Reinventing the Wheel

Fourteen years ago Charles Bond, then publisher of JCK, encouraged by idea-man Ed Coyne, thought that challenging the well-entrenched trade show of the time had a good chance of success. Bond’s primary positioning was to develop a trade show where “the industry meets.” The JCK show would be open to everyone in the industry; eliminate the arbitrary and capricious decisions made by the other show operators; and be egalitarian, democratic, and guided by a board representing all segments of the industry.

Bond’s concept started very well. The new show had a vibrancy and enthusiasm that had been long missing in the existing show, and as a result, the JCK Las Vegas Show grew dramatically.

As with any successful venture, the starting point was some good basic market research. Bond commissioned his JCK sales staff to interview prospective exhibitors about the idea of a show in Las Vegas, in late May or early June. To the great surprise of theJCK sales team, there was great dissatisfaction in the exhibitor segment of the industry. The idea of a new show in Las Vegas received strong endorsement.

During the intervening 14 years, the industry has witnessed many changes in the show world. The JCK Las Vegas Show grew to become the dominant show in the U.S. market. Reed Elsevier acquired JCK‘s parent firm, Chilton. VNU acquired the operator of the JA Show, Blenheim. Charles Bond quit JCK to form Professional Jeweler magazine and attempted to re- create the success he experienced with the launch of The JCK Show. The Couture Show and Conference followed. Several years later JCK’s Luxury Show was launched. Next was Howard Hauben’s Centurion. A couple of years ago there was continuing talk within the trade of different groups trying to form additional new trade-show events in Las Vegas. While those developments never panned out, it has been quite a ride for the retailers and exhibitors who are the customers of the trade-show companies.

Some of the initial reasons for coming to Las Vegas—better timing for manufacturers to make goods more efficiently prior to the fall selling season—remain valid. Others, such as a lower cost venue, have changed. Las Vegas’s better hotels and restaurants approach New York pricing today. And for some retailers, even early June timing is still too late.

There is another point of discontent, however. Many exhibitors say there are too many trade shows, period. That, and the fact that many feel both the Couture and Luxury shows—highly exclusive and held prior to the main JCK show—have an unfair opportunity to skim off many of the best-performing retail jewelers before the main show starts, leaving far less open-to-buy to be spent with exhibitors at JCK.

The Las Vegas shows today stretch out for seven full days, and retail jewelers have only so much time to be away from their businesses, giving the early shows an advantage. Reinventing the wheel—the shows—means thinking about all segments of the jewelry trade and making it possible for all to compete simultaneously in the trade-show arena.

The ultimate jewelry-show consumers—the retailers—can decide for themselves where, when, and how to spend their money and time.

frankdallahan@comcast.net