Next Stop Tucson!

How to make the most out of the year’s biggest gem show

As far as the American Gem Trade Association is concerned, this winter will be anything but white. That’s because the organization’s annual Tucson GemFair 2011 is right around the corner. Held at the convention center in ­Tucson, Ariz., Feb. 1–6, the annual colored stone extravaganza is—like many of its gemstones—a one-of-a-kind: Nowhere else in the world do designers, manufacturers, retailers, miners, rock hounds, and jewelers descend upon a single venue to buy, sell, discover, and celebrate colored stones.

AGTA CEO Doug K. Hucker says that with the custom jewelry market growing and retail inventories depleted, this year’s gathering will be even more vibrant.

“Custom design is a product category where many retailers are thriving,” says Hucker. “What I’m seeing in general is that attitudes are more upbeat, feeling that sales are getting better now, and that inventories are at a level where ­jewelers want to be replacing some things.”

The AGTA is also reaching out to retailers who have never attended the show. “We talked to some of our exhibitors and asked them for 12 names each of stores they would like to see attend the show,” adds Hucker.

Once the AGTA gets a retailer’s attention, it dispenses a bit of advice: Have a plan for the show. Know what’s happening in fashion in order to know what colors you should stock for the season ahead. For example, romantic styles and pastel shades—particularly pink—will be hot for spring clothes, so shop for complementary colors at the show. Also consider color across a range of price points—from pink diamonds to pink tourmaline to rose quartz. Let your customers know you’re attending, and get your photograph taken at the AGTA booth in the Galleria section of the Tucson Convention Center—to promote and remind customers of your access to stones in every color of the rainbow.

Based on reservations in the AGTA’s informal “hotel room index,” Hucker predicts that 2011 attendance will be healthy. “We can tell how the show will be by the way the room blocks are filling up,” he explains. Of the group’s 6,000 reserved rooms, some 2,500 were booked at press time. “When people book hotel rooms, you know they’re more committed to attending the show,” he says.

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