Byline: Karen Parr

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The jewelry was bigger and bolder at the United Jewelry Show and the Jewelry Manufacturers Association show here.
Along with a move to livelier designs, several vendors claimed active order-writing.
However, there were also complaints that traffic was thin at the two eight-day events, which ran concurrently through Sept. 13, as exhibitors issued the usual laments that with the continuing long-term impact of imports the fashion jewelry business simply isn’t what it used to be.
At the JMA in the Biltmore Hotel, director Sean Reidy said that with dual registration for both shows, his count for companies attending was 400. About 30 manufacturers exhibited at JMA, compared with 40 a year ago. But, Reidy said, orders were stronger.
At the Davol Square showroom facility, UJS executive director Dick Upson said 600 firms visited the show, “about even with last year,” with exhibitors representing about 235 lines.
Among those showing at UJS, Frank DeLizza said buyers at his eponymous showroom were more adventurous when writing orders than they had been in the past.
The best-selling line, Miami-based M&M Designs, included necklaces with big pendants fashioned from tiny beads, he said.
“On this line, we’ve done four times the business we’d normally do because we added all the fashion colors — the pink, tortoise, Lalique [white] and topaz,” said DeLizza. “Normally [buyers] would say, ‘It’s too outrageous’.”
Peter Waterman, director of P. Waterman, which represents Carre and First Line, called the show “super”
“It’s a lot more upbeat; customers seem to be a lot more optimistic,” he said.
Better jewelry — with retail price points between $15 and $100 — was selling over the less expensive pieces, he said.
Also, he said, “There’s a trend away from the more delicate jewelry toward larger fashion pieces,” he said. “And silver’s still very strong.”
At the Susan Huntemann showroom, gray fake pearls on a hand-knotted string sold best, said owner and designer Susan Huntemann.
“People are clamoring for color,” she said.
Huntemann called the show “terrific” with orders up above average compared to the same time last year. Average orders were $800 to $1,000, she said.
At The Pauley Co., Paul Webber, one of the owners, noted top sellers at his booth included chains with pendants attached which could be worn separately as pins.
Webber was one of those who felt traffic was light. He said business in the once thriving Rhode Island jewelry industry is now tough and that it doesn’t pay just to focus on the wholesalers who seem to largely comprise the show’s traffic, he said. Rather, a manufacturer must “do a little bit of everything — wholesale, party planning, catalog, retail.”
Many buyers at both shows appeared interested in designs that were “inspired” by fine jewelry designers.
Danny Saro, owner of Italian Ice, a Miami wholesale firm, said he was seeking “the look of real” at such firms as Esposito, showing at JMA, and Tahoe, which was at both UJS and JMA.
Saro said he would see three or four key vendors at the show and would spend around $200,000.
Deborah Bode, owner of the Regency Collection, a wholesale business in Atlanta, said she sought items such as mesh chains with enhancers, and found what she needed.
She had narrowed her buying field down to about four manufacturers. “Then you’re more important to them, there’s more of a bond than ordering a little bit from everybody,” she said.
As she was leaving the show, Michelle Kirsch, a buyer from Euro Fashions wholesaler in Dallas, recalled the days when there were many more manufacturers in Rhode Island.
“It just breaks my heart,” she said.

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