From the Publisher, September 2020: It’s a Year Like No Other

JCK publisher Mark SmelzerJust one year ago, I was ­excitedly ­writing my publisher’s letter for the ­September–October 2019 issue of JCK, which marked our 150th anniversary.

What a difference a year makes. As I write this in mid-July 2020, our world is months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a once-in-a-century crisis. There’s not a single aspect of our lives that hasn’t been affected, and we’ve all had to adapt in previously unimaginable ways.

About a week before the governor of Pennsylvania issued our stay-at-home orders on March 23, my husband, son, and I were supposed to embark on a family trip to Mexico. After that, I was planning to attend the American Gem Society Conclave in ­Denver in late April and, of course, the JCK Las Vegas show in early June. None of those trips happened. The lack of ­networking opportunities has been so difficult, as it’s called into focus the importance of the ­“Starbucks-line conversations” we have at trade shows. It’s also just plain sad to not see the hundreds of friends we usually encounter at these most important events.

At JCK, we’ve had to rework our ­publishing schedule a few times, adjust for a shift in revenues to digital (as the entire world has been pushed deeper into the digital world by this crisis), and concentrate on creating a virtual JCK show in mid-August. By the time you read this letter, it will have hopefully taken place with great success.

When the crisis began, a friend expressed his concern for my livelihood, saying, “The last thing anyone is going to buy in a pandemic is jewelry.” And yet, the desire for jewelry—and admittedly a reduction of ­competition for discretionary-income ­spending—has led to a relatively successful period of time for the U.S. retail jewelry industry. Through a combination of product with eternal appeal, savvy adjustments to the way we sell (digital, curbside pickup, in-store appointments), and an amazingly optimistic attitude, we’ve seen many retailers have a relatively—or even exceptionally—strong year. For all the challenges we’ve faced, we’ve stepped up to the plate and met them.

The hardest part of all this is the constant uncertainty. While we remain hopeful for a vaccine and a subsequent return to “normal,” virtually no one knows when that will be. There’s one thing, however, I do know: I love this business, and I’ve never been prouder to be a part of it.

Top: We’ve been spending our time hiking with our son, Nolen, along the Susquehanna River.

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

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