A Busy Month

I’ve just completed one of the most hectic, demanding, and thrilling times of the year. It’s been informative and a bit daunting, but ultimately optimistic.

First up was my fourth trip to the Rotaforte show in Istanbul. Our rep in Turkey, Mirek Kraczkowski, is an honorary Turk, and walking the show with him is always a nonstop reunion of dear friends. The show wasn’t all pleasant, however, as the price of gold and the weak dollar have many international manufacturers turning away from the United States and eyeing Arabian nations, the former Soviet bloc, and the Far East. Still, good business was done. And the food there is unbelievable.

Next was my annual week in Basel, Switzerland. There was a lot of Sturm und Drang this year among exhibitors, as new requirements for minimum booth size and mandatory advertising had many feeling the pinch during an already tough time. That show is a beauty, though. It truly reminds you that this is a prestige, luxury business.

There were many highlights, but perhaps my favorite was Bill Boyajian’s annual dinner for the World Jewelry Center in a lovely castle just outside the city. Bill’s worldwide connections never cease to amaze. The room was like a United Nations. Bill and the developer of the center, Robert Zarnegin, continued their tradition of having everyone stand and introduce himself or herself. It’s a powerful reminder of how diverse and international this industry is.

I got to sleep in my own bed for one night before heading to Seattle for the annual American Gem Society Conclave, a four-day gathering of major U.S. retailers, filled with networking, keynote speeches, seminars, and many cocktails. I had the honor of conducting the one-hour Q&A sessions with Conclave’s two keynote speakers, Martin Lindstrom (author of Brand Sense) and Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point). Conducting these was as scary as skiing a black diamond for the first time. But, like anything that terrifies, it was a sign that I was pushing myself and learning. I really appreciate the opportunity.

I highly recommend both books. The community-based nature of independent jewelry retail lends itself to many of the theories and recommendations the books outline. In fact, it was the discussion with Gladwell that led to the optimism I feel about the independent jeweler. Using the example of the book, the retail industry, and the rumored demise of one of that industry’s big national chains, Gladwell talked about the opportunity that independent retailers have to be something of an “anti-Internet” play. While an online presence is essential, it is precisely the things that you can’t do online that will save savvy retailers—things like community involvement, personalized service, and a unique selection of product.

Next stop, Vegas!