INTERVIEW: Sam Willoughby on International Jewellery London’s 60th anniversary show

International Jewellery London event director Sam Willoughby is the person responsible for putting the sparkle in this year’s 60th anniversary showcase. Professional Jeweller meets Willoughby to discus Olympia, new exhibitors and special surprises.

Professional Jeweller: It’s IJL’s 60th anniversary this year — what are you particularly excited about?

Sam Willoughby: I’m looking forward to seeing how the show is going to be in its second year at Olympia. Obviously last year everyone was very intrigued to see what the move was going to be like, and there was some scepticism about the show being on two floors. When you’ve been at a venue like Earl’s Court for so long it is quite a big change for everyone. However, the show went exceedingly well and it was above our expectations. Now we need to deliver on that and move forward.

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PJ: What feedback did you receive about Olympia last year?

SW: It was overwhelming in terms of the positivity. So many people had been in the venue before and had an impression of what they thought it was going to be like – good or bad – but I think people were really taken aback as soon as they walked in, especially on the opening morning which was a beautiful sunny day. [At Olympia] you don’t feel like you are shut away in some soulless box. Venues for other shows I’ve been to don’t have any natural day light, so we are very lucky.

PJ: What about those exhibitors that aren’t directly underneath the windows at Olympia and therefore don’t benefit from natural light? How are they being supported?

SW: We had a lot of conversations with the venue and they have upgraded every single lamp and have put in additional lighting in the areas that are not afforded natural daylight. In terms of all the other venues that exist around the UK and abroad, the lighting [at IJL] will be far superior, so we are looking forward to seeing this as well.

PJ: Can you tell us about any special arrangements that have been made to celebrate IJL’s 60th anniversary this year?

SW: We’ve got our exhibitor party, which we are making a lot bigger this year with champagne and live music on the Sunday evening following the Late Night Shopping event. We also have our Editor’s Choice Awards, including some prizes for some of our exhibitors and Diamond Club members. We’ve got our Diamond Blaze catwalk and lots of competitions around the diamond theme, but the rest I’m not going to tell you because I want people to be surprised!

PJ: How many new exhibitors do you have this year and what can you tell us about them?

SW: We’ve got 155 new companies, and what’s quite interesting is that 80% of them specialise in fine jewellery. We have more fine jewellery – especially international fine jewellery – than any other show in the UK. We sold out [the Design Gallery] about two or three months ago, so we are squeezing in small stands here and there to accommodate everyone. What we’ve noticed when talking to retailers and exhibitors is that what’s doing better for them is the higher-end, especially gold. We can really see this reflected in the new exhibitors and those that are maybe taking a slightly bigger space.

PJ: Is the international marketplace still a key area of growth for IJL?

SW: Definitely. The UK market is about 60% of the show, but 40% of our exhibitors are international. This year we’ve got exhibitors from 38 countries, whereas last year we had [visitors from] 31, including Brazil, Romania, China and Austria.

PJ: What can you tell us about the International Jewellery London Diamond Club — will it undergo any developments or changes this year?

SW: Last year the Diamond Club grew by 20% in terms of people who attended. For 2015 we are welcoming even more members to the group, including buyers from airlines, duty free, QVC and online retailers such as Notonthehighstreet. com. While it is still small compared to the show as a whole, ensuring the Club contains a select group of buyers is essential.

PJ: How has the IJL seminar schedule developed this year?

SW: What we really wanted to do was get some different types of speakers who might not be from a traditional jewellery market. We still want jewellery industry professionals [as seminar speakers] as they are vitally important, but it is also important to give retailers different perspectives and experiences to learn from. Highlights will be Laura Tenison, founder of mother and baby brand JoJo Maman Bébé and Sally Heath, ecommerce director of New Look.

PJ: Are there any other areas of the show that have developed compared to last year?

SW: With the Hatton Garden theft earlier this year, security is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. As a result we have a number of new security companies exhibiting this year, as well as some security focused seminars and advice clinics. For those people who are particularly concerned with security we’ve got a lot more going on this year.

PJ: In terms of the security at International Jewellery London, has this been stepped-up this year? Especially considering recent thefts at the Harrogate Home & Gift Show?

SW: One of the big considerations when we decided to move [to Olympia], other than getting the right dates and the right venue, was the security. We spend a lot of time and money on this area and we are always keeping abreast of what is happening in the market. Every year we look at how we are doing things, but rest assured, it is not something we take lightly. Touch wood, security is never something that has been a problem at International Jewellery London and long may that continue.

PJ: Are there any exhibitors or aspects of the show that you are particularly looking forward to seeing this year?

SW: We’ve got a lot of old favourites returning, including Shaun Leane, Alexis Dove, Andrew Geoghegan and Alex Monroe. We also have more country and international pavilions this year, including exhibitors from South Asia and Sri Lanka, and we’ve got a European Village which is an opportunity for new European fine jewellery companies to come to the show and take a small space to test the UK market. There are 10 new companies in the European Village this year, most of them are Italian. Next year our ‘Market Focus’ will be on Germany.

This feature originally appeared in the Professional Jeweller September 2015 issue. Find it here. 



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