AGS Goes Back to Its Roots at the ’14 Conclave

Conclave, the American Gem ­Society’s signature conference, felt charged with a zingy energy this year. The lineup of ­personality-plus speakers was especially strong. But the majestic location—the historic Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif.—also infused excitement into the 76-year-old event, held April 22–26.

This year AGS celebrates its 80th anniversary, and CEO Ruth Batson said, “We wanted this one to be different from the others—more special—and to be closer to our sister organization, GIA.”

The group, now based in Las Vegas, was in California for 60 of its 80 years, she added: “This was a way to get back to our roots, in a very special place.”

The event opened with a killer keynote speech by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who urged attendees to “be in business to win, to be successful—so remember to always use best practices.” Added the NBA legend, “There are no shortcuts to winning championships or in business.”

The next day, in his “Hot Technologies 2013” seminar, New York University professor and technology expert Jim Spellos blew everyone’s mind when he suggested they get rid of their traditional websites and establish a digital presence solely for mobile commerce.

“We are in the post-PC world,” Spellos said, pointing to his computer. “That laptop I have over there? Old news. Twenty-five to 30 percent of people who use a mobile device never use a traditional PC; they are only mobile. And that number is going to increase significantly.”

Spellos also suggested that Facebook, the social site most retailers focus on because of its user-friendly interface, will wane in popularity, and urged business owners to get up to speed with more emerging social networks and apps including and Pinterest.

The tech guru claimed that LinkedIn is “not really a social network,” called YouTube “the instruction manual of the world,” and—as he passed around his personal Google Glass device for audience members to test-drive—said, “I predict Google Glass will fail miserably. It’s too expensive at around $1,500, and it’s too new.”

Less shocking (but no less interesting) was designer Erica Courtney’s “Red Carpet Exposure” seminar, where she recounted her rise in Hollywood, which began with her gluing rhinestones onto sunglasses at her kitchen table. Courtney said she’s grateful for her red-carpet exposure, but added that even when you’re outfitting a starlet, “you always have to ask for the sale, no matter who it is. When celebrities wear my jewelry, I don’t even send them a thank-you note.”

The awesome ’80s night at AGS Conclave

Shane Decker, owner of Ex-Sell-Ence sales academy, brought his trademark tough love to a rapt crowd of retailers in a three-hour “Closing Sales” seminar.

As usual, the former jeweler pulled no punches. “I’ve worked with 4,000 jewelry stores in the U.S. alone, and almost all of you guys are horrible at closing sales,” he said, before urging the crowd to elevate their inventory game (“Selling a little bit of silver is fine, but are you a silver retailer?” he asked), stop discounting, and learn to close sales based on particular sales styles.

“Don’t come to [Conclave] and take notes and then go home and do the same things you’ve been doing,” he said. “You’ve got to train. If you’re not going to train, just close your store. You’ve got to self-improve.”

Jewelry retailer Bill Sites, owner of Ward-Potts ­Jewelers in Nashville, Tenn., says self-improvement is the main lure of Conclave, but stressed that the event’s social opportunities are equally golden. “I’ve been in the business for 40 years and, to me, Conclave is more than an educational experience,” Sites said. “It’s a time to renew friendships. I don’t know of any other industry event that promotes networking as well.”

AGS will debut a mini version of Conclave, AGS X-Press, at this year’s JCK Las Vegas, with six back-to-back seminars on marketing and gemology May 31.

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