The JCK Show marks its 20th year in Las Vegas, and things sure have changed! Las Vegas became the important battleground for jewelry trade shows, and then economic forces beyond anyone's control disarmed the battle. Yes, there are still changes (JCK moving to the Mandalay, for example) but the reality has not changed. There are fewer manufacturers extant that can exhibit--and others that have simply dropped out--and there are ever fewer retailers that can come and buy.
We should set aside the question of whether this is good or bad; whether in some ways we are better off not having the overheated market of the boom years. But on the supplier side, we know that we have long suffered from too much capacity, a condition that will probably continue for quite a while. The low barriers of entry into the business assures that. And on the retail side, we have undergone many years of consolidation and stratification that has forced retailers to adapt or die. The mass market now belongs to a handful of big chains, and the independent jeweler now accounts for 40% or 45% of the US market, down from 75% about 30 years ago (as I recall).
So maybe we are approaching a homogenized market, as we have seen for books, drugs and hardware. Amazon, Rite-Aid and Home Depot (never mind WalMart) have been eminently successful in dominating their market segments, so why not Sterling, Macy's and Sam's?
I can think of many reasons (so can you), but one good one is the very nature of jewelry. What we love most about it is the ability to produce enormous variety of innovative designs, and not needing to sell it in big quantities to make a business of it. Creating jewelry is, after all, an art. And people know that, and seek it, and will always need it. Big chains need high volume producers (e.g., half-carat studs, and solitaires) but even they are fully recognizing the value of differentiation, good design, and quality.
I hope the shows can successfully promote these values to retailers and bring them here, for the moment the best place for retailers to find and buy good, new products. And thereby reinforce jewelry's wonderful heritage.
Don't you agree?