SHOWS IN PROVIDENCE STILL FEEL JEWELRY LAG

Byline: A.M.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With costume jewelry still fighting its way along the comeback trail, business was generally rated satisfactory at best at the fall editions of the Jewelry Manufacturers Association and United Jewelry Shows here.
Both events ran for 10 days, winding up on March 19.
Exhibitors pointed to a lack of clear trends in the market and a continued dearth of jewelry on designer runways and in fashion magazines as contributing to the hesitancy that often marked the buying action at the shows.
Here, what exhibitors and buyers at both shows had to say.

United Jewelry Show
According to the event’s organizers, about 1,000 people attended the show, down slightly from 1,100 a year ago.
Ron Rappoport, sales agent for a line called Venue, said the market seemed to lack one clear direction. He had taken orders for a wide variety of items ranging from nickel-free pieces to European wire earrings. “I’m still upset about the lack of jewelry on designer runways, and personally, I think it’s really killing the jewelry industry,” Rappoport added.
Some exhibitors tried to stimulate interest by featuring novelty items. Buy-Rite Costume Jewelry, for instance, was offering zodiac stone key chains, Indian-beaded jewelry identified on the mounting cards as “Spirit Stones” and even mood rings. Dennis and Judy Paul, a sales rep firm, was carrying crystal-like pendants, carded as rune stones, and dog tag necklaces.
Louis Porreca, president of Jeri-Lou Creations, Seekonk, Mass., said his firm did well with novelty-oriented angel items.
“Angels are still a really popular trend, and we’re spinning it out with variations on the theme,” Porreca said.
“We had a lot of appointments and some walk-in traffic, though not a whole lot,” he said. “But fashion jewelry’s still facing some challenges, such as retail consolidation and the rise of the corporate casual dress code.”
A number of wholesalers shopping the show said they were still unsure about the fall season with regards to trends and the general pattern of jewelry sales. Some said business so far for spring has been slow.
A few, however, were more optimistic.
“I think fall is going to be a very good season, because there are a lot of clothes that are conducive to wearing jewelry,” said Elaine Sewers, owner of Harpe Imports, a Canadian wholesaler based in Edmonton, Alberta.
“One of the biggest and most important differences over last fall’s jewelry is the addition of a lot of color, particularly in rich tones such as burgundy,” Sewers said. “I see this as a positive direction.”

Jewelry Manufacturers Association
This show, held at the Omni Biltmore Hotel, drew about 380 firms, down from 475 a year ago. Novelty looks, from angel pins to retro brooches, were helping to spark orders at this event as well.
Among the exhibitors, Deborah Miller, president of Boca Inc., said she was satisfied with the results of the show.
“Business has been steady,” Miller said. “There haven’t been a whole lot of buyers around but the flow has been at least consistent.”
She said a large variety of ideas, from charm bracelets to tailored looks, had performed for her. “We even brought back some of our old castings from the Forties so we could do some very authentically retro brooches,” Miller noted.
Don Donnelly, national sales manager for Mag Jewelry Co., said that volume-price novelty goods had driven strong business for him. “It’s a buyer’s market right now, and everyone is looking for value,” Donnelly pointed out. “We’re showing a lot of angel items, for instance, in value-oriented packages such as five pins on a card.”
Novelty was also on the mind of some buyers, including Colin Leake, managing director of a small retail firm in Queensland, Australia, who noted that the jewelry business down under isn’t much different than in the U.S.
“Jewelry business has been fairly soft in Australia, too, but we’re looking for themed items, novelty pins and so on, that can pick up the market.
“We’re also looking for better-quality goods,” said Leake, who was attending the show for the second time. “We can get all the inexpensive merchandise we want out of Asia.”

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