Somers Point, N.J., on June 30 (my birthday!).

Salerno told me that owners Harvey and Maddy Rovinsky gave him their blessing to buy a bunch of camera equipment shortly after he started, with the intention of beefing up the store’s digital marketing efforts.

“I’m launching an influencer program, connecting brands we carry with online influencers to build notoriety,” Salerno said.

That’s the kind of progressive initiative JCK has urged retailers to consider, but it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a retailer actually doing it. Nice work, Bernie Robbins!

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Bernie Robbins’ Peter Salerno and Rebecca Hasson

Check back next week for more on what I learned in Las Vegas!