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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Las Vegas Jewelry Week

Mandalay Bay, the new home of JCK Las Vegas

The upcoming week in Las Vegas is going to be one of the most important for the U.S. jewelry industry in some time. The performance of jewelry trade shows for the next several days will help determine whether the industry is returning to a period of sustained growth following the single event of the economic meltdown of 2008, or if it is the victim of something bigger and more widespread—a cultural and technological change that is steamrolling traditional ways of assessing luxury, beauty and fashion; while providing new ways of delivering messages and products that are beyond the reach of an aging industry.

Of course the big news is that one of the largest and most successful shows in the international jewelry industry—JCK Las Vegas and its affiliate shows, Luxury at JCK and Swiss Watch at JCK—will be held for the first time at Mandalay Bay.

The change is the result of some downsizing and rightsizing due to recent economic realities and competition within the industry. Celebrating its 20th year, JCK Las Vegas has always been held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, one of the largest conventions facilities in the country, which along with the adjacent Venetian Las Vegas offers approximately 1.8 million square-feet of space. The show was so successful that even in this space there was an annual waiting list of hundreds of companies.

Things changed dramatically during the 2008 global economic meltdown, which resulted in a dramatic shrinkage of the jewelry industry. No more waiting lists. More empty spaces. Fewer buyers. So now the show will be held at the newer, nicer although smaller space. Still, at 1 million square feet, it is huge by normal expo space standards.

Things have been changing for some time as other jewelry shows have opened and taken away some JCK exhibitors. The most notable change is that what has been termed JCK Las Vegas for years by the industry is now known in the industry as “Las Vegas Jewelry Week” or “Las Vegas Jewelry Market Week.”

The week begins with JCK at Luxury (May 31 – June 6). The first three days of the show is an invitation only gathering of luxury jewelry retailers and consumer press, which the show has been since its inception. The next four days, the show is open for all of those attending JCK Las Vegas. This is in no doubt in recognition of the only segment of the jewelry industry that continues to grow during this sluggish recovery. Autore, Breuning, Carl Messler and Danhov are among the approximate 230 luxury exhibitors at the show.

Swiss Watch at JCK (June 2 - 6) remains an appointment only event. There is no desire and seemingly no need for the luxury Swiss watch industry to change the way it does business as it continues to experience exceptional sales growth and consumer passion for its timepieces. Exhibitors run from Breitling to Zenith who will be seeing buyers in suites at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and the Four Seasons Hotel in the same building.

Wynn Las Vegas, home of the Couture Show.  Photo Credit: Destination360

The Couture Show, over in the Wynn Las Vegas (June 2 – 6), features some of the best-known high-end jewelry brands in the world, including Damiani, John Hardy, David Yurman, Judith Ripka, Kwiat, Mikimoto, Roberto Coin and Stephen Webster. These are among the companies that broke off with JCK Las Vegas to form a show that is specific to their niche in the industry. In the past, the show lived off its close proximity to the Sands Convention Center. The question this year is whether enough buyers will want to make the trip from the south end of the strip to the Wynn. There are certainly enough destination brands for buyers to make the trip.

The American Gem Trade Association attached itself to JCK Las Vegas a number of years ago with its own show, AGTA GemFair Las Vegas. The collection of gem and pearl dealers from all over the world will continue its successful association with JCK at Mandalay Bay (June 2 – 7).

Then there’s JCK Las Vegas (June 3 – 6), still the dominate jewelry trade show on “The Strip” even if its status is slightly tarnished. This show contains all aspects of the jewelry industry from bridal to manufacturing equipment and technology suppliers. Low-, mid-, and high-end tiers of the market are resented as well as international jewelry manufacturers.

Planet Hollywood is the location for Niche: The Show

Finally there’s Niche: The Show at Planet Hollywood (June 4 – 6). This is show dedicated for designers of handcrafted jewelry and other materials and mediums, such as glass, ceramic and wood. This event is an answer to the long-term struggle small jewelry designers had at JCK. The show was just too big and attracted too many buyers from large-scale operations with orders that these types small businesses couldn’t fill.

There are other shows as well, specializing in antiques, dedicated for watch dealers and for bead makers that round out the festivities. But it’s the major trade shows that will determine the shape and scope of what the U.S. jewelry industry will look like in the coming years.

Many in the industry will be crossing their fingers.