Buyers out in force despite economic gloom

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 June, 2009, 12:00am

Although businesses are cutting costs due to the economic downturn, buyers are still turning out in force at jewellery fairs in search of the best bargains.

'Buyers attend the jewellery fairs nowadays to look for new partnerships. Due to cost-cutting tactics, companies are trying to find the most compatible partners from whom they can get desired products at the lowest price,' said Celine Lau Siu-man, director of jewellery fairs at UBM Asia, the organiser of the June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, which runs from today until Sunday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

Even so, buyers are now more cautious about which jewellery fairs they attend. They tend to visit only high-quality fairs and make careful choices about purchases, unlike in the past when they were more relaxed in their approach to whether items would be well received by the market.

Ms Lau is not worried about the number of visitors to the fair. It has an excellent reputation and jewellery operators are keen to enter the mainland luxury market, she said. International businesses can use Hong Kong as a platform to enter the mainland market due its close proximity.

However, measures were still taken to keep the number of visitors at a high level. In addition to the traditional methods of sending letters and e-mails to buyers telling them of the latest updates on the fair, 'tailor-made' phone calls were made to buyers.

The fair's layout has been changed to make it more viewer-friendly. The event will be divided into pavilions, including the Fine Jewellery Pavilion, the Diamond Pavilion, the Gemstone Pavilion, the Pearl Pavilion and the Packaging & Technology Pavilion. A special Hong Kong Premier Pavilion will feature local exhibitors.

To acknowledge the changes, the fair's name was changed from June Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair to June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, providing buyers with a clearer profile.

There will be 1,075 exhibitors from more than 30 countries and regions in the exhibition area of 40,000 square metres. Belgium (Antwerp), mainland China, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and newcomer Malaysia will have group pavilions.

To add excitement, UBM Asia is organising events to provide visitors with entertainment and increase their product knowledge.

The first events are pearl auctions where invited buyers can bid for guaranteed natural pearls delivered directly from local pearl farms.

The Second Gerdau Pearl Auction was held from Monday to yesterday, while the 46th Robert Wan Tahiti Perles Joint Auction with Tahiti Pearls Consortium will be held tomorrow and Saturday.

A lucky draw will also be held for fair visitors in which they will have a chance to win free hotel accommodation for five nights during the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair.

The Gemmological Association of Hong Kong (GAHK) will hold a seminar on Saturday (2-4pm) called 'The Characteristics and Simulants of the Black Varieties of Fei Cui'. Guest speaker will be Mimi Ou Yang, a professor and honorary research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and a renowned expert on fei cui (jadeite). She is also vice-chairwoman of the GAHK.

According to Ms Lau, the topic of the seminar was chosen because black is fashionable and pesto and earthy colours are placed in this group.

As for metals, gold jewellery - including pink gold, yellow gold and white gold - remains a favourite and silver holds an established position in the jewellery market due to its reasonable price.

Ms Lau said designers were making jewellery more affordable by using a number of small diamonds and setting them into a shape that looks like one big diamond.

Apart from looking at the fine jewellery, buyers at the fair will also be able to attend Asia's Fashion Jewellery & Accessories Fair, being run concurrently at AsiaWorld-Expo. There will be more than 400 exhibitors from 18 countries and regions, with pavilions from mainland China, India, South Korea, the Philippines, Spain and Taiwan.

Divided into four major sections, the fair will feature fashion jewellery, fashion accessories, fashion jewellery materials, and display and packaging.

Letitia Chow Mei-lai, director of business development (jewellery group) for UBM Asia, the organiser of the event, said that fashion jewellery would be cute and chic, and would include some 'candy-like' designs using transparent materials and light colours. She said the trend for pieces would be autumn and winter colours, with varying degrees of red, green, orange, blue and brown.