By Henrik KIHLMAN
Finland has a long tradition of jewellery and watch sales events. In the beginning they were usually held in a hotel where the participating companies had reserved a room in which they displayed their goods. The buyers would walk around the corridors and do their purchases. The event usually ended in a spectacular gala dinner with dancing. It was the most important marketing event for the business but also the main social event of the year.
Through the years the concept has changed towards a more traditional fair. Still open solely for professionals. At times there have been discussions about opening the fair to the public, but so far, the exhibitors have expressed their wish to keep it closed for the public. Whereas many neighboring countries during the last years have temporarily had to shut down their jewellery fairs due to lack of exhibitors or covid, Finland has struggled against the odds. Despite challenging times and practical obstacles, the Finns have been able to maintain their own national fair GSW (Gold Silver and Watch). This fact must be credited to the tireless efforts of goldsmith and entrepreneur Petri Järvinen who plays the major role in organizing and keeping alive the only national marketing event for jewellery and watches GSW. Now to the question. Who is this enthusiast who on his own initiates and organizes fairs and sales events for the Finnish retailers? Petri is a second-generation goldsmith. His father Stig Järvinen got fed up with city life and decided to move his business and family from the big city to a secluded island in the western archipelago of Finland. Moving from the city to a secluded island to where you must go by boat was quite a change for a young boy. Luckily Petris´ passion for motocross helped to overcome the big change since the facilities for that sport was great in the countryside. Filling the spare time with meaningful activity never became a problem. When Petri was 18 years old his father unexpectedly passed away and suddenly Petri found himself in charge of a goldsmithing business that, at the time, was deep in dept and frankly close to bankruptcy. At that hard time Petri and his mother never gave up. They rolled up their sleeves and started to work hard to save the company.
- I learned the business and to be an entrepreneur the hard way, Petri laughs. Hard work paid off and the company was saved and grew well until it at its peak employed 20 persons and exported jewellery abroad, mainly to Sweden. The amounts were quite impressive. The biggest lots were up to 40.000 pieces per model. Encouraged by the success of saving the family company and inspired by the opportunities offered by the maritime archipelago environment Petri became interested in creating services for the needs of the hordes of tourists and summer residents visiting his community during the summer months. This has resulted in a bunch of other companies. The range is wide. Everything from event planning, rib-boat safaris to nearby islands and lighthouse, boat storage during the winter months to publishing local community service magazines and, beeing a jeweller, of course also a jewellery magazine, “Gold Silver & Watch”.
- Today I have also taken a bigger interest in influencing on social media channels such as Instagram and Tik Tok, Petri says. Petris´ engagement as a fair- and event organizer started about 25 years ago when he became a member of the fair organizing committee. His activity and enthusiasm got him elected to chairman of the committee. A post he held until the committee was abolished due to lack of interest in 2018. However, the absence of a marketing event led to several contacts from entrepreneurs worrying about the future. After a year of thinking Petri realized how important a forum for meeting and business is, and he decided to go ahead and arrange the fair once again, this time on his own.
- It is a challenging project, but I believe that it is vital to have at least one arena where people can physically meet and connect. For many wholesale companies fairs are still the best place to show their novelties and meet their customers.
- I have my own wholesale company and for us meeting customers in person during the fair is an invaluable asset, Petri tells me.
- The jewellery scene in Finland has stagnated and is not in growth at the moment. One reason is the age structure of the entrepreneurs. Another is that the market is dominated by chain stores that are doing centralized purchasing. To grow sales, we would need to broaden our horizons and do more cooperation with our neighboring regions. In the last GSW show in November 2021, twenty percent of the exhibitors was from another country than Finland. This was very pleasing and hopefully a good sign for a time without covid and restrictions. The next GSW jewellery fair is already in planning for October/November 2022.
- Even though I am active in many fields, jewellery is still closest to my heart. This is my fathers´ legacy that I cherish. In fact, I will be opening a new jewellery store in my home village. It is situated in a brand-new building in the marina with a magnificent view over the sea. I now have my two passions combined, boating and jewellery in one place. If you are travelling in the region, you are always welcome to visit.