By  on May 18, 2009

It’s a wait-and-see game for jewelers.

Preparations for the annual JCK and Couture fine jewelry fairs are coming to a close after a year of incredibly high ups and befuddling downs.

The Las Vegas trade shows — Couture takes place at the Wynn Resort from May 28 to June 2 and JCK takes place at the Sands Expo & Convention Center from May 30 to June 2 — are considered bellwethers of the fine jewelry industry. They’re where retailers of department, specialty and independent stores stock up on pieces for the holiday season. While last Christmas season was a bust, so close to the stock market nosedive, the Madoff scandal and related drama, brands are anticipating holiday 2009 to be better and more stable. The tumbling economy has severely affected the fine jewelry industry with the lack of Wall Street dollars and black-tie events to which to wear the jewels. The middle end — with pieces that retail between $2,000 and $10,000 — which until now has been the bread and butter of the business, has instead been suffering the most.

Brands, now more than ever, are amenable to working with retailers. Firms are flexibly trading in merchandise that has grown stale to freshen store assortments and have lowered their buying budgets. Companies are generally being conservative with the number of launches and collections making their debuts at the end of the month.

David Yurman chief executive officer Paul Blum believes it will be a healthier holiday season than last year.

“Everyone’s inventory levels should be more in line with consumer demand,” Blum said.

He noted that the bridal collection, quintessential Yurman styles and watches have been strong segments for the firm, while basic gold jewelry is not performing well.

“Last year, there was a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the consumer,” said Greg Kwiat, chief financial officer of Kwiat, the diamond jewelry brand. “In recent months, the uncertainty has dissipated and we are seeing luxury consumers re-entering the market. Even with only modest improvements in the general economic conditions, we expect that luxury shoppers will be in the market in greater numbers for holiday 2009, relative to last year.”

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