New York City. Sept. 8, 2020. As American jewelry businesses try to reconvene—sans trade shows, given that most have postponed events until 2021—the industry in Europe is gearing up for a comeback. The Vicenza-based VOICE show, organized by the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG), which organizes Vicenzaoro, is slated to occur Sept. 12–14, 2020. This event will be the first major live jewelry trade fair of the year since the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry fair, Feb. 25–29, 2020. (VOICE will also have a digital component for those who can’t attend.) What can be expected? It’s tough to predict, but IEG’s Marco Carniello, group brand director, jewelry and fashion, talks to us about his expectations and conversations with exhibitors and attendees.
Jennifer Heebner: What are your expectations on business for VOICE?
Marco Carniello: VOICE (Vicenzaoro International Community Event) by the Italian Exhibition Group, which organizes Vicenzaoro and is one of the main trade fair operators in the industry, is launching an event to reunite the gold and jewelry sector and aims to relaunch business and export activities around the world after months of standstill. It is impossible to expect reaching business of a standard event, but with VOICE we get as close to it as the current situation allows. We are very excited to have over 350 brands and producers showcasing their products and designs at the Vicenza Expo Centre as well as B2B professionals joining us on site. And for those who may not be able to travel to Italy, a live-streaming and a buyer virtual room for business meetings will be set up.
JH: In 2019, the September edition of the VicenzaOro fair experienced incredible growth, with a 10 percent increase in foreign trade members from 117 nations. To date, what do the registration numbers look like for VOICE attendees? What three countries will account for the bulk of visitors and why do you think this is the case?
MC: Due to the pandemic, we are expecting participants mainly from Italy and Europe (in particular from Germany, Belgium, France, and Austria) visiting the event on site. Unfortunately, we are still facing a difficult context in terms of traveling—reduced flight schedules, quarantine arrangements in some countries, and different government regulations are making it very difficult for trade members to travel to Vicenza.
This is why we have prepared a “phygital” event that, thanks to technology and digitization—a process that we had already started in IEG and on which we have pressed the accelerator in recent months—adds to the live experience at the fair for all kinds of opportunities for visibility, communication, and online meetings.
JH: Your show team has worked hard to ensure that both exhibitors and attendees will be safe during the fair. What were some of the most challenging aspects of setting up safety protocols?
MC: The event will take place guaranteeing full health protection of companies and visitors in compliance with IEG’s #SAFEBUSINESS project, providing more than 50 guidelines, from the digitalization of tickets and payments, to temperature controls, to a sanitization route. We have also chosen the GBAC STARTM program of facility accreditation to reach the international standards of hygiene for the Vicenza fairgrounds. The most challenging part of implementing this protocol was adapting continuously our procedures to a changing environment, still very uncertain, with periodically new regulations from our local and national government. But we were among the first to start a working table on this topic, and the #SAFEBUSINESS project has been a reference point and a fundamental contribution for all districts and congress centers at the international level. IEG took charge of each step, without burdening companies and visitors, who can live a safe experience at the fair simply following the diligence of the “new normal” we are all getting used to.
JH: Show communications drive home the importance of “listening to the market.” What have clients been telling you leading up to the fair? About business and their concerns, and about how VicenzaOro can help?
MC: The idea of VOICE comes precisely from listening to the companies and their willingness to resume relations with the national and international supply chain. The trade fair is a key tool for their commercial development—especially in a difficult moment like this. That is why also the World Jewelry Confederation CIBJO, together with all the main gold and jewelry industry associations, have unanimously endorsed VOICE as a support for the gold and jewelry industry’s restart in the world.
JH: Emotionality linked to the stories behind the jewelry is important for brands and sellers. Give one specific example or anecdote of how you see emotionality playing out now in the market.
MC: I would love to see people buying a piece of jewelry—of any value—at the end of this pandemic, to celebrate it being over. In the end, that is where the value of jewelry lies; it connects us to a story, to an emotion that will stay with us for life.
JH: The VOICE September show will include both offline and online experiences. How will your online experience differ, if at all, from other recent online virtual show formats?
MC: The virtual setting of VOICE includes live streaming of the events dedicated to sustainability, trends, and technological innovation across streaming platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. The most advanced broadcasting systems will ensure high-quality broadcasting viewable all over the world. Italian Exhibition Group has also developed a truly sophisticated digital platform, buyer virtual rooms for business meetings with potential suppliers, fixed through the I-MOP (IEG Meeting Omnichannel Platform). This is an area where exhibitors can connect with the buyers, with optimal lighting and connection conditions using a special digital technology that will allow them to show their products in every detail. What could differentiate us is the fact that I-MOP is a proprietary technology of IEG, consolidated and used for over 10 years for sectors such as tourism and introduced for the first time in the jewelry-goldsmith world by IEG.
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