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TRADE SHOWS

JEWELRY TRADE PREPARES FOR JCK SHOW IN LAS VEGAS,
WITH EXPECTATIONS HIGH FOR RETURN TO NORMAL

 

As has been the case for 30 years now, with the exception of 2020 when it was canceled because of the COVID outbreak, the jewelry world will descend on Las Vegas next month for the JCK Show. And in contrast to 2021, which was a subdued affair attended mainly by Americans, expectations are high that this year things will return almost to normal.

Once again, the show will be taking place at where it all began in 1992, the Venetian Expo, although it then was known as the Sands Expo. But in contrast to years gone by, when it began during the final week of March, this year it will kick off on Friday, June 10, and run for four days.

JCK’s sister show, Luxury, will begin on June 8 to invited guests and to all JCK attendees on June 10, and, after a brief hiatus, the AGTA will return to the JCK venue, although it will begin a day earlier that the main event, on June 9.

There undoubtedly will be a feeling of déjà vu, but the impact of current events will be clearly apparent. The number of exhibitors visitors from China and Hong Kong will be sharply down, as a result of the Chinese zero-COVID strategy, which severely has restricted travel to and from the country. Furthermore, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the resulting sanction imposed against Russia means that Russian companies and products will not be present.

The show will reflect changing circumstances, but they are not all bad. The growing role of digital trading will be reflected, with an NFT gallery in Luxury, where a featured artist, Rozes, has made digital artwork for the show. The traditional JCK keynote event on the Friday morning will focus on the metaverse, Web3 and what digital innovation will mean for jewelry retailers.

The Venetian, site of the 2022 JCK Show.

BELL WEATHER FOR THE AMERICAN MARKET

The JCK Show is often regarded as a bell weather for the U.S. market, and many will be watching closely for signs of a long-anticipated slowdown. To date, they are far and few between.

According to data released by Mastercard SpendingPulse, jewelry sales in the United States in April 2022 rose by a substantial 33.3 percent over the same month last year, and that comes on the heels of an 11.9 percent rise in March, when compared to March 2021.

Mastercard SpendingPulse data also show U.S. jewelry sales in April 2022 were also up 51 percent over sales in April 2019, which pre-dates the pandemic, clearly indicating the strength of jewelry in the American market – and this was further underscored by the fact that the growth of jewelry category was considerably higher than the 7.2 percent rise in overall U.S. retail sales, and also higher than the 26 percent gain in sales of luxury goods excluding jewelry.

The Mastercard SpendingPulse report also indicated that consumers were returning to brick-and-mortar stores, which saw a 10 percent rise in activity, while online sales fell nominally, although still were 92 percent higher than they had been before the onset of the COVID pandemic.

ARE STORM CLOUDS GATHERING?

But despite the still positive data, there is general agreement that 2022 is unlikely to be a repeat of 2021.

To some degree, the more challenging market environment may be a side-effect of the relative advantage that was enjoyed by the jewelry sector through much of the COVID crisis, during which it experienced considerably less competition from its rivals that were harder hit by the health restrictions, like the travel, tourism and entertainment industries.

But there are other macroeconomic factors at play as well, including a sharp rise in the rate of inflation, and the consequent decision of the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, after a prolonged period during which the prime rate was close to zero. Add to that supply chain problems and labor shortages, not to mention uncertainty about the impact of the war in Ukraine, and there are numerous reasons to practice caution during the coming months.

Speaking at the American Gem Society (AGS) Conclave in Oklahoma City at the end of April, Erich Jacobs, CEO of Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT), spoke of certain downward trends, among them fewer Google searches for jewelry and an increase in JBT collections.

“It’s too soon to tell,” Jacobs stated. “But it does seem like we’ve hit peak jewelry.”

But the jury is still out. The confidence of the industry about what will transpire over the second half of the year should be revealed in Las Vegas.