As the jewellery market suffers worldwide, domestic and overseas producers and brands are turning to China to keep revenues coming in.
Over 3,000 exhibitors from 44 countries and regions participated in the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair, making it the biggest jewellery exhibition worldwide. The event kicked off Wednesday in the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre and will close Sunday.
"Jewellery sales dropped in the US and the European market in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The China market is now under the spotlight, and jewellery brands worldwide are eyeing Asia especially China. They hope to move into the China market by attending this Hong Kong fair," Frank Wu, president of TTF Studio, told the Global Times on Thursday.
China is the largest market for platinum and second largest for gold consumption after India. While US and European markets sales have slumped, the market here is estimated to grow by 5 percent for gold and 10 percent for gem stones consumption, reaching 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) worth of sales by the end of this year, Wu said.
"This is the first time for us to participate in the Hong Kong fair, Giose Marsilio, CEO of Rota e Rota, a high-end Italian jewellery supplier, told the Global Times, "We want to test the market."
Talking about the difference between European and Chinese jewellery producers, "there are 3,000 workers in a Chinese factory, and an Italian producer has a maximum of 40 to 50 workers," said Marsilio.
China jewellery producers should rely on quality, branding and cutting-edge techniques rather than cheap and labour intensive products in order to compete both internationally and domestically, Wu at TTF said.
China's jewellery market has long been occupied by Western high-end brands like Cartier and Tiffany. Most Chinese producers sell low-end products and very few are in the middle-to high-end markets.
"To succeed in the China market, you have to be an international brand first," Wu said. TTF first tapped the middle-and high-end overseas market recently by establishing stores abroad and working with internationally famous brands, Wu remarked.
Thanks to the global financial crisis, TTF was able to hire Italian and South Korean designers "who didn't pay attention to us when the market was good," Wu noted.
"We plan to open 100 stores by end of 2009," said Alok Gupta, vice president of Gitanjali Gems, an Indian jewellery group which has 2,000 outlets worldwide under different brand names.
The Indian jewellery retailer started operations in China two years ago and currently owns 44 stores in Nanjing Jiangsu Province, Fujian Province and Shanghai.
"We don't care whether we make money now. What we care about is the future. China will be the world's top market for jewellery in 10 years," said Arvind Jadhav, the manager of Digico Holding, a subsidiary under the Indian Gitanjali Gems Ltd.