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SMART Jewelry Show: Excellent formula for the right combination of education and sales opportunity

10 may 2012

From 21 to 23 April, Chicago hosted the Smart Jewelry Show mainly focused not only on a wide range of well stratified price and jewelry categories displayed by U.S. and foreign manufacturers, but also on an applied educational program with prominent consultants in the field of marketing, sales, personnel training and social media, designed to provide participants with practical knowledge of business development. 

“We're very pleased with the show, attendance was up from last year, and we're getting more and more people from across the United States. We have people from Oregon, California, Georgia, New York and throughout the country coming in,” Dan Kisch, the publisher of the INSTORE Magazine, which kicked off the Smart Show four years ago, told Rough&Polished. 

“We had 353 exhibitors in about 500 booths at the show,” Dan Kisch said. The event was held at Navy Pier, a historical location of Chicago. According to the organizers, the show was visited by about 2,350 buyers from across the United States, up about a hundred from last year. The organizers were also pleased by a much wider geographical lineage of attendees, as well as by that people stayed for longer during the show. 

For the convenience of visitors the exhibition space was divided into five specialized pavilions to meet buyers’ interests, who had a chance to probe prices for diamonds of various sizes and quality at the Diamond Pavilion, as well as to visit the Colored Stone and Cultured Pearl Pavilion to see this kind of goods offered by U.S. companies. 

Jewelry manufacturers showcased their precious collections at the Indesign Pavilion. Here you could also find a nice mount made ​​of white gold and other precious metals to the stones chosen at the Diamond Pavilion. The Rough&Polished correspondent’s fancy was taken by the vintage ring mounts made by Beverley K. The Generation Next Pavilion was occupied by independent jewelry designers, who surprised visitors by a display of extravagant jewelry. Finally, the Tools, Equipment & Supplies Pavilion offered everything necessary for the design and construction of a modern jewelry store - lighting, displays, interior design elements, etc. 

At the show it was evident that companies, trying to meet the requests of the difficult economic situation, were intent on switching their production to a cheaper price segment or introducing silver lines in their collections. “Sterling silver is a category where a lot of retail jewelers are starting to increase their inventory,” Mark Meier, East Director of Sales at Belle Étoile based in San Francisco, told Rough&Polished. 

The densest crowds of visitors flocking around certain stands could almost certainly be viewed as a sure token that some company's goods were distinguished by the most attractive prices. For example, SimplexDiam’s booth enjoyed a brisk trade selling cut-price diamonds and jewelry 20% to 60% below wholesale prices. 

However, customers also took great interest in fine jewelry collections marked with design awards, as well as in innovative products making their debut at the show - for instance, diamonds from Infinity Diamond created from the carbon contained in hair. 

"Instore Show has been fantastic for us, the traffic has been steady and a little better than last year. As far as our product goes, the interest level has been very high, we had three Jewelers Choice awards that happened this year," Mark Meier of Belle Étoile said. 

“What we've found at the show is that we have a good niche in this market. We're a new company, and this is the first time we are bringing our product to the jewelry industry. This show has been extremely wonderful in the sense that we've been able to speak to so many jewelry store owners and to show exactly how unique our product is over anything else,” said Scott Shaffer, President and founder of Infinity Diamond, a Minneapolis-based company, which is creating “very personal” diamonds in team with Russian partners using “personal” carbon taken from a lock of a person’s hair or from the hair of a whole family. “So quite literally the diamond is made from the family which then can be headed down for future generations,” the CEO of Infinity Diamond said. 

The organizers also pointed out that the show was a great success and if there is something to be improved it would be to see even more foot traffic as they are “always striving to build their attendance a bit better.” 

Some participants, however, felt that postponement of the exhibition at an earlier date, as it was done in 2011 - from 2 to 4 April, could make the Smart Show even smarter. 

Duke Thames, Director of Sales at Fantasy Diamond, a Chicago-based company, noted: “I'm not sure that the timing of the show was really good since it's after spring buying but not ready for Christmas buying. I know that a lot of jewelers are coming here for educational purposes. That's a good show and I think the Smart Show in Dallas in September timing-wise will be a better show.” 

The educational program run by Smart Show was a high level event offering to invited participants practical knowledge and solutions for various business aspects from professionals: How to make advertising on TV, radio or the Internet to lure buyers? How to service customers to boost sales? How to deal with social media to make them a source of new customers and maintain the loyalty of permanent clients? 

“Our educational conference program, which is the part of what we do that is most important in bringing people in, was ramped up this year, we had a big focus on training sales teams,” Dan Kisch stressed. 

He also said that workshops at the show were run by Jeffrey Gitomer who is the author of four The New York Times bestsellers and one of the most renowned sales trainers in the country. In his seminar - at 8.30 on Saturday morning - a record number of over 400 people showed up making it hard for the organizers to accommodate them all because the exhibition halls were not meant for such a big audience. 

During the show, visitors were given an opportunity to seek the advice of experts in various fields important for the jewelry trade. For example, Wayne Emery, the developer of USB microscope cameras for shooting jewelry pieces, who is also a consultant at Photo Help for Jewelers, shared tips for taking photographs of jewelry to be used at websites or for repair of any, even the smallest, breakdowns in fine jewelry. Queues to this expert were not a rare thing. 

Smart Show in Chicago was also visited by colleagues from JCK, the publishing company, which runs the famous exhibition in Las Vegas – the JCK Las Vegas Show. “It's a great opportunity for us 2 month before our big show in Las Vegas to meet with our clients, to meet with our friends and our advertisers, to talk final strategies as they get ready for our show in Las Vegas,” said Mark Smelzer, the publisher of the JCK Magazine, interviewed by Rough&Polished. 

In our opinion, the organizers of Smart Show in Chicago managed to find the right combination bringing together the possibility of sales for manufacturers who displayed their jewelry, the possibility of purchasing jewelry for retailers interested to restock their inventories with goods attracting demand and boosting sales, as well as the possibility to obtain new knowledge useful for business development of both parties. 

Olga Patseva, Editor in Chief of the American Bureau, Rough&Polished