A statement released by Baselworld organiser MCH Swiss Exhibition confirmed the 2018 edition of the renowned watch and jewellery show would be held across six days from 22 March to 27 March. Until now, the show has traditionally taken place over eight days.
Buyer attendance this year reduced 4 per cent year-on-year to 106,000, while exhibitor numbers reduced 13 per cent to 1,300.
Commenting on the 2017 show and the decision to shorten the event, Baselworld managing director Sylvie Ritter said the industry was undergoing a ‘challenging phase’ and the show needed to adapt accordingly.
“Listening to our exhibitors and in agreement with the members of the different committees, we have decided to reduce the duration of the  show and adjust prices accordingly,” she said.The decline in visitor and exhibitor numbers was set against the backdrop of troubling conditions for the Swiss watch industry – the cornerstone of Baselworld.
At the pre-show media conference – held annually one day prior to the main event – Baselworld Swiss Exhibitors’ Committee president François Thiébaud stated that Swiss watch exports decreased 9.9 per cent in value terms to CHF19.4 billion in 2016. This followed a 3.2 per cent decline in 2015.
Thiébaud added that global political and economic influences remained difficult and that watch exports were penalised by the valuation of the Swiss franc.
During the media conference, Ritter also addressed the tough trading environment over the past 12 months and, in hindsight, hinted about changes planned for next year’s show.
She stated that the difficult period had forced some watch and jewellery businesses to leave the industry, adding, “In light of this context, it is essential that the exhibition concept is adapted once again and Baselworld transformed to reflect the global market … This process of transformation will always have to favour quality over quantity.”
Quality, innovation will prevailThe notion of ‘quality over quantity’ was mentioned several times during the media conference, and Eric Bertrand, Baselworld Exhibitors’ Committee president, said he believed that the challenging times would provide “an opportunity for those who have done their job properly in recent years and who have a solid foundation on the market”.
Commenting on the last day of the show, Bertrand stated that the quality of product releases on display was evidence that the industry was resilient amidst difficult conditions.
“In the last week, we have experienced the value of this show for the entire industry especially in difficult times, which makes the show’s role as the global platform even more compelling at a time when all players are looking to secure values and stability,” he said.
Several Australian suppliers in attendance echoed these sentiments when speaking with Jeweller at the show.
Les Veil, managing director of Designa Accessories, which distributes brands including Guess Watches and Fendi, said general consensus at the fair indicated that the market was tough but that didn’t mean consumers weren’t buying.
“People aren’t walking around depressed; they’re actually walking around looking for a reason to spend. So that’s what you’ve got to do – give them a reason to spend,” Veil said. “Some of the new releases we have seen so far are in that vein.”
Designa Accessories head of product and planning, Ivan Meys, added that he was excited about the new releases on display.
“These sorts of climates generally generate some of the greatest innovation,” he stated. “You need to have that cycle where things become a little bit more challenging as it means you have to rethink the way you do business and communicate to the consumer.”
John Rose, general manager of West End Collection, which distributes brands such as Daniel Wellington and Christian Paul Sydney, also commented on the range of product launches.
“In general, the attendance numbers seemed down on previous years; however, the offerings from the exhibitors were very new and exciting,” Rose explained.
Other brands including Seiko, Danish Design, Vostok Europe, Casio and Ice-Watch – which was celebrating its 10-year anniversary – also unveiled major product releases and marketing campaigns.
Jeweller will publish a full report of what’s in store for the local market in the June issue.
Baselworld 2017 was held from 23 March to 30 March at the Messe Basel exhibition centre in Basel, Switzerland.
*Emily Mobbs attended Baselworld as an accredited media representative.
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Baselworld forges ahead despite challenges