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Are ‘Piggybackers’ Smart Marketers — Or Just Trade Show Moochers?

Promoting yourself at a show without paying for a booth just isn’t cool, says Barbara Palumbo.




BASELWORLD JUST WASN’T in the cards for me this year. As a freelance writer, trips to attend trade shows like these are almost always paid out of pocket for me unless those shows offers hotel rooms, or in some cases, airfare. So when it comes to spending enormous amounts to be present at a trade show, I get the struggle, and I’m not even an exhibitor. But even with my absence from Baselworld this year, I was still there in social media spirit through posts made by my colleagues and friends, and in some cases, by brands I didn’t even realize I was following, including one watch brand that was giving away free watches at the fair.

Podcast: This Diamond Heist Simply Didn’t Make the Grade
Over the Counter

Podcast: This Diamond Heist Simply Didn’t Make the Grade

Podcast: Doug Meadows Shares the Ups and Downs of His Life as a Jeweler

Podcast: Doug Meadows Shares the Ups and Downs of His Life as a Jeweler

Podcast: Against the Odds, a High School Student Fights to Keep the Family Jewelry Store Alive
Over the Counter

Podcast: Against the Odds, a High School Student Fights to Keep the Family Jewelry Store Alive

Let me explain that last line a bit further. A new watch brand whose name I won’t mention (and I will go into why shortly) decided it was going to dress a couple of its employees in T-shirts emblazoned with the company logo and have those employees hand out a number of its low-priced watches to attendees of the Baselworld fair. In other words, the brand didn’t spend any money to rent a booth or to buy materials for said booth, nor did it pay cleaning fees or booth lighting costs or pay for any of the other things for which every exhibitor pays when exhibiting at a trade show. And while that might seem like smart marketing to some, the reality is, the company piggybacked on the brands that did pay those costs. But this watch brand decided it was going to go one step further by not only taking advantage of Baselworld’s popularity, but by also slamming the fair on its public Facebook page, which, frankly, is when my blood began to boil.

“Why are we giving away our watches?” was the line that initially caught my eye. “Baselworld has become a perfect example of everything wrong in the Swiss watch industry: price gouging, forced exclusivity, and being totally out of touch with how the world is changing. We’re tired of paying through our nose to be part of a special club. We don’t need Rolex or Patek Phillipe to spend $20mm on a fancy booth to make us feel better about ourselves. We’re smarter than that. We looked at our sponsorship options and said screw this: we’re not lining the pockets of these guys anymore. Instead of spending money on a booth or advertising, we’re spending money on you. You’re coming to BaselWorld and you want Swiss watches? We got you.”

Now, as many of you know or have guessed, I’m someone who has no problem stating my public opinion about a person, a brand or an act, especially when I feel like manipulation, lawbreaking or wrongdoing is taking place. And on this particular day, I decided to reply to this brand’s post in my usual delightful way.

“Then you shouldn’t be walking around on the show floor to hand out your watches. If you don’t want anything to do with Basel, don’t have anything to do with it. But don’t piggyback on its popularity to build your brand’s awareness. People will notice, and their memories aren’t short.”

My response received far more likes than did the brand’s initial post about its watch giveaway, which made me think a little more about what I’ve witnessed in my over two decades walking trade show floors. These guys weren’t doing anything new. They didn’t come up with some earth-shattering marketing plan because they played the system. They mooched (which is why I won’t name them, because I refuse to give free press to moochers) and then boasted about their mooching, which in the end, got them kicked out of the fair by the Swiss police. But where is the line between mooching and simply cutting costs? What do we as an industry consider to be acceptable, and is that acceptability up for debate?


We all know those brands that set up shop somewhere close to some big trade show, year after year. Even in Basel during Baselworld, there are separate mini-shows that are happening at the same time. For example, there are several independent watch brands that pay a fair amount to take up shop at the Hyperion hotel, and this year, a new event called “Jewels Basel” sent cars to retrieve registered buyers and members of the press in order for them to attend. This, in my opinion, is piggybacking of the acceptable kind. Or rather, maybe because it isn’t blatant, or, dare I say, rude, we’ve grown accustomed to it. I mean, Las Vegas now has a plethora of shows, but some show had to come first, right? And look at all of the shows that happen in Tucson. You can throw a phallic-shaped geode and hit a number of them. But what separates these mini-shows from an act the likes of which the watch-brand-that-shall-not-be-named set out to accomplish is common decency, or as we in the industry refer to it, a code of ethics, because this brand did its dirty deeds on Baselworld’s show floor, and for me, that was a no-no.

