Opinion article: Has the end come for Jewelry Trade Shows?
Or is it time to change?
Another jewelry brand announced it will no longer participate at two major tradeshows. It's not the first one this year and won't be the last one either. Some predict the end of jewelry trade shows, others think things will never change really. Here is my opinion and my views on a possible, but very different kind of jewelry trade show.
This week one of the insiders news stories was that the famous Italian jewelry brand; Pasquale Bruni is leaving both VicenzaOro and BaselWorld. Two important trade fairs, both struggling to re-invent themselves to adapt to the changing habits of visitors and clients. I know, lots of my peers and people within the industry love to say something, usually not very uplifting, about trade shows in general. Yet, year after year, show after show, they turn up, walk around and do their business.
Trade shows everywhere and in any industry are coming to terms with changing buying behavior
Technology has improved many aspects of our lives, including the way we buy. I once overheard a jeweler moaning about how his clients now seemed to only want to buy from the internet. He had every right to moan, but the irony of what he said next seemed to completely fly over his head. ‘’ I am not going to visit brand X whilst here (at a trade show), I can order their stuff on the internet, far easier!’’
Of course, there is pain behind every change. Our industry isn’t the only one suffering from a decline in visitors and exhibitors. So obviously, part of the pain or part of the change must have a common denominator.
Brands are seeking to indentify identity, how to reach clients. Remember there is only a handful of Tiffany’s, Bulgari’s, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier’s out there, the vast majority, however, struggles in highly competitive world. The fight for a spot in a jewelry store with a great reputation, the longing to be showcased by Nordstrom, Saks or whatever higher-end retailer, the hesitation to sell through the various LuisaViaRoma, Pret-a-Porter, Moda Operandi or the hope that smaller niche websites might be the answer. Should you exhibit or not at the big shows, are there new initiatives?
New jewelry show initiatives
In the Netherlands, we had one such new initiative.Taking away all the glamour and adding lots more Bijoux and even some handbags, the show was called Out of the Box and it challenged the much-criticized Jaarbeurs jewelry (and other merchandise in the floors above) fair, but failed after a glorious start to enchant buyers.
Pasquale Bruni leaving the BaselWorld show, won’t have the same impact as the Swatch Group has. But Pasquale Bruni leaving VicenzaOro is a major hit. The jeweler from Valenza has always played a prominent role at this show. Parading with way too many beautiful young women (when will companies learn that this is by far the best way to irritate female customers?) never shying away from some glitz and glam, always situated at the very best position. The booth got bigger and bigger and when you thought that it was getting a little silly, it even got bigger again.
the Costs and how to get attention
And maybe this is -one of- the problem(s). Costs for brands have gotten out of hand, revenue is under constant pressure. Re-thinking the whole ‘’how do I reach my consumers (jewelers) and the press (journalist, but also bloggers, Instagrammers, and vloggers who have to spend their own money to fly, stay and visit every fair (which they won’t or can’t, by the way) has become a major issue for many brands, big or small. The possibilities are endless, and so are the streams of information we all deal with on a daily basis. So how, how to get attention?
It seemed easier before; trade shows were where you met your jeweler or buyer. Advertisement in magazines and newspapers were the route to take to reach the final consumer. Social Media may be cheaper, but the game has become more difficult to play. You seek interaction, the right followers, influencers that -hopefully for free- take on your brand and say something nice about it. But the so-called influencers work with agencies today and you need to pay and establish a relationship with them. But also; the people that might possibly be influenced by such an influencer are great if your products is in fashion jewelry, budget jewelry or fashionable jewelry well below say $1000,-. The public that can afford to buy the jewelry is probably not as open towards a young hip influencer wearing a piece we all know she can’t afford.
Building a jewelry show ready for the future
We are all, visitors, press, exhibitors and trade show organizers, aware of the situation. The next step is to acknowledge the pain among exhibitors, organizers, and visitors. And build it up again from there.
I see lots of initiatives, BaselWorld announced it has an agreement with hotels, formerly charging a ridiculous amount of money for everyone visiting the show. Others like VicenzaOro flew in a group of bloggers, Instagrammers, and journalists, and provided the entertainment, facilities to network and a chance to fall in love with the area. But is it enough?
No. Of course not. We need to rethink trade shows in order to remain relevant. I have covered the subject many times and gained new insights along the way. Asking the visitors what they want, would be a great first step. But it’s not enough. We often know what the problem is, but like in life, we don’t always know what we really want. We know what we not want, but the opposite of what we don’t want is not going to be the game changer. ‘’ I don’t want to spend so much money visiting a trade show’’ If it was half-price, would you come? Probably not. It’s not the major issue.
Of course, a group that represents the various parties should be gathered to consult. Choose the group with care, as you don’t want to just know what is wrong, but you seek active brainstormers, people who dare to speak up, share an opinion even when not popular and have ideas and insights. Create an inventory of those insights and ideas. And visit shows from completely different industries. Which ones are working? Why are they working? What do they do differently? Dream out loud!
Here is my view of the future of jewelry shows
(And what I want) I want to, at least once every year, meet my peers. I want to know about new marketing ideas, trends, fashion, speakers that excite, inspire and create enthusiasm. I want Disney to come and tell about their views on creating an experience. I want people from the gaming industry telling us how they create interaction online and offline and learn from them.
I want fashion and interior design people to interact with jewelry designers. And jewelry, as an industry, to step off its high horse and become a part of a much broader community. I don’t want brands to impress the hell out of me, with way too stunning ladies and out of this world booths.
Impress me with your story, your jewelry, your people. Impress me with how you receive me, or contact me. Without going over the top, but showing a deep understanding of what moves us. And create your story accordingly. Let Microsoft or Google tell something about CRM or how to work productively. Invite set designers and theatre people to tell something about how to create a stage and how to translate that for your store or showroom.
Create rooms for journalists and other press to meet and greet with brands and decision makers, so there can be an exchange of information, share the latest developments. Where brands can explore how to work with a magazine, blogger or vlogger or consultant and vice versa. Take pictures of the jewelry, have some sort of set or studio where you can book for taking pictures or those selfies with jewelry.
Interaction, action ….no waiting passively inside the tower, as some booths have become, but connecting and inspiring and networking.
In the upcoming years, we know that it will become more difficult. Just look at the latest Mc Kinsey and BoF report and you know what the fashion industry is heading towards. It will become even more difficult for the jewelry industry. The high-end brands that have solid names and kept investing in their marketing and cross-channel commerce are predicted to benefit from the increasing buying power in China and North America. But the mid-section?
Maybe trade shows aren’t supposed to be glitter and glamour anymore. Brands might not want or need to spend money anymore on expensive trade show collections, the costs of the booth, insurance and staff. Maybe trade shows are the place to meet each other, inspire each other, show the collections in a different way, gather relevant information for growing our businesses. Maybe the time has come to end the era of castles that don’t invite to interact, but open up and do business in a completely new way.