(ATLANTA) - While a surprise spring snowfall and a challenging economic climate did impact attendance at the February 28 - March 2, 2009 edition of the Atlanta Jewelry Show at the Cobb Galleria Center, it did little to dampen the spirits of exhibitors and attendees. Reports of quality buyers and unexpected sales from exhibitors, coupled with positive feedback on product selection, educational programming and Show events from retailers, created a relaxed, optimistic atmosphere on the show floor.
Adding to the positive atmosphere, the spring Show also welcomed a number of first-time exhibitors. To help them get acquainted with the Show and its buyers, a special New Exhibitor Meet & Greet was held Sunday morning as part of the complimentary buyer breakfast program.
"Who could have imagined snow in Atlanta... in March," laughs Carol Young, executive director of the Atlanta Jewelry Show producers, Southern Jewelry Travelers Association (SJTA). "We entered into this show with cautious optimism based on our pre-registration numbers. While our attendance was down somewhat, the people who came were doing serious business. And, we focused our efforts on developing educational sessions, networking events and other programs designed to help retailers get through these challenging times and to be even stronger when the economy rebounds."
(l-r) Libby Brown, SJTA assistant executive director and Carol Young,
SJTA executive director, didn't let a surprise spring snowfall dampen their spirits.
Many exhibitors were pleasantly surprised with the business they wrote during the three day event.
"Traffic is down, but I've placed quite a few orders with existing and new customers," said Liz Hyde-Donahue, Starhaven By Liz Donahue. "Customers love this show - it's convenient, cost-effective and fun. In today's climate, we're finding that people are increasingly looking for sterling silver and we have an economical, designer line that is filling that void."
"Surprisingly, this was one of the best Atlanta Jewelry Shows we've had in over 5 years," adds Don LeStage, LeStage Manufacturing Company. "We opened a number of new accounts and had strong re-orders from existing customers. We saw buyers from as far away as Illinois and as close as Georgia and the Carolinas who came to see our new Cape Cod Jewelry Collection, and Convertible Clasp designs."
"In spite of the slow economy, we've written business and gotten some great leads from this show," added Jane Wullbrandt, Jane Wullbrandt Fine Jewelry Designs. "I've been doing the Atlanta Jewelry Show for 5 years now and SJTA makes it an easy and pleasant experience through their customer service and creative marketing programs."
In terms of marketing and promotions, SJTA complemented the show's product selection with popular features like it's "Tanks on Us" program that rewards retailers who pre-register and attend with a gas card. The SJTA Rewards program also continues to attract new participants who enjoy earning reward points for every dollar they spend on orders at the show that can be redeemed for rewards ranging from electronics and travel packages to housewares and music.
The show also ramped up the hospitality at the High Flying Buyers Club with early access for members. On Saturday morning before the show opened, SJTA President Steve Binder helped direct the Club's members - retailers who have earned 15,000 SJTA reward points or more at any of the past 3 shows - to the High Flying Buyers Skylounge to enjoy a complimentary breakfast. These members also had access to the lounge throughout the Show where they could enjoy lunch, snacks and free Internet access.
A full-scale educational program also drew retailers looking for tips and strategies to help them stay strong in today's economic climate. Among the highlights was the roundtable discussion, SJTA's Independence Town Hall Meeting: The State of the Independent Jeweler. Moderated by SJTA Board Member, Jeff Unger, Alisa Unger Designs, program panelists included Matt Stuller, Stuller, Inc; Doug Kerns, Gemvision; Linus Drogs, AU Enterprises/Palladium Alliance International; David Peters, Southeastern Chapters Jewelers of America; and Terry Chandler, Diamond Council of America.
This panel of experts, representing all disciplines of the jewelry industry, participated in an interactive session addressing adaptations required by today's independent retailer to ensure their businesses' success in the new economy.
"We always take advantage of the great educational offerings at this show," says Johnny Johnson, Edward Johns Jewelers, Marietta, GA. "This is a great place to see old friends, new products and get new ideas for these challenging times."
"We've been coming to this show for 9 years," adds Tony Cruz, JWR Jewelers, Athens, GA. "The products and services are wonderful. It's a great opportunity for us to see the vendors we don't always see in the store."
To help retailers and exhibitors get the year off to a sweet start, the candy-themed "How Sweet It Is" Atlanta Jewelry Show Buyer Gala was a true crowd pleaser. Attendees enjoyed all sorts of treats and pleasing libations as they danced the night away surrounded by décor that was truly sweet! The evening also marked the retirement of long-time SJTA office coordinator Alan Colussy who has served the show and the association members for more than 30 years.