Vicenza, Italy. Sept. 17, 2020. Phrases used by those in attendance at the Vicenzaoro VOICE fair, Sept. 12–14, to describe the first major jewelry trade show since late February include:
“More buyers than we expected.”
“Surprised in a positive way.”
“Sales were good though far from normal.”
“Extremely successful communication.”
“Good signals for promising returns for the gift season.”
“Thankful to be back in business.”
Overall sentiment was pragmatic. Sergio Antonini of the same-name design firm was initially skeptical of participating, but his fears were ultimately alleviated. “I was worried to invest in an exhibition that doesn’t bring any sales,” he explained in an email interview. “Then we saw the layout and a lot of exhibitors participating, and we understood that it was the right way to restart.”
Most participating brands were also pleasantly surprised. Of course, traffic and exhibitors were quieter than at previous editions, as were sales, but the promise of a better tomorrow was stationed in the minds of many. Social distancing measures, mandatory mask wearing, temperature taking, and the wide distribution of hand sanitizer and rigorous cleaning protocols did not dampen spirits. Attendees realized these were necessary measures to take in order to tiptoe back to more normal business.
“Stringent safety measures were in place,” said David Brough, editor of Jewellery Outlook in London. “I think Vicenzaoro showed great courage, imagination, resilience, and, most important, leadership to stage the VOICE trade fair at a time when other shows had canceled.”
For sure, interviewees were pleased with measures taken by the show organizer, the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG). From safety to attendance by journalists and bloggers from countries that could travel, coverage and seminar content—most of which was live streamed—were appreciated, according to brands interviewed. Numbers back up those opinions. Digital presentations experienced 3.5 million views on the show’s Facebook Live and YouTube channels, according to Marco Carniello, IEG’s group brand director, jewelry and fashion.
“No digital format can completely replace the physical encounter,” he says. However, there’s room for both live and virtual. “We learned that the hybrid fair is the future.”
And while Roberto Coin had low expectations—“We all knew that this show was not going to be a success in terms of sales,” he said over email—he took part in it because it represented moving forward: “It’s a signal that Italy is a safe place and that we are the first to restart.”
International travel restrictions may have hindered the live show, but buyers who attended were eager to resume business. Among their purchases: stacking rings, jewelry for a younger clientele, and collections that blended the traditional with the modern. Specific collections targeted by buyers? Ever from Mattioli; Morette from Nanis; Buckle, Hula Hoops, and Pebbles from Vendorafa; and Love in Verona, Princess Flower, Savauge Privé, and Rock and Diamonds from Roberto Coin, among others.
In the end, resilience and resourcefulness found a way. Coin called it “the strength, dedication, and passion of the industry to find a new way to collaborate together to reach a new normal, to feel safe and free again.” To be clear, some sales, too, were part of this winning equation. Collectively, sales skewed conservatively, but that’s not the case for Antonini. Can we say, “windfall”?
“We had a pair of orders from European buyers that covered the costs of the booth, and this is the best news,” he beams.
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