VEGAS PUSHES BRIDAL LINK
Byline: Rose-Marie Turk
LAS VEGAS — The second-annual edition of the JA Las Vegas trade show got low marks for its timing, but its emphasis this year on bridal jewelry — with seminars and other special programs — drew some enthusiasm from buyers.
The three-day event ran through Tuesday at the Sands Expo & Convention Center here. According to show management, it drew about 4,000 attendees, against 3,485 at the first edition last year, with the exhibitor roster up to 925 from last year’s 900.
Explaining the decision to focus on bridal jewelry and wedding gifts, Drew Lawsky, show director for the organizing company Miller Freeman, said, “You try to create a niche for your show. We felt we created some additional interest.”
While some retailers shopping the show said they were unaware of the bridal tie-in, for others it was a reason to attend. For example, Liz Hickerson, owner of Hickerson Jewelers, with two units in Spearman and Perryton, Tex., was favorably impressed, coming to the show because of it and noting she had attended seminars on advertising and trends for brides and grooms. Latching on to one of the trends, she bought semi-mounts, placing orders with Gordon Bros. and Karlan Ring Co.
In addition, Hickerson said she planned to check out people such as John Hardy, who work in sterling silver and 18-karat gold and advertise in fashion magazines.
“We plan to stock more designer jewelry,” she said, “for younger couples with two incomes who want more recognizable designers who have more prestige.”
But Hickerson had her reservations about the show, too. “It’s a difficult time of year to buy,” she said. “We’ve just come out of Christmas, and we had to work hard to close out our books for 1996. Exhibitor Michael O’Connor, marketing and merchandising manager for Frederick Goldman Inc., was also positive about the show’s bridal theme. He added that because of the theme, “the show could have been a little earlier, but it’s not too late. People are getting married throughout the year.”
He also noted that bridal business was a major strategy for independent jewelry retailers. “It’s an excellent way to get customers for life. If you get their trust early, you can build business. Those customers are going to have all sorts of rites to celebrate,” he said.
For several exhibitors, however, the show’s timing was seen as limiting traffic. They noted the show came too early for general fall planning and also conflicted with the gem show held in Tucson, Ariz. There were also complaints about an overabundance of jewelry trade shows, including the JA International Jewelry show staged just a week earlier in New York by Miller Freeman.
“It’s too early to start,” said retailer Pierre Medawar, as he shopped the show with his wife, Catherine. The Medawars own Medawar Jewelers, a six-store Michigan chain, and they noted they were mainly on vacation and had bought only a few fill-in pieces, including gold mounts.
As for trends, Catherine Medawar noted the direction in their stores is toward “higher quality goods,” including platinum and invisible settings.
“The traditional wedding rings are going by the wayside,” added Steve Raggio, president of Bayou State Pawn and Jewelry, a three-store chain in Lafayette and New Iberia, La. Raggio was doing what many visitors to the show were doing, looking rather than buying and making new contacts, which would eventually provide him with the semi-mounts, channel and invisible settings that he said are “hot items” with his customers. He said his business rebounded in 1996, registering a 20 percent gain over 1995.
“In our area, the oil field is strong again,” Raggio said. “People have more money to spend and they are spending it on luxuries.”
More emphatic about show buying plans was James R. Genone Jr., owner of Jewelry Atelier in Carmel, Calif., who was shopping the expo with his wife, Mary.
“We love the show. We came to buy and we spent money,” said Genone. The lack of crowds and the one-level floor plan was a plus as far as the Genones were concerned.
Searching for expensive one-of-a-kind pieces for a tourist clientele in the 50-and-above age range, the couple said they found just what they were looking for, including $2,000 jade and diamond pieces at Lee’s Jewelry Co., enamel pins and a ruby-and-diamond invisible setting ring at Siera Jewelry, animal and bird pins at Onofrio D. Oro and large checkerboard and bar-cut colored stones at Sonette.
Placing some orders, Colleen Munro, owner of Society By Design, a jewelry store in Las Vegas, said she found a few manufacturers at the show, such as John Hardy, who could provide the “more funky type” jewelry and accessories her customers like. Her Hardy finds included silver flasks, desk accessories and razors.
Munro said she was having better luck in Las Vegas than at the New York show “because the exhibitors here are more reasonably priced.” Looking for unique silver pieces to retail in the $100 range, she found an oversized sterling silver ring that nearly covered one of her fingers at M.S. Medallions Co., she said, for $40 and placed an order.