MORE VENDORS, FEWER BUYERS AT HONG KONG SHOW

Byline: Betsy May Veloo

HONG KONG — The latest edition of the Hong Kong Jewelry and Watch Fair, one of Asia’s most popular and largest jewelry shows, was a mixed bag.
With 1,500 exhibitors, the roster was the largest yet. Last year’s exhibitor tally was 1,442. However, the event — which attracts an audience of manufacturers, as well as wholesalers, importers/exporters, gemologists and private collectors — saw attendance drop to 29,452 from 32,605 last year.
The five-day show ran through Sept. 7.
Among those showing their wares, the mood ranged from disappointment to enthusiasm.
“Some of my overseas buyers are not here because of Hong Kong’s reversion to China. They still feel the uncertainty,” said Hong Kong resident Chung Lin Shing, director of Po Shing Gems & Jewelry. He also noted there was competition from an upcoming show in Thailand, where the battered Thai currency was proving attractive to European and U.S. buyers.
Chung said his sales at the fair here dropped 20 percent this year.
“I am not very happy,” said gemstone dealer A.R. Deen, president of Selective Gem House Ltd. He explained that most of his customers are Japanese, and in Japan, too, there was a competing show that started a day earlier than the Hong Kong fair.
For some others, though, the show was definitely upbeat, with one-of-a-kind antique or art deco jewelry and timepieces in demand.
Mara Leighton, a principal in Fred Leighton, a New York dealer showing rare collectible items, said Hong Kong “has always been a great show for us — we haven’t missed [it] in 10 years.
“Antique and estate pieces have become much more popular in this part of the world than they were 10 years ago. They’ve been strong for years in the U.S. and Europe, but our customers here are becoming more aware of 19th-century pieces.”
The opening price of her line was about $5,000, but Leighton said the firm’s primary range is between $50,000 and $500,000. The majority of Leighton’s customers were from Hong Kong.
She added that while earrings used to be the main draw to Leighton’s one-of-a-kind selection, now dainty necklaces and rings were much sought after.
Stephen Lack, chairman of London-based Jacobs Lack Archutowski Ltd., which sells timepieces and period jewelry, also expressed his firm’s satisfaction with the level of business generated at the fair.
“People in the Far East love watches,” he said, describing his prime customer as “mostly ladies from this part of Asia.”
What they preferred were his art deco watches from the Twenties, set in platinum and diamonds, ranging from $15,000 to $50,000.
The opportunity to make and maintain contacts and build image was also seen as another important reason to show.
“For us, the fair is more for meeting people….It is basically a PR exercise. You can see everyone in a week,” said Edward Abrams, owner of Siba Jewelry, New York, known for its important jewelry pieces.
Stanley Chan, general manager of Larry Jewelry, a major Hong Kong exhibitor, said the show “is good for advertisement — we make new contacts, and [the fair] is also a good place to exchange ideas and information.”
Summing up the event, Peter Sutton, a director of Miller Freeman Asia, the organizer, said, “Generally speaking, this show was good, but it wasn’t great, probably not as good as in 1996. But remember, people still made millions of U.S. dollars worth of business. That’s the essential basic ingredient that is behind the success of this show.”
Sutton noted there was some edginess about the show being the first one since the return of Hong Kong to China. “But,” he said, “this will change next year when they find it is as usual in Hong Kong.”

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