An industry that is trying to find itselfJune 06, 19
"Nobody can do things on their own anymore in this industry. The success and growth of the global jewelry industry and trade are dependent on partnerships throughout the supply pipeline!" said Iris Van der Veken, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) during a one-on-one conversation at the JCK Las Vegas show that closed earlier this week.
Van der Veken knows what she is talking about. Her earlier work as marketing and corporate communications director for one of the world's leading, vertically integrated diamond firms has left her with no illusions as to what the jewelry industry needs to do to survive in the "new normal," in a highly competitive environment that is not only competitive within its own niche, but also in the luxury product sector at large. RJC's mission is, ultimately, to assure that consumer confidence in jewelry will be strengthened. To achieve that, the industry needs a supply pipeline, from top to bottom, that is coordinated, responsible, transparent and viable. It needs to market its products with all those labels, in addition to quality and original design.
Just like last week, I am writing this article while flying, this time on an eastbound plane, while crossing the Atlantic at a height of 37,000 feet. It's half past eight in the evening in Las Vegas, almost midnight in Washington DC where I changed planes, and already close to daybreak in Brussels where I will land in a few hours.
Up here, I asked myself, after the numerous industry talks that I attended and the many conversations I conducted during the four days of the show, if the diamond, gem and jewelry industry really knows what time it is.
Does the industry realize that the clock is ticking regarding the changes it is expected to implement?
On the one hand, at the JCK show, held at its new-old venue, the Sands Expo, it seemed like business as usual. Walking into the show in the morning, the lines at Starbuck's were as long as always, and in the evening, the bars and restaurants were packed with buyers and exhibitors, who continued their networking and socializing there.
A closer look, however, revealed that the number of buyers at JCK was down, and that traffic in the show aisles was sparser than in previous years. The jewelry business is suffering. It is contracting in volume and value, and is losing retail doors, year after year.
On the other hand, the industry is painfully aware that it needs to change, for the reasons stated above. This was exemplified by the relatively large number of talks and presentations by both commercial companies, as well as industry service providers and organizations. Most of these talks and seminars were taped and will be made available online for viewing.
Personally, I was quite impressed by a talk given by Lisa Bridges of Ben Bridges Jewelers, a North American retail jewelry chain about the company's responsible and sustainable supply chain. Speaking at a well-attended talk organized by GIA, Bridges offered proof that you can run a commercially successful retail jewelry chain while sourcing your materials responsibly, being involved in the communities where these materials - precious metals, diamonds and gemstones - are sourced, treating your employees well, building a loyal customer base and be profitable!
Lisa Bridges was very vocal about how her company can be seen as a collective - a collective of people, of efforts, of ever-growing integral partnerships.
It is and will be as Iris Van der Veken said: "Nobody can do things on their own anymore in this industry. The success and growth of the global jewelry industry and trade are dependent on partnerships throughout the supply pipeline!"