I once heard a sales trainer put a useful twist on the old saw, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” “It’s not your job to make the horse drink,” he said. “Your job is to make the horse thirsty!” I’m reminded of that comment every time I attend a jewelry trade show. Too many exhibitors fail to make buyers thirsty for their products. They unpack a rumpled old banner, hang it over draped pipes, shove a bunch of worn sample trays into a showcase and then expect retailers to line up with orders.

What a contrast to the Vision Expo I recently attended at the Javits Center in New York. Eyewear retailers and manufacturers of frames and sophisticated equipment for eye specialists had booths and product presentations that were creative and inviting. Even industrial equipment, for lens-grinding and the like, was presented attractively and in spacious surroundings. Overall, the exhibitors made a strong fashion statement.

It’s ironic when you think about it. The eyewear industry is focused on a functional necessity. People need glasses and contact lenses to see. Jewelry, on the other hand, is essentially a fashion product whose primary purpose is adornment. Yet it’s the eyewear business that successfully positions itself as a fashion product, aligning itself with icons like Armani, Calvin Klein, Cartier, Fendi, Gianni Versace and Donna Karan.

Not all jewelry manufacturers go the pipe-and-drape route, of course. Aurafin, Damiani, Lagos, Kurt Wayne, Wm. Chalson, David Yurman and others believe in the importance of good booth and product presentation. Their individual and collective success is due in no small measure to their fashion consciousness.

But all jewelry, not just some, should be displayed as a fashion product. It needs to be romanced, accessorized, highlighted and, most of all, treated as the special product it is.

Now is the time to think about your company and merchandise presentation at the Las Vegas Show. All the effort to bring thousands of buyers to the show, as well as your ads in the Show Guide, Show Atlas and Pocket Planner, plus your use of the Partnership Kit, will be for nought if you don’t catch buyers’ eyes with an imaginative booth and product display. Remember, it’s your job to make the buyers thirsty!

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