Las Vegas, NV--After walking the aisles of the Las Vegas shows for the past week, speaking with many exhibitors and retailers to get a pulse of where the market is going, I can say that the trend was that many of the sellers came to Vegas expecting a bad experience, as retailers were too often telling them they would not be there. So there were fewer stores at Las Vegas jewelry week. Exhibitor estimates are that traffic counts were down 20% or more. At the beginning of the year, Centurion saw a drop of about 15% from 2016 in store attendance, down from 305 to 260.
However, that was not the full story. Quite a number of exhibitors I spoke with were pleasantly surprised and happier than expected with their results, acknowledging the "jewelry industry" economy does indeed temper expectations. They said the stores who were on hand were there to buy and were serious. There were also plenty of complaints about results, indicating the "water level" of attendance was not high enough to lift all boats.
With the jewelry industry contracting amid economic pressure and an aging out of owners who do not have a next generation to take over, what we have been witnessing with show attendance and buying is a reflection of a market in transition. No question.
Where are we headed? A smaller industry with a very strong but smaller base of smarter, younger thinking retailers who are well equipped to handle the transition to bricks and clicks rather than traditional bricks and mortar only. In this transition, vendors need to pick their partners carefully and be sure the store has major aspirations to keep growing into the future, and that it has not only experience in its DNA but also a youthful outlook that embraces the changes we are going through.
One of the critical factors in creating more power online is Google reviews. Latest reports are that most consumers take reviews into account when deciding to visit a store. In Las Vegas I met Podium, a service recently acquired by Google that is subscription based and helps retailers get more Google reviews via immediate messaging to the customer, to thank them for their business and encourage a review. In an environment where having a lot of reviews and a high rating is beginning to be critically important to a retailer's success prospects, this kind of service looks quite interesting. Obviously, Google agrees.
HPHT Synthetic Diamond Detection
One of the big problems in the market today is synthetic diamonds mixing in with diamond melee in parcels and, later, in jewelry, especially in pave and similar setting styles. Yehuda showed me a new machine that detects many if not most synthetic stones and is selling at $1495. At our Centurion Board meeting, more than one storeowner said they had already bought the machine. De Beers' IIDGR lab is introducing one as well; demos of a prototype were held in Las Vegas and details are forthcoming. And we already reported that GIA will have a machine that will serve similar needs by September, at about $5,000. Both additions to the market are very good news in helping fight HPHT/synthetic fraud and the retailer and manufacturer liabilities that accompany it.
Congratulations to Centurion Retail Advisory Board member Bruce Bucky of Hildgund in Hawaii for being a member of the Senior Word Series Slow Pitch Champion Team. The photo of the ring he proudly wore in Las Vegas is shown here. A further report with more details on this exciting news will follow.
Hats off to Couture for changing it up and adding a new flair with its new theater style Design Awards format replete with popcorn and old-fashioned movie theater uniform-adorned attendants.
And congratulations to the Diamond Empowerment fund for an amazing presentation of heavy hitter names to help emphasize its Diamonds Do Good campaign at its annual dinner in Las Vegas. See photo. The award winners and speakers were her excellency Graça Machel, a human rights leader in Africa who was also married to the Late Nelson Mandella; acclaimed actor David Oyelowo and Helzberg Diamonds.
Anna Martin, Graca Machel, David Oyelowo, Beryl Raff
And the Jewelers for Children did a wonderful job in Las Vegas this year with its Rings of Strength morning Walk, Run, Bike and Yoga event, which I was privileged to participate in for the first time. I encourage everyone to join in. It's early (5:30 AM) but great fun and for an amazing cause.
The big JFC Facets of hope dinner was attended by some 1,500 people. The honorees were Charles Stanley, head of Forevermark and Yancy Weinrich, head of the JCK Jewelry Group at Reed Exhibitions. The charities including Make-A-Wish, National Casa, St. Judes Children's Hospital and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation and others all showed wonderful heart-rending videos about their causes to help children. Caesar Sant, a Make-A-Wish wish recipient, performed live for the audience on his violin. And Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation presented Josephine Nabukenya, in Las Vegas from Africa for the first time with her story of growing up with HIV, having been infected at from birth and now a college graduate and how the wonderful support of Elizabeth Glaser have helped her have a successful and fun life while managing the disease.
Violinist and Make-A-Wish recipitent Caesar Sant performing, above, and the honorees with special guests and JFC chair Dennis Ulrich, below.
All in all, the Las Vegas shows are an experience that doesn't disappoint.
See you next week!