While compared to others the Jewelers International Showcase (JIS show) in Miami Beach may not be a large show, it is a major event for jewellers in the South Eastern United States and the Caribbean. This is when retailers stock up for the all-important tourist season. This year the show expanded to about 1200 booths and almost half of them were new vendors. Buyer attendance was up from previous years and there was a feeling of cautious optimism. Indicators have been positive for this year’s selling season but there was a bit of nervousness due to the economic and political gamesmanship currently affecting the U.S.
Since my main interest is the Caribbean jewellery industry, I use this show to see the trends that will affect this market for the coming year. This is also where I get a chance to see my retail clients as well as visit with vendors that supply the Caribbean. However, this year I saw very few Caribbean retailers in attendance and traffic at many of their primary vendors was quite slow. Surprisingly, there was very little Tanzanite being shown which is one of the Caribbean’s biggest sellers. The vendors I talked to reported that many of their customers were staying home and ordering bread and butter goods to replenish strong selling items but not seeking out new products. Because of this booths that are usually quite busy were virtually empty. The few Caribbean jewellers that I did see were either buying loose diamonds or well-known designer lines.
The busiest booths were selling fashion jewellery, silver or promotional quality goods. Sterling silver plated with Rhodium, yellow gold or rose gold and set with either lower quality gems and diamonds or lab created stones were the hot sellers. These items are meant to look like fine jewellery but at extremely affordable price-points. In the past, Caribbean jewellers were reluctant to stock these items fearing that it would cheapen their image and confuse their customers. This year several of them were giving it a try. One vendor reported that after 3 years of attempting to garner interest for his line in the Caribbean he finally made some very strong sales, often a few thousand items at a time.
I see this shift to silver and lower price-point items as an indicator of a growing trend toward more affordable jewellery. I think this trend will continue until the economy in the US fully recovers. Lower price-points are a two-edged sword. On one side, the profit margins are extremely attractive, often exceeding a 10X mark-up. On the other side it will take a lot volume to produce the cash-flow needed to survive the high costs in the Caribbean. Rents can be as high as or higher than on 5th Ave in NYC and marketing, especially on the cruise-ships, can be very costly.
The Caribbean is usually a year or two ahead of the US in jewellery trends. It will be interesting to see how the lower price-points play out in the future.