Jewellery Outlook

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Trade Fair Reviews
Vicenza - Italian exporters defiant, adapt in tough economic climate
   By Tom Wildhern
  VICENZA, September 8, 2008 - The global economic slowdown has eroded Italian jewellery exports this year, but the Vicenza Fair is fighting back with a marketing strategy focused on innovation and expansion.

Italian gold jewellery exports fell 15 percent by value year-on-year in the first six months of 2008, Domenico Girardi, the fair's chief operating officer, told a news conference at the September 6-10 "Choice" event. The economic downturn and credit crunch have tightened the wallets of the middle classes, but jewellers attending the fair said that the top end of the market remained buoyant.

"People are asking for very high quality pieces," said Ulrike Kielbassa, vice-president of Schreiner, which sells jewellery sets in a range from 80,000 euros to 2 million euros each. Kielbassa said demand for diamond jewellery from east European clients, notably in Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, was strong, while the Arabian market was snapping up colourful jewels and pearls.
However, she noted that business at the fair was slow this week because Arab buyers were absent due to Ramadan. The sharp increase in prices of rare diamonds this year has spurred on demand for fine diamond jewellery as people increasingly look upon rare jewels as investments, Kielbassa said.
Jewellers attending the Vicenza Fair said demand for top tier fine jewellery was resilient in the United States despite the slowdown of its economy, and jewellery brands were battling hard for a slice of the hotly contested Arabian market.
"Top high-end jewellery manufacturing companies are selling particularly well in the Gulf countries and the former Soviet countries," Girardi told a news conference at the fair on September 7.

While the top end of the export market continues to perform well, the rank and file Italian gold jewellery exporter is having to work extremely hard on design and marketing to compete in the present tough economic climate.
Valenza-based Anteo is one example of an up-and-coming Italian exporter that has boosted sales thanks to strong designs and determined marketing amidst a difficult economic environment.

Girardi said experimentation was key to future export success.

 The inaugurationof the Glam Room as a showcase for technological and artistic innovation underlined the new focus of Vicenza as part of its endeavour to become the world's number one global jewellery trade fair, he said.

The Glam Room, housed in a distinctive geometric white building a short bus ride from the main exhibition centre, has an interior design that uplifts the spirit, featuring brightly coloured flowers.
"At the Glam Room all the stands have the same design, so what really talks to the customer is the product," said Cristina Salvi of the Vicenza Fair's international marketing department.

A number of the jewellery exporters in the Glam Room used alternative materials fused with traditional precious metals in original designs, such as Sabido & Basteris's ribbon-like colourful silver necklaces, and Gualti's combination of acrylic, nylon, foil and glass. Footfall at the fair was brisk half way through the event, although the first day had appeared quiet.
One stand in the Glam Room that seemed to have all the ingredients right was Singapore-based Taka Jewellery, which reported excellent business with Brazilian buyers. Taka Jewellery, which has a factory and designers in China, offered attractive wholesale price points on its range of diamond jewellery, including a large ring set in micro pave with a green-black South Sea pearl, available wholesale for $1,300.
"The response has been good and is getting better," said Irene Ng, Taka Jewellery's general manager, business development and operations. "Most of our buyers are from Brazil, Spain and Italy. We have had some new Brazilian buyers coming in -- with whom we had not made appointments. The Brazilians are looking for big, chunky pieces and they like what we have."
Girardi outlined his vision for Vicenza's long-term future when he revealed that the fair planned to expand its exhibition space by some 20,000 square metres over the next few years and bring in some outstanding jewellery companies that are currently on its waiting list.
"We want Vicenza to be increasingly international," he added, but gave no clue as to which new companies will be joining the exhibitors' list.
The Vicenza Fair also plans to organise and support for a second straight year the About J trade event in Milan, which will be held on 22-24 February 2009. The venue in north Milan in 2009 will be different to this year's event, which targeted top international buyers and exhibitors, and will have more space.