Accessories buyers are shopping more judiciously, with a focus on immediates.
This story first appeared in the June 24, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Given today’s economic downturn, buyers are shopping accessories trade shows more cautiously and judiciously, but according to show organizers, they are still shopping. Exhibitors have been “pleasantly surprised” with the first half of 2009. Buyer turnout has been strong and vendors have adjusted their turnaround times to meet the needs of buyers, many of whom are now shopping closer to season. “Since we are a reflection of the industry we serve, AccessoriesTheShow has experienced a change in retail buying patterns this year,” said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., the Norwalk, Conn.-based organizer. “The current economic conditions have intensified the movement of retailers buying even closer to season. At this past May edition of AccessoriesTheShow, which shows fall-winter looks, retailers were primarily writing spring-summer immediate orders. Fall-winter orders were more on the conservative side, resulting in retailers doing more fall-winter research and saving their open-to-buy for the August shows.” Jones indicated AccessoriesTheShow has been performing well despite the industry’s less-than-stellar economic conditions. He said the traffic density (the ratio of retailers to exhibit space) has increased by 20 percent this year. He noted buyers appeared to place an emphasis on supplying their
retail outlets with “it” items to generate sales.
“As the consumer mood continues to improve, the need for retailers to get in the market and shop AccessoriesTheShow is important to their success because many are running on very little inventory,” Jones said. In an effort to keep stores aware of developments being made each season, AccessoriesTheShow has developed outreach programs with the retailer community. Every season, in addition to advertising and direct-mail programs, AccessoriesTheShow generates calls and e-mails to the retailers through an extensive telemarketing and preshow promotional campaigns.
In March, Vision Expo East held its annual trade show at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Tom Loughran, event director for Reed Exhibitions and International Vision Expos, which coproduce the show, noted attendance was down by 11 percent from 2008. Nonetheless, exhibitors were happy with the show. “From all accounts, it seemed that attendees were there to buy, not just browse,” Loughran said. “We had several exhibitors report that they had their best shows ever this year.” Loughran also acknowledged that while buyers were there to buy, they were shopping more judiciously and taking time to select their buys.
“Overall it seems that attendees are buying smarter at the show,” he said. “Since International Vision Expo East allows attendees to visit vendors and source products on the spot, those who come to the show are making informed decisions. So while attendees are overall being cautious, they are still purchasing products. Exhibitors are also being careful in their trade show decisions. We’re seeing a lot of targeted marketing efforts that will help them reach their main buying audience.” While attendance may have slipped in the last year, the show maintained the number of registered international attendees — approximately 16 percent of guests were from outside the U.S. — which was a positive aspect to the show in light of the economy. According to Loughran, there was an increase in the number of people taking advantage of travel discounts and other initiatives that can help cut spending.
International Vision Expo also launched a new marketing campaign for the March show. The campaign incorporated multiple new initiatives including test pieces, Google ads, database mining, increased exposure and international trade barters. The organization is incorporating each of those strategies to determine what most drives registration. The fine jewelry shows are aiming to maximize attendance and designer exposure.
JA New York, which hosts both winter and summer fine jewelry trade shows, is launching Design Lab, a more cost-effective showcase for new designers. The four-foot exhibition case is smaller and more budget conscious than the traditional booth size.
There will also be seminars for retailers at the shows as well as Industry Row, aisles featuring firms that offer top technology and software for jewelry firms. Drew Lawsky, JA New York group show director, said the mood in the industry is picking up. “Three months ago it was a disaster,” said Lawsky of the recessionary mind-set. “Now, people have a little bit of hope and are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel….It’s not good but we’re seeing some glimmers of it getting better.” JCK Events industry vice president Yancy Weinrich’s goals have not wavered since the recession started. She aims to deliver a comprehensive buying event, to deliver a VIP buyer program that helps attendees minimize their costs and maximize their efficiency and to produce a secure showing that encompasses all facets of the industry with global representation and new talent.
“This year, the overall economic situation has been the most difficult challenge we’ve faced,” said Weinrich. “With consumer buying weakened our exhibitors and retailers have a surplus of inventory. While we cannot control consumer buying habits, we have been able to help our customers understand their inventory challenges and address new ways of moving inventory by making sure they have they have the right mix of new inventory their customers need.” Beyond the JCK show itself, which takes place each spring, the firm will offer “Webinars,” online tutorials designed to bring customers information they have requested and are most interested in, as well as the continuation of bimonthly JCK Haute Looks, a digital look book showing trends from JCK exhibitors.
Couture, the annual jewelry trade show that features upscale brands such as David Yurman, Kwiat and Mikimoto, will celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2010. The show, which takes place at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas, will continue to expand to international buyers. Couture will offer educational sessions on retail operations where retailers share their best practices with other retailers, and also continue the Couture Pavilion at the JA New York Summer show. “Couture has experienced, like almost all other industries, the effects of the downturn in the economy that started back in September 2008,” said Liz Hitchcock, Couture Events group show director. “The economy posed significant challenges to the retailers which inspired Couture to develop custom programs to make it easier for them to attend Couture 2009.”