The Show of Shows

When industry leaders approached JCK’s former publisher Charles Bond about creating a new show in Las Vegas, we on the editorial staff were a bit bemused. Las Vegas? But there’s no jewelry industry there! At the time, New York was the center of all things jewelry in the United States.

There’s no jewelry industry in Basel, either, replied then-editor George Holmes. And right he was—even in its first year, the show surpassed its goal of 500 exhibitors and filled the entire Sands Expo Center, which in 1992 had only one level of exhibition space.

Fast-forward 16 years. The JCK Show has grown to mammoth proportions and spawned a number of satellite shows hoping to cash in on the influx of buyers descending upon Las Vegas. The American Gem Society now calls Las Vegas home, and, with the development of the World Jewelry Center, Sin City may soon be a jewelry destination 365 days a year, not just eight days at the end of May and beginning of June.

But what a week that is! Between the sheer size of the show and the multitude of after-hours parties competing for attention, even veterans find it exhausting. Woe to those who don’t prepare their marketing, make appointments, and devise a game plan.

This year’s roundup of the good, the bad, the happy, and the sad ran the gamut. Good news reigned from LUXURY by JCK and the new Premiere show, proving that the high end remains resilient in the face of some worrisome economic indicators. Both events were roundly praised by exhibitors who did excellent business and buyers who liked the amenity-laden atmosphere and (comparatively) compact size.

But the increasing number of early shows also concerns exhibitors who don’t participate; they worry that their customers’ entire open-to-buy will be siphoned off before the big show even opens. Still, less than 10 percent of the 21,000 buyers who come to town attend these shows, so there should be plenty of open-to-buy to go around for those who plan. Those who don’t should expect to be disappointed. The rules have clearly changed.

Not-so-good news came from the Las Vegas Convention Center, where many exhibitors languished for lack of foot traffic. Intended to be a one-year stopgap solution to the ongoing demand for more booth space until the planned (and, unfortunately, delayed) expansion of the Sands Expo Center is complete, the LVCC was just too far away. Despite enticements such as the keynote presentation by Suzanne Somers, a second presentation by the much-admired sales trainer and motivational speaker Shane Decker, an industry leaders’ roundtable discussion about major issues, free lunches, frequent buses, and staggered hours, buyers just had too much to do at the Sands. But some did well, and JCK Show management is exploring potential options for the next two years until the new addition opens.

Happy news was the wedding of two lifelong industry leaders, Cindy Ramsey of AGS and Terry Chandler of the Diamond Council of America, who tied the knot June 5 at the Venetian. Although not an official “show event,” it sure felt like one with all the happy industry faces there to celebrate.

A disturbing trend is the mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, consolidations, and increasing number of American designers and suppliers being bought by or allying with foreign companies. It portends major changes in the industry, and while it hasn’t changed the face of The JCK Show significantly, early signs are there as a few longtime exhibitors have already quietly dropped out or joined forces with other firms.

Finally, our return home was marred by the very sad news of the passing of Marion Halfacre, owner of Traditional Jewelers in Newport Beach, Calif. Marion—whom many of us saw and celebrated with in Las Vegas—died from a heart condition June 9, at his home in Corona del Mar, Calif. Survived by his wife, Lula, and children Eric and Natalie, he was a dear friend to many, including both JCK magazine and The JCK Shows. A member of the JCK Show advisory board since its inception, he was an articulate, savvy jeweler who was always on target with his suggestions for the show. He also was willing to be interviewed by editors and happy to share his expertise with his peers. In an industry that’s competing with both costly goods in other categories and incessant price hondlers in our own category, Marion’s store remains a fine example of positioning jewelry and watches as the desirable luxury products they’re meant to be. His charm and panache will be sorely missed.