New York, NY—The spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is likely to impact the U.S. retail market, say experts. And to some degree, that will include jewelry and watches, but at least for now the American jewelry shows will go on as planned. (Image at left: CDC).
Last week, both the Baselworld Fair and the Watches and Wonders fair (formerly SIHH) canceled their 2020 events following the Swiss government’s ban of gatherings above 1,000 people. The Hong Kong Jewelry Fair, typically held in March, was rescheduled for May 18-21, while in Milan, MIDO, the world’s largest trade show for eyewear, postponed its event until June.
Both the upcoming New York jewelry shows and the June Las Vegas events are still on, say organizers.
“At this time, we do not anticipate any changes or delays to our upcoming event, and the JA New York Show is expected to take place as planned March 15-17 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center,” said a statement from Emerald Expo, which produces the JA New York and COUTURE events. Javits Center staff are taking additional precautions such as increased cleaning protocols and other steps, said the statement.
“The health and safety of the JA New York exhibitor and attendee community is of the utmost importance to Emerald, and we want to be transparent in sharing information about what we are doing to prepare for the upcoming edition of JA New York Spring. We are actively monitoring the situation daily and following all safety information and precautions set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and other federal, state and local governmental agencies, as applicable.”
MJSA Expo, held concurrently with the JA New York Spring fair, is on as well, said MJSA’s Shawna Culpa. “We’re keeping an eye on developments, but as of now, it’s business as usual,” she told The Centurion.
Publicist Michelle Orman confirmed that the COUTURE Show, set for June 1-6 at the newly expanded Wynn in Las Vegas, is still on as well, as are AGTA’s GemFair Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry and Watch Show, both at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
JCK’s shows in Las Vegas also will go on as planned, says Sarin Bachmann, group vice president of JCK and Luxury for the Reed Jewelry Group. The Luxury show opens May 31 and JCK Las Vegas runs June 2-5.
“Reed Exhibitions and Reed Jewelry Group are closely monitoring developments related to the COVID-19 virus. Our hearts go out to everyone impacted. The jewelry industry is a tight-knit community, and the well-being of everyone at our JCK Events—from our attendees and exhibitors to our staff on-site at every show—is of the utmost importance to us,” said Bachmann in a statement at press time, adding that Reed is following the latest guidance from local, state, and national authorities as it relates to travel and participation in its events.
“We are committed to implementing up-to-date best practices in accordance with public health guidance, including those issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We are working closely with the Sands Expo and the Venetian, who have indicated that their emergency management team is closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak at the global, U.S., and local level. They are closely following the guidance of the CDC and Southern Nevada Health District for local direction.”
Retail impact. At present, the biggest impact to retailers in general is expected to come from supply chain interruptions, but if the virus spreads quickly in the United States, staffing may become an issue for businesses and shoppers may stay home. Indeed, a Coresight Research study conducted Febraury 25-26 among 2,000 American adults shows U.S. consumers were already becoming wary even before the first stateside deaths from the virus (in Washington State) were reported. Over one-quarter of respondents said they were already avoiding public places or had changed travel plans—and well over half said they will if the outbreak worsens. Hardest hit, says Coresight, will be malls, shopping centers, public transit, restaurants, movie theaters and other crowded destinations. But if the virus does present as a pandemic, even online shopping may suffer if workers can’t get to fulfillment centers or make deliveries.
Supply chains for many products already are being interrupted as factories in China remained closed long beyond the traditional New Year holiday, while the virus outbreak in northern Italy is impacting factories in the Lombardy and Veneto regions. At press time, reports centered around closed factories in and around Milan in the Lombardy region—and didn’t mention any jewelry companies—but Vicenza, Italy’s leading jewelry manufacturing center, is in the adjacent Veneto region which at press time had reported 17 cases and one death.
Nikki Baird, a retail contributor to Forbes, writes that global luxury brands can’t help but suffer, because most are now heavily dependent on Chinese consumers for growth. Everyone needs groceries, but the luxury sales that haven’t happened as a result of the virus won’t be made up this quarter, and possibly not this year, she writes.
Retailers in cities that rely heavily on tourism (Las Vegas, New York, etc.) will be impacted the most, especially if Chinese travel restrictions continue. But retailers across the board can expect some disruption in the next one to six months if factories don’t gear up soon, says Baird. Consumers might see empty shelves as soon as April or May in stores that rely heavily on Chinese imports.
A month’s disruption is serious but absorbable, she writes. Months and months of disruption is another story, however.
“The big question is how long will the disruption last, and when can people safely get back to their lives and businesses safely get back to work. Even if the world turns the corner on containing the virus in the next week or two, economic effects will roll through most of retail, from luxury to discount and everywhere in between.”
The National Retail Federation has posted a resource page for retailers on its website with information and further links. Click here to access it.
For all businesses, the CDC recommends first and foremost encouraging sick employees to stay home, including implementing an emergency sick leave policy if necessary. It also recommends ramping up routine cleaning of frequently-touched surfaces like doorknobs, computer screens, and so forth, using disinfectant cleaners; plus frequent handwashing or hand sanitizing with an alcohol-based sanitizer, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose, avoid handshakes, and cross-train staff in the event of multiple employees out at once.
Finally, says this article in Inc., communication is key. Even if you have a small staff, your employees are talking about it—and some may be more nervous about it than they let on. For instance, they may be worried about shaking hands with customers but not sure how to bring it up to you, so let them know it’s ok to not shake hands, and give them appropriate verbiage to use with customers.