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The Bangkok Show: Long Flight, Great Stories to Tell Your Customers

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Last week and over the weekend, I snuck away from INSTORE’s October issue production here in our office in Bangkok to attend the 56th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair. (Don’t tell the rest of the staff why I couldn’t be in the office to proof pages, or I’ll get in trouble.)

Ralf Kircher


Group Executive Editor, INSTORE
and INDESIGN
L

ast week and over the weekend, I snuck away from INSTORE’s October issue production here in our office in Bangkok to attend the 56th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair. (Don’t tell the rest of the staff why I couldn’t be in the office to proof pages, or I’ll get in trouble.)

The show is one that’s not often on the radar of American independent retailers, but after wandering the show floor on Thursday and Saturday, it genuinely made me wonder why. Granted, Bangkok is a long flight — believe me, I know from experience. But I kept thinking if I owned a custom-design store or a store that thrives on its own brand — and if I were looking to differentiate my store by going on a foreign buying trip — I’d be in heaven.

Let me set the scene: First, the gem and jewelry industry means a lot in Thailand — so much so that the prime minister was on hand to speak at the grand opening of the show. Imagine a sitting president presiding over the opening of JCK Las Vegas …

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His speech was followed up by some impressive Thai dancing and then a jewelry fashion show that culminated in a model strutting down the runway wearing an emerald and diamond necklace whose center emerald pendant looked as big as a deck of playing cards. The show is a big deal in this city of 9 million, and, as in Tucson, you’ll see billboards around the city touting the show during its twice-yearly runs in February and September.

The show also means enough to the industry in Thailand that the government is willing to waive the 20 percent duty on goods sold at the event.

While that’s all nice, it’s what the 1,800 exhibitors from 30 countries in 3,000 booths have at the show for your customers that’s most important, isn’t it? This is why I say if I were a custom or privately branded store, this show would be on my to-do list.

Thailand is, of course, a hub for colored stone cutting and treatment, and probably a good third of the show is devoted to loose stones. Booth after booth of rubies, sapphires, emeralds and all those stones we feature in INSTORE’s monthly Gem Quiz. You get so inured to them while walking down the aisles that they begin to resemble just so many different flavors of jellybeans.

(That reminds me: You shouldn’t miss the story of the Chinese woman who stole a 6-carat diamond, swallowed it, was later caught at the airport and was taken to the hospital to have it removed. Here’s a link to our story. Imagine telling your customers you were there when that happened!)

In the finished jewelry areas, what you don’t see many of are brands. In my wanderings, I tried to keep a count of brand names an American consumer might recognize. I counted two: Pandora and GIA. (If you’re a big American brand, don’t kill me if I didn’t happen to see your booth!) There are hundreds of small and medium-sized companies that you and your customers have never heard of, most with unique original designs, and in particular, there are loads of silver companies. Having just put together the silver supplement that will appear in our October issue, I just kept looking in the silver section, thinking high margins and seeing dollar signs.

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All this is in one big room, on one floor of a modern, clean exhibition hall that’s well air-conditioned and has announcements over loudspeakers that are 1.) in English and 2.) clearly audible. Combine that with hotel rooms as cheap as the Luxor but as nice as the Wynn, and you’ve got yourself a pretty cushy business trip.

Take a few days at the show with a daytrip out to Chantaburi, where many of the colored stones are processed and which has an open-air gem market, and you’d have memorable stories to promote in your advertising and to tell your customers. (And perhaps a worthwhile counter to your rival’s diamond-buying trip promotions.)

Interested? The 57th Bangkok Gem & Jewelry Fair is Feb. 24-28, 2016. Check out bangkokgemsfair.com for information.

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