The world might have moved on from JP Morgan’s infamous 1912 quote “Gold is money”, but global financial hub Hong Kong is also a thriving centre for trade in things that gleam, glitter and sparkle.
And while this physical money cannot be moved around electronically, the trade has adapted to the COVID-19 world where travel restrictions reduced the influx of visitors to Hong Kong, impacting jewellery sales.
Underlying this adaptability, the 37th HKTDC Hong Kong International Jewellery Show and 7th HKTDC Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) as hybrid online-physical events, drew a strong response last week.
In addition to trade buyers, the twin shows were also open to public visitors for the first time this year. The five-day physical shows from 25 to 29 July attracted more than 13,700 industry buyers and over 17,000 public visitors who came to check out and purchase a wide array of jewellery products.
The twin shows are also running online until 5 August to enable global jewellers and traders to engage in business talks via video conferencing, with more than 1,200 online meetings between exhibitors and buyers arranged. As of 29 July, the online edition of the shows recorded some 2,500 buyers exploring products and conducting business discussions online.
Purchasing power recovers
With the pandemic changing the global economy and international travel restrictions disrupting regular business travel, enterprises are looking to conduct cross-border business through both online and physical channels.
“An independent survey conducted on-site found that 44% of the interviewed exhibitors and buyers considered business travel restrictions during the pandemic as the biggest current challenge,” said HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau.
“On a more positive note, 31% and 19% of respondents respectively believed that the recovering purchasing power of customers and business leads driven by e-tailing would be the main source of new business opportunities this year.”
The HKTDC is adopting a strategy that clearly aligns with the survey results. “Addressing both exhibitors’ needs and market trends, we made a swift decision to open the twin shows to public visitors for the first time. This has enabled exhibitors to reach out to more retail clients and broaden their customer base,” added Mr Chau.
“Also, the fact that the two shows run in a unique physical and online format for the first time has helped to create more business opportunities for traders.”
During the shows, the HKTDC conducted an on-site survey interviewing more than 800 exhibitors and buyers. The survey found that buyers and exhibitors remain cautious regarding the market outlook, with 54% of respondents expecting overall sales to decrease this year and only 29% expecting sales to remain unchanged. In terms of sourcing prices and production costs, 45% of respondents said they were under more pressure. Despite this, more than half of them (54%) expected retail prices will remain unchanged.
Diamond are (still) forever
Regarding growth prospects for jewellery products in major countries and regions over the next two years, respondents considered that North America (41%), Western Europe (33%) and Hong Kong (31%) were the most promising traditional markets, while Mainland China was considered by 51% as the most promising emerging market. Hong Kong was recognised by interviewed buyers as an ideal sourcing hub, with quality (75%), use of material (73%) and services (71%) being the three most appreciated aspects.
In terms of popular product categories, the survey found nearly half (49%) of respondents favoured karat-white gold, followed by karat-rose gold (42%) and karat-yellow gold (38%). Diamonds remained the most popular (54%) among all gemstones.
Half the respondents expected trendy fashion jewellery to have the greatest market potential. The survey also found 28% of public visitors interviewed had spent more than HK$10,000 (US$1,286) each on-site and diamond jewellery items were the most popular products (51%) purchased at the shows.
Exhibitors value shows platforms
The twin shows were the first two physical trade fairs staged by the HKTDC since the pandemic began, creating business opportunities for exhibitors and buyers alike.
Hong Kong exhibitor Just Gold Company Limited shared that the show was an effective business platform helping the company with branding and market exposure.
“We promoted our new designs as well as special collections for our 30th anniversary. A number of buyers approached us to enquire more about our products. We’ve already concluded some business deals and the response has been encouraging,” said Arthur Tang, the company’s Managing Director for Greater China.
Another local exhibitor, Wing Hang South Sea Pearl Company Limited, considered the Jewellery Show the perfect place to promote its pearl jewellery collections and drive new business.
“Customers love our classic designs, and jewellery with gold-coloured pearls is particularly sought after. The response has been better than expected. We’ve met some quality buyers, including a number of new customers,” said Director Yvonne Pong.
“The HKTDC has done an excellent job making the show a success despite the pandemic. I am confident the show will get even better, with more overseas buyers coming to source products once travel restrictions are lifted,” she added.
Local buyer Edmond Chan, Head of Jewelry Asia at auction house Luxeford Hong Kong Limited, was pleased to see the Jewellery Show being staged again. “We specialise in purchasing high-end jewellery and watches. I am here looking for partners and to find suitable products. I’ve already found an exhibitor to explore cooperation with whose jewellery collection boasts some outstanding designs,” he said.
A host of activities were held during the two shows, including seminars on changes that the pandemic and online marketing have brought to the jewellery industry supply chain, a series of expert talks tailor-made to guide the public on the appreciation of rare-colour diamonds and pearl evaluation methods, jewellery smart-bidding session, workshops, lucky draws and jewellery parades. These events not only facilitated the exchange of market intelligence among industry players, but also enhanced public knowledge about gemstones and jewellery products.
International Sourcing Show closes
The hybrid HKTDC International Sourcing Show also ended on 29 July, after starting online on 17 March and opening physically on 26 July. More than 14,000 buyers attended physically or virtually during the show’s four-day physical run.
To help local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grasp business opportunities, the HKTDC contacted quality buyers through its network of 50 offices worldwide and arranged nearly 1,100 business matching meetings during the physical show.
The hybrid format enabled traders to stay connected both online and offline and boosting business opportunities during the pandemic.
HKTDC International Jewellery Show
HKTDC International Sourcing Show