Editors

Q&A: Matthew Tratner on the Future of JA New York

EditorsFeb 28, 2024

Q&A: Matthew Tratner on the Future of JA New York

The industry veteran, who took over as group show director last fall, talks about his vision for the 118-year-old trade show.

JA New York Group Show Director Matthew Tratner
Matthew Tratner, JA New York group show director
The JA New York Spring show seems set to blossom this year. 

The jewelry trade show, scheduled for March 10-12, is happening on the heels of several annual events that typically draw key players to New York City; namely, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee’s annual luncheon and the Gem Awards (both March 8), as well as the annual luncheon of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance and the 24 Karat Club of New York’s gala (both March 9).   

And it has new leadership.

Matthew Tratner, who has worked for some of the most well-known organizations in the industry, including a run as publisher of this fine publication, took over as JA NY group show director in October 2023

Earlier this year, the industry veteran sat down with me to talk about the past, present, and future of the show, which he would like New York City-based jewelry companies to embrace as their “hometown show.”   

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Let’s talk a little bit about the history of JA New York. At some point, correct me if I’m wrong here, it was at the New York Hilton.

A: Yes, it had been at the Hilton and then it found a home at the Javits Center. For a while, it occupied a massive amount of the Javits Center. 

It was held three times a year but it’s now twice a year, once in March and once in October.

We’re currently in a single hall in the Javits. We’re excited this March to be co-locating with MJSA [Expo] and we’re in a prime place to grow from where we are.

Q: It’s also good to point out that even though the show is still called “JA New York,” at some point, JA (Jewelers of America) sold the show. I think it’s good to explain the connection between the show and the organization because it’s still confusing for some people.

A: Here it is.

Emerald, a publicly traded company, owns the JA New York shows. The “JA” in the JA New York shows stands for Jewelers of America, the nonprofit association. The connection has been there since Jewelers of America sold those shows to a private company in 1990.

The connection between the two companies still exists and it’s stronger than ever now.

We’re excited to have such great support because I worked [at JA] for so many years and love the people over there; they’re so talented. There’s so much excitement about what we can do together.

On top of that, you have the amazing JA Board of Directors, led by Coleman Clark from B.C. Clark, who’s such a great guy. I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to having their support as well.

Q: You mentioned the JA New York Show’s room to grow. What do you think this show’s going to look like in five years? And, what areas of this show are poised to grow the most?

A: I think we see our show in five years in really being a reflection of the New York jewelry business, that 47th Street business. 

People forget that the JA New York show has been around for over 100 years. It’s launched names like David Yurman; we’ve heard of him.

He started at the JA New York New Designer Gallery, which, by the way, is something our team really wants to bring back and is working toward bringing back.

We feel like the great thing about a show like this is that it is a show that you can take in at your leisure without having to be rushed around. You can discover new designers, new brands, new service providers.

It gives you the opportunity to really take the time to get to know somebody a little bit and start doing business with them.

I see growth in the area of helping launch new companies and helping them escalate their business. I also see the associations being a lot more fundamental [to the show]. 

I see organizations like the BIJC (Black in Jewelry Coalition) and the WJA (Women’s Jewelry Association) and the DMIA (Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America) as really important keys to growing and maintaining our show, and others like the JVC (Jewelers Vigilance Committee) and, of course, Jewelers of America. 

I think using the fabric of what helps us do business better as part of the transactional atmosphere is really important.

I want to mix in the organizations that are important to keeping the industry going with the people who are also selling and buying the product, because I think those conversations need to be happening.

If we can, [for example], launch a BIJC Lounge and we can highlight a bunch of BIJC designers and we … put it somewhere it makes sense and they can get in front of people like Coleman Clark or Matthew Rosenheim, these amazing retailers, you never know what could happen, right? 

Now that leads to the next step, which is, how do we view the show itself? 

So, we talked about the show floor. It’s one level currently. Again, it can be done in a day. You can take your time and really get to see the whole show.

Because of that, we are abandoning the idea of sort of “the front” and “the back” and, you know, [exhibitors saying], “I want to be at the front.” 

What our team has decided is that what we want to present now is a 360-degree concept. The idea is that there’s going to be things going on all over our show floor; there’s going to be action happening.

There’s not going to be any corner of our show floor that’s going to be neglected. There’s not any part of our show floor that’s going to feel like there should be tumbleweeds rolling through it.

2024 JA New York Spring show signage
JA New York will display new branding at its upcoming spring jewelry trade show, scheduled for March 10 to 12 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. (Photo credit: Lucas Botz Photography)


Q: Let’s talk specifically about March. What do you have on tap for this upcoming show that you are excited about?

A: The No. 1 thing is this feature we’re calling the “47th Street Experience.” 

The 47th Street Experience is really leaning into the natural diamonds, precious metals, colored stones, pearls, timepieces, all of the things that make up those pillars, those foundations of what makes our industry successful.

We want to bring that flavor of 47th Street, that sort of iconic, old-time feeling of hustle and bustle and [having] the places to sit and network.

We’re putting together a whole area that’s really going to lean on those things. It also will have a very nice, open session area and lounge space so that you’ll be able to decide if you want to go in and see the [education] session and then come out and, you know, [go] right into the action.

The idea is to really integrate the action with the education.

[For the education sessions,] we’re going to have two different session areas. One’s going to be a little more built out than the other, and they’re going to be in two different areas.

Q: Are there vendors you’re particularly excited about that are new to the show or are returning to the show after a long absence?

A: What’s great about our show is Tobi [Smith, the show’s longtime global account manager] has been the backbone of selling this show, and she really is one of the key reasons people feel so well taken care of when they come and do our show. 

We have companies that have exhibited at this show for 30 years, for 40 years, and they’ll happily tell you that. 

What I would say is that I’m excited to start bringing back things like natural color diamonds and concentrating on the natural diamond side of things.  

I’m trying to reach out to those companies that are headquartered here, that have their home bases here in New York. 

The great thing about this show is, it’s been around for a long time so it has a great history to work with and, again, people forget that David Yurman got his start at the JA New York New Designer Gallery. 

We want to get back to launching those types of amazing, incredible, iconic brands. We want to get back to being an accelerator and an incubator. 

We want 47th Street, we want New York. We want them to feel like this is their hometown show the way our team feels like it’s our show. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Q: Is there anything else, Matt, about the upcoming show you want to mention that we didn’t talk about and that you think people should know about?

A: The thing that I would express is, get rid of all your preconceived notions. Please come see us with fresh eyes. 

We line up with all of the amazing industry events, the Jewelers of America Gem Awards, the 24 Karat Club gala, the JVC luncheon, the JSA luncheon and then the JA New York show. 

People who come to this show are going to find everything they need to service their jewelry store, whether it’s a product, whether it’s a service, whether it’s a component, that’s number one. 

And number two, I think that what they’re also going to find is an energy because of the amount of our industry that is going to be there and ready to create something cool going into the rest of 2024. 

I’ll leave it with this, Michelle; this is important. 

[To] the exhibitors that haven’t exhibited before that are thinking about it, as there are amazing packages out there to be had, and to the ones that have stayed away—you are an important part of this industry’s continuity. 

We want you to come and exhibit at our show to help you grow your business, which will help everything else. 

Give us a chance to show you that we are a place that you can grow your business and create new connections and find people and brands and services that, even as an exhibitor, you didn’t know existed. 
 

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