By Frank Dallahan
This past week (December 6th) AGTA Gem Fair announced it would move from the JCK Show in 2019 to the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). Within a day or two of the announcement JCK announced they would replace the AGTA space by soliciting other gemstone dealers presumably from around the world to fill the space. A few days later the U.S. Antique Show announced it will continue to exhibit at the LVCC and intends to co-locate there with AGTA. What will come in the days ahead will be interesting to see.
“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it” is a quotation of George Santana and it is so appropriate in this current circumstance. The history to which I refer is the story of the origination of the JCK Show in Las Vegas and the circumstances that resulted in the industry’s major show developing in Las Vegas moving from New York City.
In the late eighties, Jewelers of America owned the show in New York. Their show was the big one and was held at the Javits Center. If you were to ask the exhibitors of the JA Show then, you would get an extensive list of complaints. Show management did not listen to the exhibitors. The timing of the shows (Spring and Fall) was all-wrong. The spring show was too early (January) and the fall show (July/August) was too late. There was an arrogance connected with individuals who ran the show. They didn’t listen and treated many with distain and you might even say with disrespect. A take it or leave it attitude probably characterizes it best.
In this environment Charles Bond, Publisher of JCK Magazine and the current Co-Publisher of The Retail Jeweler, Ed Coyne, presented to Chilton Management (JCK’s parent company at the time) the idea of starting a new show for the industry located in Las Vegas at a time of the year more suited to the industry’s needs in late May/early June. JCK needed the financial clout of Chilton to deal with the Las Vegas convention site and hotels for the necessary room blocks. JCK’s management and staff went to the trade to solicit their opinions of the idea.
At the time, I was vice-president of marketing for Krementz & Co, and was contacted by my space rep Joy Englebert to solicit my opinion of the idea of a new show in Las Vegas and in late May/early June. My response apparently mirrored the reaction Joy received from her other clients. She was literally shocked with the responses she received and couldn’t believe the depth of animosity toward the JA Show and particularly the show’s management.
JCK announced the dates of the show and the reaction from most of the “industry experts” was the show would not succeed. To the contrary, The JCK Show became the industry’s new leader after several years.
Charles Bond established an advisory board of manufacturers and retailers to discuss plans for the show. We met periodically throughout the year to discuss plans, ideas, and problems. It was a good group. They were forthright and not bashful about expressing their opinions. The result of their meetings was a good show that became better and better. Bond’s goal was to have a show where all were welcome.
Reed Elsevier acquired Chilton. And, gradually, Reed imposed its will on the show and show management. As with most corporate entities, this pressure from above eventually resulted in the departure of many of the people who had managed the transition and indeed adapted to the jewelry industry. Dave Bonaparte and John Tierney are two prominent examples of personnel who left Reed.
The current AGTA – JCK situation is the result of Reed not listening to the realities of today’s jewelry business similar to what JA did in the late eighties. I know the current key people at Reed and I know they understand the industry’s situation. Reed’s decision to raise prices by 45% on booth space and layer on top of that a 6.5% annual increase locked in for three years clearly indicates a lack of understanding and a lack of common sense.
The rest of the industry is talking about AGTA’s decision to leave the JCK Show after a year’s effort to negotiate a more reasonable deal all to no avail. If AGTA can successfully leave will other groups now consider the same decision and join AGTA at LVCC? Exhibitors, large and small, think the cost of exhibiting has gotten well out of hand. Retailers, too, evaluate the cost of sending their buying staffs to Las Vegas for the show. Their reaction will also be interesting to watch.
Shows make a great deal of sense for both retailers and exhibitors. Buyers and sellers come to shows to see new products, hear about new programs and talk with principals of their respective suppliers and clients in a safe business environment. This is unchanged from 25 years ago.
However, looking at the shows you can see significant changes have taken place since 1992 when JCK first took place. Many of these changes involve significant cost components. The question is are these cost components worth it or are they just revenue generating ideas for the show management companies? The answer is AGTA chose to say No Mas. The more things change…the more they stay the same.