This month’s Counterpoint will touch on two topics. One is a personal mea culpa. The other is a topic discussed at the Plumb Club Forum.
Mea culpa is Latin for “through my fault.” I use it to acknowledge an error I made in an earlier column where I stated Jabel was no longer in business. Tom Colucci and David Connolly brought the error to my attention. Frankly, I read that Jabel was going to close. What I missed was its subsequent acquisition by Connolly. At the Atlanta show, I met with him and saw some beautifully executed product and was happy to hear that the business has been rejuvenated. Jabel was one of the first jewelry manufacturers I knew of, well before I got into the business. I am happy to acknowledge my mistake and even happier that this venerable firm—and its die-struck product—remains available to jewelers looking for exquisite merchandise.
At the recent Plumb Club Forum in New York City there was a session titled “Things That Keep You Awake at Night.” The forum was excellent in many respects. However, I was surprised that three of the four panelists touched on topics that were of particular interest to them personally or to their particular enterprise. The fourth panelist, Doug Hucker, addressed a problem that a number of speakers on the jewelry circuit at different venues have addressed: bringing young people into the industry. Doug hit on a significant broad-stroke issue that confronts the entire industry.
It was surprising to me that no one on the panel addressed the really major problem the industry faces, which is competing with other luxury products. I use the word luxury with some hesitation, because, as I have written previously, engagement and wedding rings are not luxury products—nor are anniversary gifts. Rather, they are necessities in the real world. However, defining luxury is not the objective here. The industry has been told time and again that jewelry is losing market share to other luxury products. Everyone seems to have bought into this notion without any substantive objective analysis that identifies specifically where jewelry is losing share. But, I digress. If it’s true that jewelry is losing share, the question has to be asked and answered: Why? These are questions for industry associations that represent both major factions of the business: retailers and the manufacturers who supply them.
The industry has long depended on De Beers/Diamond Promotion Service and, more recently, the Diamond Trading Company for substantive market research. It appears that the DTC is looking to Asia for future growth and is allocating resources there. This means that, in light of the poor performance the industry turned in this past Christmas season, someone should be picking up the slack and developing some creative ideas to turn things around. This is one area that should keep everyone in the industry awake and engaged so that next year mea culpas will not be necessary!