There They Go Again

A number of moments in presidential debates over the years have been memorable. President Clinton’s comment about “feeling your pain” is one, and vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentson’s remark that opponent Dan Quayle was “no Jack Kennedy” is another. And Ronald Reagan’s flippant “There you go again” to President Jimmy Carter has become a catchphrase in American politics.

Each of these remarks had a significant impact as the public weighed the candidates’ abilities. The remarks also provide an interesting introduction to my topic this month: the proliferation of trade shows in the jewelry industry.

What brought the topic to mind was a conversation I had with an exhibitor at the recent JA Show in New York. He declared that the trade show business was getting out of hand: There are just too many, he said, recounting the shows where his firm exhibits, and they are all too costly.

After returning from Vicenza, New York, Tucson, and Phoenix in the space of less than a month, I feel his pain. From a retailer’s perspective, trade shows and other industry events seem to be multiplying exponentially.

A trade show is just like any other product—it has to meet the needs of its clients. If those needs are not met, the show—like any other product—will fail. Who is the client of a trade show? Ask an exhibitor and he’ll say, “the exhibitors.” After all, they pay the bills to the show organizer. Ask a retailer, and he’ll say, “the retailers.” It’s their attendance at the show that makes it a success.

The correct answer, of course, is both.

The competition among the various trade shows is intense, with each vying for an edge to gain market share, revenue, and profit—or, conversely, to protect market share, revenue, and profit.

Rumors abound in the trade show world, with new shows announcing for the same time slot in Las Vegas this year and next. The success or failure of these shows depends entirely on how well they address their customers’ needs. The simple truth is there are only a finite number of retail jewelers in the United States today, and that number has been shrinking for the past 15 years. The decline in the number of retail jewelers is a direct function of consolidation, acquisition, and businesses closing.

A show, a magazine, a retail jewelry store, or a jewelry supplier succeeds by meeting the needs of its customers better than the competition. Cost, convenience, amenities, and attention all play a role. The success of Howard Hauben’s Centurion Show, JCK ‘s Luxury Show, and VNU’s Couture Show are all examples of this. As we approach the next show season it will be interesting to see how “there you go again” and “you’re no Jack Kennedy” apply to the new entrants to the Las Vegas jewelry show world—a world that, until now, has been dominated by The JCK Show.

fdallahan@reedbusiness.com