PROVIDENCE SHOW KEEPS STEADY PACE

Byline: A.M.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With the fashion jewelry business in a state of at least partial recovery, business was steady though hardly dynamic at the United Jewelry Show here.
The show, which ran Jan. 4-8 at the Davol Square showroom complex here, attracted 300 attendees, up from 250 a year ago. Exhibitors at the show numbered 130.
Most exhibitors reported their business as even with a year ago, as they had anticipated it would be. And many shopping the show — primarily wholesalers — said they had seen at least some merchandise they liked and ordered.
“For my retail accounts, Christmas was reasonably good, and my sales reps have full appointment schedules because a lot of stores really ran clean on inventory,” said Richard Fox, president of Howard’s Jewelry Inc., a wholesaler based in Chanhassen, Minn.
Fox noted that he was looking for novel, diverse merchandise including ankle bracelets and brightly colored goods.
“There’s a lot of talk about pearls and tailored gold, the usual basics,” he said. “For any industry that has been in a down cycle, it’s not unusual to fall back on the basics, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea.
Furthermore, he added: “I’m still not seeing a lot of jewelry in the fashion magazines, and I’m wondering what kind of long-term effects this is going to have on consumers.”
Vendors also expressed concern about what they perceived as a continued lack of support from the fashion media, a trend on which they first began to speak out a year ago when minimalism was in full swing.
“So few of the models in the fashion magazines are shown with earrings anymore,” said Louis Porreca, one of the owners of Jeri-Lou Creations, Seekonk, Mass. “And when you consider that about 60 percent of fashion jewelry business is earrings, you realize that something like this can really be hurtful to our industry.”
Porreca said that while his business was running slightly ahead of last year, this market period was not a major one for him. Instead, he said, he was taking the opportunity to give some of his accounts a preview of fall season ideas.
Jack Haber, president of New York-based Bijou International, said he was having his best success with color jewelry.
“Color seems to be an area that lots of buyers are looking at right now,” Haber said. “However, though everyone is expressing strong interest in it, when it comes to actually ordering it, they’re still a little shy.”
Haber said his volume was even with last year’s and to keep generating growth, his firm has been working more intensely in areas such as the mass market.
“We’ve been aggressively pursuing the mass marketers, and we see a lot of potential there. Some of them buy their jewelry just as selectively as upscale department stores do, and right now they are offering the formula that everyone’s looking for — fashion at a price.”

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