Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it - Artificial Jewellery

For the fourth time the Australian jewellery industry is being forced to choose between two fairs. ROSS PATERSON expresses his concern for the future of the trade.

Recently I have found myself wondering if our industry will ever learn from the past.

A second Sydney jewellery fair has been announced and once again I find myself asking, how does it benefit the wider industry?

This is now the fourth attempt and on every previous occasion it caused nothing but division. There are many factors at play; however, I place much of the blame on the industry’s lack of an influential trade association.

Now, before anyone jumps up and down, understand that I have served as president of the Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) on two separate occasions for four years – from 1989 to 1991 and from 1995 to 1997.

And for more than 30 years I devoted my time and energy to advancing our industry and building the JAA; however, today our business isn’t even a member.

We couldn’t see the benefit anymore and the final straw was the debacle of the JAA deciding to split from Expertise Events to launch its own fair in 2016.

The ramifications for that decision are well-known.

Blast from the past

It’s important to note that this was not the first time the industry was split by people thinking it would be a wonderful idea to launch a second jewellery fair at the same time as the Expertise Events fair.

The ‘Jewellery World Show’ had two failed launches, once in 2007 and five years later in 2012, both scheduled to be held at the same time in the same city.  The JAA’s third attempt in 2016 ignored history.

There was no sense in having two separate fairs. Everyone could see the politics behind it, and the JAA lost many members as a result. 

And now we are witnessing division for a fourth time with the announcement of a second fair in August supported by the JAA.

The Australian jewellery industry is simply not big enough to support two competing fairs and the consequences of this rivalry will again prove dire for the trade.

History lesson

It’s important to go back further in history to the commencement of the first Australian jewellery fair in 1992; around the time I was JAA president.

Back then there was no dedicated jewellery fair, though many suppliers exhibited at Thompson’s Gift Fair, now Reeds Gift Fair.

That show was in February, which suited gift suppliers but not jewellery suppliers. The industry needed a show later in the year to time with Christmas orders.

Gary Fitz-Roy, who had worked for the Thompson’s Gift Fair, left the company to start his own business and he wanted to start a dedicated jewellery fair. 

As part of the planning, the JAA invited leading industry figures to a special dinner at the Hilton Hotel.

The meeting agreed to endorse a proposal from Expertise Events to launch the Australian Jewellery Fair in August 1992.

Representing 90 per cent of retailers and suppliers, the JAA was strong enough to ‘get everyone on the same page’ for a single, uniform decision for the sake of the industry. 

The offer from Expertise Events was a compelling one and quite frankly, we never looked back.

The International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour would go on to become packed with exhibitors and retailers for a single weekend. The industry was united.

These really were the ‘golden years’ for not only the industry but also the JAA.

We generated tremendous sponsorship income to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and partnerships with not only Expertise Events, but also insurance and security companies and many other organisations.

Everyone could see the value of investing in the industry via the JAA. As I said, they were the glory days and the JAA generated enough income to purchase an office in Canberra.

Today’s headache

We are now facing a fourth industry split. When will we learn?

The Jewellery Industry Network (JIN) has announced plans to host the ‘Jewellery Industry Fair’ in Sydney, debuting on 29 August.

Why is the second fair needed, and who does it benefit?

Does anyone spare a thought for the retailers and exhibitors who travel long distances to attend these events?

For those outside of Sydney, it’s already a significant investment, with costs associated with travel, accommodation, and staff, among others – all quickly adding up.

And how about the exhibitors – should they be expected to pay to attend both fairs? What about the buying groups?
Do they need a second fair?

Who really benefits from a second jewellery fair at the same time?

The JAA is supporting an unproven second fair, rather than the fair that the association not only jointly started, but it also helped to build into a a successful event for the wider jewellery trade.

As a former president, I think it’s a terrible waste of resources having two fairs now and worse; there is no longer an association of note to try and fix it.

Name: Ross Paterson
Position: Former President
Organisation: JAA
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Years in the industry: 51

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