COMMENTARY – How jewellery trade shows are changing due to Covid-19

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By David Brough

Several international jewellery trade fairs have been rescheduled due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are battling to find ways to stay in touch with exhibitors and buyers as they rapidly re-adjust their business models virtually.

The most effective approach appears to entail retaining a visible, year-round engagement with the trade, using increasingly sophisticated and polished social media marketing tools such as webinars and Instagram Lives.

At the height of the lockdown, fairs such as Vicenzaoro maintained a relationship with their clientele by staging webinars hosted by their platform TRENDVISION looking at jewellery design trends to 2022 and beyond.

TRENDVISION immediately got to work assessing the impact of Covid-19 on design inspiration and conveyed key messages to support the international trade through the emergency.

INHORGENTA Munich penned an open letter, signed by senior members of the international trade, reaffirming commitment to next February’s show and to its stakeholders.

CIBJO-World Jewellery Confederation has organised a series of educational, topical and insightful webinars throughout the crisis to support the industry.

One of CIBJO’s webinars hosted senior organisers of international jewellery trade fairs, in which they looked toward the future of their events, and examined how physical and virtual (“phygital”) realities can come together.

Such virtual events have been taking place against a backdrop of a severe global economic downturn, surging gold and silver prices, and huge uncertainty across the retail landscape, including fears of new online sales taxes.

Trade fairs will need to re-adjust to this fast-changing scenario by offering events that protect the safety of buyers and exhibitors and facilitate business.

This will not be easy, due to the unpredictability of the virus itself.

Virtual business ticks many of the boxes, particularly if a second wave of coronavirus cases takes hold.

The Indian trade fairs organised by the state-backed Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) have been carrying out virtual tests of “buyer-seller meetings”, testing the capability of camera technology to differentiate between diamonds of different specifications and jewellery.

Some of the early feedback suggested that it is easy to appraise jewellery virtually but more difficult to compare, say, diamonds of very similar clarities.

If buyer and seller already know each other, a trusting business relationship virtually is more likely to follow.

Vicenzaoro have replaced their September trade fair with a combined physical-virtual summit event called “VOICE”, taking place from September 12-14, 2020.

The event will also be a showcase for products, with trade contacts readily provided to pursue business opportunities.

The summit will be a mix of education and insights to help create future trade and solve existing challenges, such as surging precious metals prices.

Advance marketing of the VOICE event will be done via Vicenzaoro’s social media, notably a combination of webinars, Instagram Lives and other Instagram feeds.

The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair will replace its September edition with a virtual event, the details of which have yet to be announced.

The Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), part of the Thai government which organises the twice-yearly Bangkok trade shows, has set in motion Instagram Lives to promote exports of Thai gemstones and jewellery, featuring Thai industry leaders, and webinars.

The Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair (@bkkgemsfair) has hosted a number of Instagram Lives in recent weeks, extolling the virtues of Thai craftsmanship and state-of-the-art Thai manufacturing capabilities.

The virtual events help to raise the profile of bodies such as the state-backed GIT – Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand, a lab services group that certifies gemstones.

Effective promotion of such organisations, underscoring their reliability and the authenticity of their services, will bolster them as trade in gemstones and jewellery accelerates online.

New portals have emerged, such as gemcloud, which facilitate online trading in coloured gemstones.

During the lockdown, some freelance gem dealers, who highlighted their services effectively using social media, said they believed they had eroded market share of shuttered high-end brick-and-mortar retailers.

DANAT-Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones, a key supporter of the Jewellery Arabia show, has been highly proactive during and after the lockdown, staging webinars and Instagram Lives to highlight the rarity and beauty of natural pearls, their investment potential and its own reputation in certification of pearls and gemstones.COMMENTARY – How jewellery trade shows are changing due to Covid-19

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