Are diamond industry umbrella bodies keeping members dry?

Albert Robinson

Is the diamond industry marketing itself successfully at the level of the organizations that represent it? To put it bluntly, are the various shows and events aimed at focusing industry attention on a specific diamond center leading to sales and creating contacts that bring about transactions?  After all the flyers and business cards have been handed out, cocktail and networking events have taken place, and spectacular entertainment enjoyed, what’s the bottom line? Are you making sales, or just making friends?

As with any attempt to guage the mood of the diamond industry, finding out what people really think can be difficult. And whether diamond firms are really selling, as they sometimes claim even when you have scoured a show for an hour beforehand and seen relatively low levels of foot traffic, can be tricky to measure.

The recent trend in the diamond industry –a smart idea, too – is to essentially hold trade shows in diamond exchanges. The Antwerp diamond business recently held its fifth Antwerp Diamond Trade Fair, while the Israel Diamond Exchange held two US/International Diamond Week events last year, and will hold another one in April. And in the joint venture with the Diamond Dealers Club of New York, two Israel Diamond Weeks have been held over the past two years. The Israeli exchange is also going to hold an international rough diamond week event with a range of tenders next month. Meanwhile, industry sources say the Bharat Diamond Bourse in Mumbai is also planning to hold an international trade show at the exchange this year.

As with any apparently successful marketing idea, it is quickly copied. And when the initial flame of enthusiasm burns out, the industry looks for the next great idea.

The concept of a trade show in an exchange trading hall makes a lot of sense, and all the more so in the current financial climate. The bourse hosting the event can show its members that it is making big efforts to bring them business. And companies taking part can, for a change, bring themselves exposure at a relatively low cost. As opposed to the tens of thousands of dollars that are shelled out on taking staff and insuring and shipping goods and equipment to Las Vegas, Hong Kong and other distant places, diamantaires receive a simple booth several minutes from their offices. Simple, quick, safe and secure.

One leading Antwerp diamond industry member told me at the fair last week that he suggested the idea of a trade show in the bourses’ trading halls a full decade ago. “At that time, business was pretty strong, so the industry did not feel the need to go out of its way at the national level to market their diamond centers. Now the climate has changed, and the diamond representative bodies realize they must bring about a rise in trading activity. But that is fine. At least action is now being taken.

Turns out that that meeting people and measuring them up via a face-to-face chat has become popular again. Seems that we have become used to sitting in our offices, communicating by phone, emails and texts for too long. I was struck by the number of show visitors from around the globe and exhibitors who told me, both at the diamond week events in Israel and in Antwerp, that they had found the idea of finding the time in their packed business day to sit and speak to a potential client rather “refreshing”.

It is difficult not to sense a certain mood among some diamantaires of, perhaps desperation is a bit too strong a word, but frustration is too weak to describe it. Diamantaires everywhere, perhaps more than ever before, are asking how to generate sales at a time of extraordinarily acute competition. How do you differentiate yourself, what makes you so unique that clients should choose you and not the guy in your neighboring office?

You emphasize your professionalism, personal service, commitment to customer relations, willingness to go the extra mile, quality, precision and reliability. But everyone is saying that. Diamond industry heads will always say that you must find a niche area; that you need to bring added value. But it seems all the niches have been discovered – and then filled in by scores of competing firms.

What’s the answer? Clearly, if there was a single solution it would have been discovered by now. But the trend of creating a trade show in a trading hall is proving itself to be an excellent one. They are not cheap for the host bourse – some visitors are flown in and many others receive subsidized or free hotel stays. Then there are the entertainment programs and the huge logistical and planning issues, as well as ensuring the highest levels of security, along with scores of other concerns.

But that is a price that diamantaires will have to pay to bring potential buyers to their centers. As the industry has seen in the last 10 years or so, the number of buyers visiting the diamond centers has dropped sharply. The shoe is now on the other front: You want to sell me a diamond? Then bring it to me. And the impact of the Internet and exceptional photo imagery and high-tech devices that can show a diamond in a particular office in real time to someone on the other side of the world has also slashed the need for buyers’ overseas trips.

The final word goes to a senior Israeli bourse member who says the diamond exchange pulls no punches in promoting the trade show idea to members. “Frankly, we tell them there is no alternative. This is the only game in town. It’s expensive, the planning issues are unbelievable, and it is exhausting. But it brings huge global exposure and coverage and, ultimately, benefits to our diamantaires. Get behind it or get left behind.”

But are the bourses bringing in the type of buyers who can bring added value? Are they bringing in retailers or just inviting traders to meet traders?

Let us know your opinion of the trading hall trade shows and just how much benefit they really provide.

Source Idexonline

Picture Antwerp Diamond Fair Trade