Fewer buyers for jewellery fair

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 March, 2009, 12:00am

This year's Hong Kong International Jewellery Show has attracted a record number of exhibitors, more than 2,300, but far fewer buyers than last year as demand for jewels and precious stones dwindles due to the global economic downturn.

Some exhibitors at the five-day trade show, one of the region's biggest, say about 6,000 or 7,000 buyers will attend this year. That is down about 80 per cent from last year's show, which the event's organiser, the Trade Development Council, said had 2,306 exhibitors and 31,333 buyers.

The council has allocated HK$80 million to help bring overseas buyers to its fairs this year by sponsoring airfares and hotel accommodation. It expects that to be enough to attract about 10,000 buyers, mainly from emerging markets such as the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe and North Africa.

Many exhibitors believe a clearer picture about the health of the jewellery industry to emerge when the show ends on Sunday at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. A relatively poor performance in terms of buyers and orders could signal a long road to recovery.

'Just look around the fair. Before, it used to be crowded with people. Now, the number of buyers is probably down by 80 per cent,' said one local jewellery manufacturer.

'We're not expecting to get any orders this time. Consumers are spending on food and daily necessities rather than jewellery. Depreciating foreign currencies like the euro are also hurting business and a recovery is likely still a few years away.'

Overseas buyers, even from emerging markets like the Middle East, were generally cautious about placing orders. Hemant Jhaveri, a buyer for Al Sulaiman Jewellers in Doha, Qatar, said business had slowed and might translate into fewer orders depending on the price.

Michael Neuman, of Sydney-based pink diamond specialist Mondial Neuman, and a regular at the fair, also warned that orders might be affected by the economic downturn.