International trade show VicenzaOro faced the ongoing coronavirus emergency by launching a new two-day, more concise format, called Voice, which closed in Vicenza on Sept. 14.
“We were all fully aware that this trade show wouldn’t have been successful in terms of sales, neither for the organizer nor for exhibitors. But we all wanted to do this fair to demonstrate to the world we are the first to restart and that Italy is a safe place,” said Roberto Coin, who was among the 350 exhibitors at the fair. “The security check procedures at the fairground have been impeccable, we all participated with enthusiasm and it has been satisfying in terms of media coverage.”
“I didn’t expect a high turnout, but this wasn’t the ultimate goal. The fair has been an important moment for the sector to demonstrate its desire to restart and its importance as a moment where the different players of the industry had the chance to meet and share ideas,” said Fiammetta De Simone, who along with her brothers guide the family’s De Simone company, which is known for its jewelry made of corals, pearls and turquoise.
If Voice didn’t serve as the traditional edition of VicenzaOro to launch collections, it did offer the chance to know more about the current status of the jewelry industry.
“The restart is very checkered, but I really see that people and companies really want to find a new normality to feel safe and free again,” Coin said. “China is performing very well and the sales in the United States are better than expected. The other markets are very volatile.”
According to the jewelry designer, in 2020 his company will see a decrease in revenues compared to last year, but, considering the current situation, “we are hanging on,” he revealed, adding that creative versatility and innovation will be key to survive the crisis. “Before the coronavirus outbreak we were having enthusiastic results, I think thanks to our strong identity,” he added.
According to De Simone, the shake-up generated by the global pandemic needs to be interpreted in a positive, constructive way. “I think that this moment forced all of us to reconsider our work and rediscover our own identity,” she said. “Those that will survive are the companies that can deliver high-end quality and, as it happened during past crises, some flashes in the pan will be forgotten.”
De Simone said retailers are asking for very specific products for consumers looking for exceptional designs. “I think that the lockdown created in this type of niche consumer a new desire for special things featuring high quality,” she said.
“The situation is very different across the various countries,” said Coin, referring to the performance of the company’s retail business, which includes boutiques in Rome, Venice, Kuwait, Kuala Lumpur and New York, among others. “In general, we can see that our stores in Italy are not working, while the situation is different in the other cities in the world.”
Also in Italy, the situation is very checkered, according to Aonie cofounder Paola Coti. “The sales in the prominent cities that rely on tourism, including Rome and Milan, are stuck, while jewelry stores are performing way better in smaller towns thanks to local shoppers,” she said.
A small, independently financed label, Aonie had also to react to the huge increase in the price of gold. “We had to apply a 20 percent increase to our prices,” said Coti, who also decided to introduce a new silver line of versatile pieces which can be easily mixed and matched.
“The price of gold doesn’t help. There are huge speculations going on and at the same time we will have to deal with the virus for a while,” Coin said. “For these reasons, collections will be based on pieces crafted with less amount of gold.”
With all the uncertainty of the market, according to De Simone, credibility and personal relationships are emerging as the primary features to navigate the difficulties of the moment.
“With all the restrictions in international travels and the impossibility to attend international trade shows, most of them actually cancelled, that network based on loyalty and reputation that we have built over the decades has been totally crucial to stay in the business,” she said, expressing her confidence in the resilience of the Made in Italy jewelry industry, which thanks to the support of the Italian Trade Agency will be able soon to increase its visibility in China through a new e-commerce platform dedicated to the sector.