Las Vegas, NV—Here we are, another year and the trade shows begin again. Once again this year I traveled to CES (Consumer Electronics Show), held January 5-8 in Las Vegas. What a different experience this year has been from last year, my first year at CES.
To say that I was overwhelmed at first is an understatement. This must be what people that come to the JCK show for the first time feel like. This year, however, I knew what to expect. Last year I was so impressed with all the gadgets and hi tech “stuff” I saw, and of course, my goal was to be on the lookout for wearable smart jewelry. This year, the show still has all that “stuff.”
For instance, who knew we needed a “smart” water bottle to tell us when to drink? Or how about a “smart” bikini to tell us when we have too much sun! Now, one thing I could see a use for would be “smart” tailgating. Yes, you heard correctly!
This tent has the ability to capture solar power and power up your blender (margaritas, anyone?) and even a TV!
Where are wearables going? This year is the year of the “ear.” Lots of different types of ear phones, doing everything from pulse monitoring to whispering suggestions to you. Clothing is progressing as well; smart clothing will coach you towards better posture and help you with your golf swing. At the annual LIDT fashion show, I even got to see a coat that has a built in 8 hour battery that will warm you up when it is really cold out there!
But now down to business: jewelry! Last year I was somewhat inspired to see some booths featuring more than just watches. I am disappointed so far that this year that is not the case. Watches seem to be the category that most people are concentrating on, and there are plenty of them. The frustrating side is that so many look the same: Innovation in design is not something that appears to be top of mind. At the CES show it is all about technology.
There are still some brands positioning themselves to be the leaders in this space.
Fossil Group, for example, has a huge presence. They have many licenses under their umbrella, including Michael Kors and Kate Spade, as well as the Misfit Brand. Their newest watch, the Hybrid Watch, is meant to look like an analog watch with smart capabilities. The hands will move to predetermined positions as a notification, you can take a selfie, and of course you can track your activity.
They’re not aiming for the luxury space: the retail price for a women’s watch starts at $175 and goes up to around $215. When I pushed them about their planned target distribution channels, here is where they were a little unsure. They said they were still trying to figure it out. They would be open to independent jewelry stores carrying their lines; however, they have to go through a pre-approval process to get some of the licenses. Right now they are mainly in big box stores such as Best Buy.
Another watch that I happened to find was the Tappy. Ready for this? You can pay with your watch. You link your credit card to the watch and then (just like you use Apple Pay), you can pay just by “tapping” your watch. One catch: the store must accept Tappy payments. When I pressed them for stores that are accepting this form of payment, all they could come up with was Walmart so far that they knew of in the United States.
Retail prices start at $220 for a leather strap and $250 for a metal strap. While I think it is an interesting concept, as usual this one may take a little time to take off. Of course, now I am going to start looking for Tappy devices in stores when I’m out shopping!
One interesting thing to note, this company is part of a larger tech company, and they do work with many jewelry manufacturers and are open to creating partnerships where they will provide the technology and work with companies to bring it to the design.
For activity junkies, the Suunto watch is for you. This company started almost 80 years ago making compasses, and their watches are made for the outdoors. Whether you are diving or hiking, these watches have great features. They are:
Here is the best part: they can last up to one month on one battery charge! They retail between $599 and $849 and the company—recognizing the jewelry space is different than the consumer electronic space—has allowed for a 50% margin on their watches.
Since watches were aplenty, what else could I find in this space? How about jeweled cell phone cases?
Formarto is a subsidiary of Alljack, a Taiwanese manufacturer. The owner has always had a passion for the jewelry industry and is dipping his foot into it. They were one of the few companies that were eagerly embracing the Independent retailer market, and they are coming out with iPhone 7 cases to retail for about $100, using Swarovski crystals and gold plated aluminum. They even told us that they can customize some of the designs and take elements from different models and combine them, if the customer is willing to wait a few weeks. These cases have been selling in Dubai—but in that market, they are using real diamonds and gold! A new category – who knew?
This show is enormous. For those that remember the Sands convention center, the lower level here is for what is called the Eureka marketplace, where startups come and launch new products. Many of these companies are just introducing their new concepts here at the show. There was one from Pennsylvania introducing the Muse Ring—fitness tracking on your finger—for $179 retail (also shown top of page).
Another from France was introducing Smart Straps; watch straps that are designed to attach to any mechanical watch dial ($179 - $220 retail):
My overall impression is that there is still a long way to go. Many of the devices that are now coming out are getting so complicated that even I am having a hard time grasping it. We have to remember notification sequences to see who is calling, or we have to sync credit cards through an app but yet connect to our banking information.
But beyond the complexities with the devices themselves, I am once again seeing a lack of understanding of the jewelry industry and a lack of preparedness to enter the independent jewelry market. I wonder if this a chicken and egg situation. Has the industry not embraced this category, from both the retail and the manufacturing side, which is leading to a lack of design innovation and marketing support?
The few companies that I had seen last year that at least had jewelry other than watches are not even here this year. I am still a big believer that this is a category in the marketplace that has teeth, however, without some collaboration between the jewelry side and the tech side, I am afraid that this will be a very long and slow ride.