Registering at a trade show – any trade show – as a guest of that show does not give you the right to do business there unless you’re a retailer or a buyer. If you’re a melee dealer and you’re looking to sell your diamonds to the exhibitors at the show you’re attending, pay the money and get a booth. If you’re an influencer and your main purpose is to have exhibiting designers or attending retailers pay you to post on social media about them, then you’re a business, so pay the money and get a booth. Don’t walk the show floor giving out your business card to every brand or store that spent its hard-earned cash getting there, because they’re trying to make a living just like you are, and they have expenses just like you do, and as I said above, people’s memories aren’t short, particularly in this business. We all need to remember that the more we use our code of ethics, the longer this business will be around.

Barbara Palumbo is a watch and jewelry industry writer, journalist and speaker. She manages the blogging websites and



Gene the Jeweler

It Was Hawaii Day at Gene the Jeweler’s Store … Or Was It?

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s satirical Gene the Jeweler series, Gene learns that it was Hawaii Day at his store. At least that’s what his employee, Jeremy, says. But Jeremy’s answers aren’t quite adding up. It’s hard to say what this “Hawaii Day” was really all about.

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Editor's Note

Why It’s Good To Remember Your Best Day Ever

Reliving your favorite memory in business could inspire you to even greater heights.



IT’S HUMAN NATURE to remember one’s failures most vividly. In my senior year of high school, we finished our football season at 9-2. A record to be proud of, but it’s those two losses that stick with me most.

Maybe you’re the same way, and you’ve had failures that you can’t stop wondering “what if” about. But we’ve already done an issue on failure (go back and read our April issue if you missed it!). Now, it’s time to celebrate the good times! Remember those moments when you were on top of the world? The ones you would love to relive again? Those are the recollections that inspire us to make the next unbelievable memory.

As we roll into the second half of the year, it seems appropriate to recall those “best days ever” to motivate you to even greater heights. In our lead story, we’ve collected 33 reminiscences from your fellow jewelry store owners to remember their favorite days, from that occasion when one made his first sale, to the moment one met his future spouse, to that time one’s father gave her the advice that sticks with her to this day. (We had so many beautiful stories that we couldn’t fit them all in print, so visit to read the rest!)

So go ahead: invite the memory of your favorite day back into your mind right now. Smile. Read about the triumphs of your peers. Then get back into your business and set the stage for your next best. day. ever!

Trace Shelton

Editor-in-Chief, INSTORE

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

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Eileen McClelland

First JA Convention Tackles Weighty Issues

Focus of July event is on education and technology.



JEWELRY RETAILERS, DESIGNERS and manufacturers looking for answers to burning questions about the state of the industry might do well to attend Jewelers of America’s first national convention, July 28-29 at the InterContinental New York Barclay in New York City.

Organizers have created an educational lineup with unique content as well as hands-on technological help. The event is also timed to coincide with Women’s Jewelry Association Awards for Excellence, July 29, and American Gem Society Circle of Distinction dinner, July 30.

“It’s designed to be a really focused, two-day, high-level educational forum for our members and potential members,” says David Bonaparte, president and CEO of Jewelers of America.

So if, for example, you’ve been lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering what to do about lab-grown diamonds that may infiltrate your inventory, visiting the Diamond Detection Lab during the Jewelers of America National Convention may ease your insomnia by demonstrating a variety of state-of-the-art solutions.

“With so much news and focus on lab-grown diamonds, with new technologies overseas and the ability for manufacturers to produce everything from man-made melee up to a carat and over, we’re seeing that there are issues of detection that present a real need in the industry,” says David Bonaparte.

“The worry is that some goods would pass through labs and go undetected.”

Over the years, however GIA, DeBeers and others have begun to produce ever more sophisticated desktop equipment that makes sending every diamond or potential diamond to an external lab unnecessary.

“There are now devices you can acquire and use to make sure that what you are buying is what the seller says it is,” Bonaparte says. “It’s a great way to see what’s the latest and greatest out there.” The goal of the Diamond Detection Lab is to introduce retailers and diamond dealers to the equipment that is available to them in a simple, user-friendly way.

JA has also curated a group of technology providers in a casual, interactive environment for a Retail Innovation Lab that includes a wide variety of tech options. “I think the most important issues are inventory management and omni-channel selling, so you don’t have your capital just sitting in a case,” Bonaparte says. “Inventory management is always a huge challenge for retailers, especially for the mom and pop retailer; and our demographic is 92 percent single store mom and pop retailers.”

Beyond technology, high-level discussions are planned on geopolitical finance, macroeconomics and legislative action.

