When retail jewelers talk about this year’s JCK Las Vegas Show, it sounds much like a Delta airlines commercial. The usual barometers for a good show (buyer numbers, writing orders, the mood, and traffic) were all “up” for many retailers and the exhibitors they spoke with at the show.
Attendance for the JCK Show was up 5 percent over last year. And, attendance for the pre-show/invitation-only days for Luxury was up 9 percent over 2012, according to the figures released from the JCK Show’s public relations firm. Defining characteristics of this year’s Vegas Show were a focus on fashion jewelry, buying more color – even treated blue diamonds – price-point engagement and bridal staples, as well as some discretionary spending.
“It was anecdotal,” says Babs Noelle, owner of Alara Jewelry in Bozeman, Montana. “But for the first time in a long time I overheard other buyers during my booth visits saying things like, ‘we really could use something like this,’ indicating to me that retailers were willing to experiment a little.”
Babs doesn’t consider herself an economist. But her point on the nation’s economic health has merit. “Whether we’re in a recovery or not, many Americans sense that more of what’s bad about the economy is behind them rather than in front of them,” says Babs. “And, when the economy is up, people buy color – and right now people are buying, and buying more color.”
At this year’s Vegas Show retailers talked about color and fashion jewelry with the same level of importance and enthusiasm as bridal – in part because bridal is incorporating more color and color is part of after-bridal follow-up sales.
Similar to other retail jewelers, Stephanie Palestrant was looking at a lot of color – including fancy colored diamonds. Custom and finished bridal set with color (fancy colored diamonds as well as colored stones) has been a lucrative profit center for Wendel’s Diamond Jewelers in Lancaster, Ohio.
With a laser-like focus on price points under $1,500, Stephanie and her buying group were on the lookout for color-set pendants and earrings to capture follow-up sales from color-set bridal customers. About 40 percent of Stephanie’s Vegas 2013 open-to-buy budget was dedicated exclusively to color.
This year retailers also showed some interest in blue diamonds. Stephanie picked up about 8 to 10 pieces of blue-diamond set jewelry. “People know white and yellow diamonds and our customers are expressing interest in blue diamonds,” says Stephanie. “We purchased hoop earrings and other fashion pieces for around $299 retail.”
Jason Druxman, co-owner of Avenue Jewelers in Appleton, Wisconsin, also brought on some blue-diamond-set jewelry as part of his fashion purchases. “We purchased brown and black diamond jewelry along with blue diamond-set jewelry for prices under $500 retail,” says Jason.
The lower price points of blue diamonds that have undergone HPHT (High Pressure, High Temperature) treatments are making these traditionally ultra-rare diamonds more affordable. For his store Jason went with blue diamond-set silver jewelry alloyed with platinum.
In addition to adding Lafonn as a new silver line, Jason also purchased his share of bridal jewelry. There were the usual halo and micro-pave styles, but for Jason he’s seeing a return of bigger styles. “When gold got expensive, rings got smaller,” says Jason. “People now want bigger, bolder styles again.”
Whether its fashion or bridal jewelry, buyers had definite price parameters for these leading categories with fashion retail prices ranging from $250 to $1,000 and bridal retail prices starting at $1,500 and topping out at around $5,000 to $6,000. Stephanie wanted to bring in starter bridal price points from $1,200 to $1,900, so she brought four to five different styles back to her store including vintage pieces, along with some rose gold bridal.
“Rose gold is becoming more popular and it has that pop of color young brides want with a modern look,” says Stephanie.
Holly Wesche, owner of Wesche Jewelers in Melbourne, Florida, also bought some rose gold as part of her new bridal jewelry lines. She liked IDD’s bridal collections. “There were some beautiful rings in all rose gold and in rose/white gold combinations,” says Holly. “We also bought a few styles in all yellow gold since we are seeing an increased interest in yellow metal. We chose this line because it hit our desired retail of $1,500 to $5,000, and while the center diamonds in this collection are smaller, the overall ring still has a more impressive look than what the price tag would indicate.”
Holly also purchased two additional new bridal lines including the Caro 74 collection from Simon Golub. She liked the stylish bridal collections and loose center diamonds which are cut with 74 facets, catching more light – a break from the traditional 58 facets.
Stephanie also bought into a new line of diamond jewelry called Rhythm of Love. Exclusively distributed to independent retailers through Gems One, Rhythm of Love has a patented center stone setting that allows the diamond to move with the wearer, constantly catching and reflecting light. “This is a very innovative new diamond product we think will be the must-have item this Christmas,” says Stephanie.
Babs’ bridal jewelry purchases average a little higher than most with retail prices ranging from $2,000 to $8,000. She brought on Erik Stewart as a new bridal vendor, partial to the strong geometrical patterns from his architectural-inspired bridal jewelry designs. One of the few retailers that includes discretionary spending in her open-to-buy budget (20 percent), Babs discovered some other geometric designs in the German Pavilion.
Charizzma’s ZZ Line is a geometric-inspired line of jewelry featuring magnetics clasps that come together in the front of the necklace design instead of the back. “The magnetic combinations can be worn about four different ways with most designs,” says Babs. In the Design Center she found a booth featuring the handiwork of six Peruvian jewelry designers, one of which had well-made cufflinks she couldn’t resist.
And, jewelry wasn’t purchased with just the female self-purchasing demographic in mind. Holly purchased some men’s jewelry and accessories from I.B. Goodman. “We’ve dealt with them before but we hadn’t looked at their men’s collection in over a year,” says Holly. “We were pleased to see that while they had some tailored, traditional styles, they also had some more fashion forward men’s pieces all in a very affordable price range.”
And, several jewelers made time for the Equipment and Technology section at the Vegas Show. Stephanie and Babs are now CounterSketch Studio users. Both view Stuller’s custom jewelry creation software as a way to increase custom jewelry orders while allowing for sales associates to become more confident in selling custom with the tech-friendly system.
Jason also met with his website company in this area of the Vegas Show. He’s looking at tech-based and creative solutions to promote bridal in his market. He’s currently building a totally unique mobile app for his store with an iTunes app still in the development phases. And, Jason is looking to soon build a new Engagement Ring Rec Center in his store.