TradeShows

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY REIGNS IN ATLANTA

What a difference a day makes. The biannual Atlanta Jewelry Show traditionally ran from a Sunday through Tuesday in August, but a paucity of buyers on Tuesdays in recent years led show managers to shift to a Saturday-to-Monday schedule this year. It proved to be a good decision: The change was hailed by vendors and buyers alike.

The opening day’s buyer traffic may have been moderate, but even that was far busier than the depopulated Tuesdays in years past. “We’ve been jammin’,” Jim Fortescue, owner of StarCraft, a Washington, N.C., diamond jewelry manufacturer, told JCK during the show. “I’ve been hoping for some time they’d move to Saturday.”

Credit the schedule change and other show upgrades – including many more educational seminars – to a new management team led by Carol Young, executive director of the Southern Jewelry Travelers Association Inc., which sponsors the event. “We came in with a new attitude, trying to accommodate everyone and make everyone feel welcome,” says Young, who notes that the number of attending buyers was up 12% over last year. (She declined to divulge the actual number.) “We wanted to step into the 21st century but maintain the old-friend kind of feeling.”

A friendly atmosphere for doing business is precisely why roughly 400 vendors return year after year to this intimate regional show. “We love the customers here,” reported Andrea Remonko of GMC International, an antique and estate jewelry company in Westfield, N.J. “They’re very loyal, they get to know you and trust you, and they become repeat customers.” Steve Hall, whose company, Atlanta Store Equipment, designs jewelry store interiors, considered the show as much a social event as a business endeavor. “We see a lot of former customers here,” said Hall, clearly enjoying himself. “It’s like a reunion.”

Sometimes it’s the little touches that enhance the image of a show. A cocktail reception on the eve of the show’s opening created an atmosphere of relaxed bonhomie that persisted throughout the weekend. The next day, the gentle tinkling of a piano greeted buyers as they waited in line to register. A subtle touch, perhaps, but it set the tone for the entire event.

“This is the best show I’ve been to in about three years,” said Joseph Thornton, whose Athens, Ga.-based Thornton Fine Jewelry includes two jewelry stores and two pawn shops. If other buyers came away with the same impression, Young’s claim that the show was “a wonderful success” is more than mere hype. – Rob Murphy