From the Publisher, November–December 2017

JCK publisher Mark SmelzerHappy holidays!

Here’s hoping your holiday selling has begun in earnest and things are going well! Despite the craziness of these past few months in the nation and the world, the economy seems to be chugging along. Most surveys show jewelry retailers are bullish heading into the holidays, so fingers crossed for a fantastic season.

Speaking of bullishness and the jewelry industry, I had the pleasure of attending a very uplifting Stuller Bridge conference in Lafayette, La., in October. In contrast to the gloom-and-doom sentiments of recent years, most retailers felt pretty good about their business prospects heading into 2018.

One presentation—given by Stuller’s Harold Dupuy, vice president for strategic ­analysis—outlined some encouraging stats. Contrary to what I believed, jewelry sales are robust and growing! Even with a $7 billion drop during the recession, sales of jewelry went from $32 billion in 1996 to $85 billion in 2016. Jewelry is now sold at 91,000 U.S. locations, with 23,462 traditional jewelry stores. Bridal is a $10 billion business and represents between a third and a half of jewelry stores’ revenue.

Notwithstanding the challenges faced by traditional jewelry retailers (challenges facing all retail nationwide), U.S. consumers are buying more jewelry than ever! Retailers who can adapt to a changing retail and technology landscape will still be able to have robust businesses.

The retailers at this year’s Stuller Bridge sessions epitomize this ability to change with the times. The same crowd who 10 years ago sat in the tech breakouts trying to get their heads around emerging technologies were now fully engaged in conversations about apps and social media platforms. Our industry adapts!

Following Stuller, I was off on a bicoastal Fort Lauderdale, Fla.–Los Angeles trip for the JIS show and GIA Jewelry Career Fair. Despite a last-minute move to Fort Lauderdale due to Hurricane Irma’s damage to Miami, JIS was a hit. Buyers came out in large numbers, and many exhibitors said it was their best JIS in years. Some noted that buyers from hard-hit Caribbean islands attended simply for a break, and they were touched that, under the circumstances, so many exhibitors came. Congratulations to Jordan Tuchband and his JIS team.

My annual GIA Career Fair/Jewelers 24 ­Karat Club of Southern California black-tie gala weekend was a blast, as always. Big congrats to the 24 Karat honorees: American Gem Trade Association’s Doug Hucker, A&Z Pearls’ Avi Raz, and the Bhindi family of Bhindi Jewelers.

Next up, 24 Karat Club weekend in January in New York City. See you in 2018!

Top: the GIA campus in Carlsbad, Calif., which I always visit for the GIA Jewelry Career Fair

(Smelzer photograph by Nicholas A. Prakas; grooming: Claudia Andreatta/Halley Resources; GIA: courtesy GIA)

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