The Show Dilemma

The 2009 editions of the Luxury Show, Couture, and The JCK Show are now in the history books. It appeared to this observer that the traffic and the mood of the industry were down.

Though the state of the industry remains difficult at the retail level, it is even tougher in the wholesale and manufacturing sectors. Conversations with exhibitors and retailers confirmed this belief. It’s still tough out there. But there’s good news, too: The business appears to be at the beginning of an upswing.

Many exhibitors told me they came to Las Vegas with low business expectations, and happily most told me that they exceeded those modest expectations. Good news! We take what we can get. Retailers, similarly, told me they came to Las Vegas to buy, albeit sparingly. But they did come to buy.

In particular, some diamond and dia-mond jewelry manufacturers actually reported good sales activity, pleasantly surprising themselves. One major diamond manufacturer, in fact, said they had a very good show. “We’re on the upswing” was his particular quotable quote. Another diamond jewelry manufacturer from the West Coast had an excellent Luxury show but reported flat sales at The JCK Show. At Couture, the story was similar, with reports of significant order writing at the Hearts On Fire exhibit.

Most exhibitors and retailers will agree with the statement that the industry has too many shows. The competition for the chains’ and independents’ business has become more intense over the past few years as the business has toughened. The pressure on manufacturers to participate in an ever-growing number of segmented shows designed for this segment or that is growing.

In some ways the jewelry industry reflects the excess of the economy at large, with shows that in the past featured prime-time speakers and entertainers at two of the segmented shows. Increasingly, though, both the exhibitor and retail communities are resisting the costs connected with these events.

We all know there is no free lunch. The costs of these limited special-attention shows are in there in the price of the goods or the profitability of the exhibitors. As we all have become more cost conscious in the things we purchase, the notion of free lunches, dinners, hotel stays, and entertainment becomes increasingly hard to defend.

There is another real situation to face as well: the timing of each of the shows. When buyers are lured to attend the special shows in advance of the major show, a situation is created where the “better stores” come early and leave early after spending the bulk of their budget. Each year the level of objection to this inequity rises. Buyers have limited time and money. So do manufacturers. Being away from your business for potentially eight days attending three different shows makes less and less economic sense.

The solution is for the retailers and the exhibitors to insist that the dates of the shows be simultaneous rather than sequential. This concept maximizes the opportunities for both the retailers and the exhibitors for efficient coverage of their respective suppliers and customers.

frankdallahan@comcast.net