“We have Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report who is a one of the leading pollsters in the country who will talk about politics and what the election will mean to businesses,” Bonaparte says. “We also have the U.S. State Department coming to talk about the Kimberley process and responsible sourcing. It’s really unique content that we’re hoping is appealing not only to retailers but to manufacturers as well.”

Another unique aspect of the convention is that attendees won’t be distracted by making appointments with vendors between seminars. “There are great events out there, and they deliver a lot of content and value, but there are really not that many that don’t have a show attached to them,” Bonaparte says.

Retail Innovation Lab exhibitors include:

  • Abbott Jewelry Systems produces a comprehensive software solution to manage retail jewelry stores called the Edge.
  • Buyers Intelligence Group™ designs solutions for merchandising challenges facing retail jewelers and manufacturers. BIG’s online platform provides data analysis tools to help clients understand their business and strategically plan their profitability.
  • Fire Polish Diamonds has developed The Fire Polish cutting technique, which is protected by five U.S. and international patents. By cutting Nano Prisms™ (diffraction gratings) on the pavilion of a diamond, Fire Polish is able to increase the dispersion and scintillation of any diamond without affecting the diamond’s cut or brilliance.
  • GPShopper is a mobile app developer for retailers, empowering brands to improve the customer shopping experience through multiple touch points. Synchrony acquired GPShopper in 2017 to create new mobile solutions for its retail partners.
  • JewelTrace by Spacecode is an RFID-powered data analytics and inventory management solution for jewelers.
  • Podium is a rich communication platform for local businesses. It’s the simplest way to collect reviews, get found online, and talk to customers in real-time through text.
  • Outernets converts static walls, glass and displays into interactive, customizable digital experiences.
  • Smart Age Solutions is a digital marketing agency specializing in the fine jewelry industry partnered with Review Alert. Smart Age Solutions also advises, conducts webinars, and provides unpublished data from Google for its clients.
  • Virtual Diamond Boutique is an interactive app platform to source a diverse global inventory of diamonds, colored gemstones, jewelry and lab-grown diamonds. It’s designed to be easy to use on a desktop or on any mobile device.

For more information, visit here.

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Travelers Should Be Super Careful with Their Jewelry — Here’s Why

Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group released a new survey.




THE NUMBER OF travelers reporting lost or stolen jewelry has doubled over the past four years, according to a national survey conducted by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group. The survey revealed that 20% of respondents suffered a jewelry loss while on vacation. That’s up from 10% just four years ago.

Jewelers Mutual reports the most risky place for travelers to wear fine jewelry is at the beach. And while the insurance company advises sun worshippers to protect their jewelry in a room safe or hotel vault before heading to the water’s edge, too many are choosing to tempt fate. The result: 27% of all travel-jewelry losses can be traced to where the surf meets the sand.

Still another pain point is that only 1% of the lost or stolen jewelry is ever recovered by their owners.

“Travel continues to be a vulnerable time to misplace or have jewelry stolen,” noted Don Elliott, director of claims at Jewelers Mutual. “Travelers can and should insure their jewelry, and there also are steps they can take to minimize risk.”

Elliot outlined these important tips…

  • Document: As you’re packing, take a photo of the pieces you’re taking with you. If you need to file a police report for any reason, this proof of ownership will be very helpful.
  • Carry It: Never put jewelry in a checked bag. Wear it or stow it in your carry-on bag and keep that bag in sight at all times.
  • Don’t Post It: Avoid being an easy target. Don’t share photos of your jewelry or where you are staying on social media.
  • Wear Wisely: Avoid wearing jewelry while swimming, especially in cold water where finger sizes can temporarily shrink.
  • Tuck Away: Never leave jewelry out in the open. Use the safe in your room or hotel vault.
  • Conceal Don’t Reveal: Tuck necklaces inside your shirt, turn your engagement ring to the inside of your hand and cover any bracelets or watches with a sleeve when in dangerous areas.
  • Button Up: If you’re packing earrings, fasten them to an extra button to avoid them being separated or misplaced.
  • Suck It Up: Thread necklaces through a paper straw. This will prevent them from being easily misplaced or lost, with the added benefit of avoiding a tangled mess.

Jewelers Mutual also introduced its new digital publication called “Your Guide For Traveling With Jewelry.” It covers packing, time away, and upon-return tips, as well as advice for buying jewelry on vacation and what to do if your jewelry is lost or stolen while traveling. Click this link for more information.

Conducted in May 2019 by Kantar Group, the Jewelers Mutual survey reflects the experiences of 1,044 adults, ages 18 to 64.

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