OUR TAKE ON THE SEPTEMBER 2019 HONG KONG JEWELLERY & GEM FAIR
The Hong Kong Gem & Jewellery Fair, held in September of every year is the most important Gem and Jewellery Fair in Asia. The last two years have been particularly memorable; in 2018 Typhoon Manghut kept us cooped up roaming the halls and lobbies for 24 hours, and this year we were all considerably affected by the political uprising going on since June. While Hong Kong was generally safe for visitors, the decrease in traffic was palpable at both Asia World Expo (AWE) and the Convention and Exhibition Center (CEC) in Wan Chai. None of it unexpected, however.
Leading up to the show there were daily conversations about attendance, endless speculation about how the political situation would evolve and infinite phone calls to insurance brokers. You couldn’t walk down the street or have a conversation without someone asking, “What do you think about the Hong Kong show?”
It started out being constructive and brought on complete angst. Most exhibitors left things down to the wire, deciding at the last minute, the consensus being that nobody was getting reimbursed by Informa Markets whether they cancelled sooner or later. For the same reason, very few opted out.
Usually bustling and exciting, Hong Kong felt like its fierce spirit took a vacation, the city was a shadow of its former self. Empty shops, last minute dinner reservations and barely-there wait times for taxis are unheard of during the show, even the taxi line in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel was only about 5 people deep at 8pm!
Travelers from Mainland China account for 80% of visitors to Hong Kong. Hotel rates dropped up to 50% last month as a result of the political upheaval which is indeed reflected in the lack of attendance at both shows.
At the Asia World Expo stone show, the traffic and quality of the visitors was good.
There were serious buyers from Europe, the USA and Asia and they were there to buy. The general feeling was that people had come from far and wide under potentially problematic circumstances and wanted to make their trip worth it. The «bread and butter» (manufacturers and brands) customers came with shopping lists for mostly small goods and were conservative on spending. Overall the show was decent, good for some. In the coloured stone market prices have gone up, particularly for unheated blue sapphirs. Supply is increasingly low as source production in Sri Lanka and Madagascar is more and more scarce. An increase of roughly 15% to 20% for smaller materials compared to what we saw in March.
At the Convention Centre in Wan Chai, jewellery dealers were less optimistic. For exhibitors in the Grand Hall and the Antique section, traffic was down substantially, about 25% of the usual attendance in general and only 10% of the private clientele who customarily attend. Mainland Chinese customers were noticeably absent. Important pieces generated interest but few sales, small pieces were selling but overall, exhibitors were disappointed. In fact, most of the exhibitors in Grand Hall closed their booths one day before the official show ending.
These are tumultuous times with an uncertain outcome for Hong Kong. We all have high hopes for a return to normalcy in time for next Hong Kong show in March 2020.