The Independent Jewelers Organization show welcomed 1,600 members from 425 stores during its Aug. 4-8 run in Salt Lake City. Newcomers to the organization accounted for 11% of attendees. There were also 11 new vendors, increasing wholesaler participation to more than 150 companies.
The general session featured a variety of speakers who encouraged jewelers to reject the media’s talk of recession-like conditions in the economy. Keynote speaker Thomas Winniger urged jewelers to find their niche, summarize it succinctly, know their customers, and differentiate themselves from competitors. Others remarked that the majors were experiencing more financial troubles this year than independent jewelers were. To back up that claim, IJO cited research showing that sales among members are up 8.5% over figures from this time last year.
The Diamond Promotion Service held a breakfast event at IJO for the first time. Diane Warga-Arias, head of the DPS, talked about consumer research and the spending power of women. Though women’s priorities have changed in recent years, Warga-Arias noted that “a diamond is still seen as the ultimate gift of love.” She suggested that retailers have fashion magazines available in stores and conduct cross-promotional events with florists to increase sales. “Be an ambassador to your community,” she said. DPS staffers conducted practice sessions to help jewelers hone their diamond-selling skills.
Suppliers on the show floor were busy. “It looks like people came to buy,” said Ralph Brenk, CEO of Breuning in Norcross, Ga. “Safe sellers” such as gold hoops were particularly popular.
Certified Master Bench Jeweler Bradney Simon, who performed repairs during the show, was a one-man attraction. “Members requested hands-on repair information, so IJO provided Simon,” explained IJO chairman Richard Swetz.
Twelve days before the show, Steve Parker, owner of Parker’s Karat Patch in Asheville, N.C., and Mark Blinderman, owner of Jewelers of Maitland in Maitland, Fla., started their own fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation via IJO’s Internet-based discussion channel. By the time the general session ended, the two had raised more than $11,375. Said Maitland: “Business may be down for some, but IJO members aren’t putting off charitable contributions.”
For information about IJO, call (800) 624-9252.