At the opening of BaselWorld last Thursday, Francois Thiebaud, president of the Swiss Exhibitors Committee, announced that 2013 had not been a great year, with the industry recording weaker sales increases than in previous years.
Swiss watch exports rose only 1.9 per cent to CHF21.8 billion (AU$26.6 b) last year, considerably less than the 10.9 per cent increase in the previous period. The results were affected by declines in Hong Kong and China, both down 5.6 per cent and 12.5 per cent, respectively.
Much of the blame for declining Chinese sales continues to be attributed to the Chinese Government’s crackdown on graft, and the custom of giving expensive gifts.
However, Thiebaud said that overall figures for the first two months of 2014 were more promising given that sales “touched CHF3.3 billion (AU$4 b) – an increase of 6.8 per cent on the same period last year”.
Given that BaselWorld has been billed as the world’s largest watch and jewellery show by visitor numbers, show organiser MCH Group was, once again, expecting more than 100,000 people, though some exhibitors said by the third day that it felt less busy than last year.
To be fair, the 2013 event had a record number of visitors (122,000) that was due to the industry’s fascination with the completion of the AU$443 million, three-year redevelopment of the BaselWorld precinct.
Regardless of the lower than expected increase in sales, Jacques Duchêne, president of the Exhibitors Committee, was optimistic. “We are generally in a good position as an industry, and have forward-looking markets clearly in our sights,” he said.
All major local distributors were in attendance to view the latest releases from their respective brands. Trent McLean, of Moda Group, which supplies brands including Police and Roamer, and Les Veil from Designa Accessories, distributor of Guess, were all kept busy with a number of major Australian watch retailers.
Both Citizen and Seiko unveiled impressive new ranges that continued to differentiate the Japanese brands from the traditional Swiss market.
Rod Willment, Citizen sales and marketing manager, presented the Eco Drive Satellite Wave 100 to Australian buyers, while Seiko group sales manager Brett Neill, along with new Australian managing director, Toru Koizumi, unveiled new models of the Astron.
Another brand breaking the “traditional” mould was Vostok Europe, a Lithuanian sports watch. Ken Abbott, managing director Timesupply, recently launched the range in Australia, and commented, “It’s exceeded all my expectations.”
The big news for John Papaioannou from Time Essentials was the announcement that Bulova had signed a deal with Manchester United, while Bolt International’s Larry Porter received an update on Ice Watch’s successful launch of its BWM Motorsport collection.
The eight-day event closes on Thursday 3 April, with the 2015 dates being set at 19 to 26 March.
UP AND AROUND Baselworld