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Monday, September 14, 2015

Will The September Hong Kong Jewelry Fair Overcome Global Tensions Again?

Opening day registration crowd at the 2014 September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair

The world’s largest fine jewelry tradeshow opens Wednesday amid a global backdrop that remains volatile and unpredictable. 

As a true international event, the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair is susceptible to economic swings and geopolitical tensions throughout the world. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, this instability has heightened significantly. But somehow the world’s largest fine jewelry tradeshow not only remains resilient but manages to continue its robust growth. 

The tradeshow will be held September 16 – 20 at the AsiaWorld-Expo for jewelry making materials and equipment and September 18 – 22 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre for finished fine jewelry ranging from inexpensive silver pieces to high jewelry art creations. My first day at the fair will be September 17. 

Last year seemed to be a particularly difficult time as military actions in the Middle East and the Ukraine were exacerbated by the build up that led to mass protests in Hong Kong and a category 8 Typhoon. But despite all of this the number of visitors to the show, owned and operated by UBM Asia, grew by an outstanding 12 percent. 

This year while unrest in the Middle East and the Ukraine as well as other geopolitical hotspots around the world remains, the big issue is China. The dramatic decline and instability of the country’s stock markets has changed a lot of this. Not only did big investors lose out but the markets are full of retail traders who lost their life savings. This is in addition to the ongoing government-imposed austerity measures on China’s elite. 

This change in the Chinese economy was evident by a 5 percent year-over-year decline in gold jewelry demand for the second quarter of 2015, according to the World Gold Council. China is the world’s largest gold jewelry market. 

It’s the same story for many emerging markets. For example, India, the world’s second largest gold jewelry market, saw its second quarter demand fall by 23 percent. Brazil’s gold jewelry demand declined 8 percent.

The good news is that GDP growth in China is at 7 percent this year. The other modest bright spot is the US, which is growing at a slow, stable pace. Europe’s economy remains flat. 

Talking to several people this past week, few have high expectations in terms of sales. The fair has the world’s largest diamond display but the slowdown in jewelry demand in China (as well as other issues) has hit this industry segment particularly hard. 

Colored gems found a larger and broader audience in recent years but the anticipation is for steady sales at the show. 

As far as collectible and estate jewelry and watches, those I spoke with still expect good positive growth as the wealthy buy in good times because they have the money and in bad times as a hedge against other investments. 

As far as overall show attendance, UBM Asia officials are being conservative saying it will be about the same as last year, at just over 59,100. However, that’s the same thing they said last year.  

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes website

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