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Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director Baselworld, has spoken exclusively to Jeweller about the cancellation of the 2021 show.
Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director Baselworld, has spoken exclusively to Jeweller about the cancellation of the 2021 show.

EXCLUSIVE: Baselworld managing director responds to second cancellation

The world’s premier watch and jewellery show has been cancelled for a second time following the withdrawal of major exhibitors including Rolex, Patek Philippe, and LVMH.

The event had been scheduled to take place from 28 January–2 February next year after this year's Baselworld was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michel Loris-Melikoff, Baselworld
Michel Loris-Melikoff, Baselworld
"Things have changed dramatically in the past weeks, especially in the event organisation industries. We were among the first to face the hard impact of the pandemic, and we will probably be the last ones to recover"
Michel Loris-Melikoff, Baselworld

Following the announcement by the show’s organiser MCH Group, Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director Baselworld, exclusively told Jeweller that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis was “an accelerator of the Baselworld transformation. Things have changed dramatically in the past weeks, especially in the event organisation industries. We were among the first – with hotels, restaurants, and entertainment activities – to face the hard impact of the pandemic, and we will probably be the last ones to recover.”

He added, “COVID-19 hit everyone hard; the brands are impacted, and even more the small and medium-sized brands.”

With the 2020 event – originally scheduled for 30 April–5 May – cancelled, exhibitors had objected to MCH Group’s refund policy, which offered a maximum cash refund of 30 per cent. The policy was highlighted as a contributing factor when several exhibitors withdrew from the 2021 show.

However, an MCH Group statement released on 7 May confirmed that the Baselworld Exhibitors’ Committee had unanimously approved a new policy.

Exhibitors will now be eligible for an immediate two-thirds cash refund, with the remaining third retained by MCH Group to cover costs already incurred for the cancelled 2020 show, Loris-Melikoff told Jeweller.

“The priority was to find a solution that would enable us to close 2020, reimburse exhibitors, pay suppliers, and then be able to think calmly and collegially about what to do next. The solution presented today is a fair refund amount for the exhibitors and for Baselworld’s organisation. All the parties participate in the losses. Everyone had to make sacrifices.”

Bernd Stadlwieser, CEO MCH Group, said in the MCH Group statement, “We are pleased to have worked together and, in just a short time, found a solution that is acceptable to everyone. In the light of the large loss of revenue due to COVID-19 and our responsibility to all our stakeholder groups, this solution marks the limit of what is possible for us. With the amicable settlement for Baselworld 2020, we can now concentrate fully on the future.”

Indeed, the future of Baselworld – and its format as an international trade show – is still uncertain.

In addition to the refund policy, there had been dissatisfaction with the management of the show for several years, including increasing exhibitor fees, reduced space and promotion for sectors such as technical services and jewellery, and a lack of communication from MCH Group.

The problems culminated in the loss of Swatch Group in July 2018, less than a month after Loris-Melikoff assumed leadership of Baselworld, and when preparations for the 2019 edition were already well underway.
 

A COMPLETE HISTORY 
Baselworld’s fall from grace: the complete timeline

UPDATED TIMELINE: With Baselworld cancelled for both 2020 and 2021 following an exhibitor exodus, Jeweller reviews all the events from Baselworld's glory days, to its recent cancellation. The question remains: what is the future of Baselworld? View full timeline »

 

Loris-Melikoff was quite candid about the current predicament: “If you ask me how much the coronavirus has impacted the recent situation, I would say perhaps the [Baselworld] transformation that I began only one-and-a-half years ago should have started five years ago. The pandemic has unexpectedly impacted the direction we were taking.”

Asked if there is anything that he and Baselworld management would have done differently given the benefit of hindsight, he responded: “I assume all our decisions [but] we cannot rewrite the past.”

Looking to the future, Loris-Melikoff said in the MCH Group statement, “Together with the exhibitors and visitors, we are working intensively on clarifying and discussing the requirements and options for new platforms.”

"The priority was to find a solution that would enable us to close 2020, reimburse exhibitors, pay suppliers, and then be able to think calmly and collegially about what to do next"

Speaking to Jeweller, he expanded on the plans, saying that “expert interviews, followed by a survey” were being conducted in order to “design a new product that responds to the needs of our exhibitors, visitors, buyers and journalists”.

He said that he aims for the results of the research to be released by the end of June.

“Baselworld has to organise itself with the interests of the industries, with the different players and the buyers in mind,” he said, pointing to the various and wide range of product categories for which the Swiss show has always catered.

“An independent watch brand of the Swiss Jura does not have the same needs as a diamond dealer in New York. It’s up to us, Baselworld, as a trade show organiser, to hear these needs – taking into account the new coronavirus travel and security aspects – and to meet them.”

When asked whether Baselworld would return in 2022, Loris-Melikoff said, “It is too early to talk about 2021 or 2022. Of course, I am disappointed not to have been able to present all the new features and formats that we had prepared [for 2020] – to name a few: partnerships with the major auction houses, the hosting of the technical sector, the creation of a large Forum with more than 25 internationally renowned speakers, the creation of the Community District, and the Watch Incubator and Watch Gallery – so many ideas, with the strong support of industry players.

“[But] things have turned out differently. I am now looking to the future and am highly motivated to progress in the transformation... My mission is not to let down all the brands who have trusted us, some of them for decades.”

With Baselworld now in the midst of a comprehensive restructuring phase and the next show, if it continues to be presented in that format, still two years away, it is clear the international luxury industry has lost a key event in its annual calendar.

In turn, there can be no doubt that the watch industry – and in particular, the Swiss watch industry – will undergo some restructuring as a result of the economic crisis driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Where Baselworld finds itself in that time remains to be seen.

 

More reading: 
The rise and fall of Baselworld: a complete timeline
LVMH withdraws TAG Heuer, Zenith, Hublot from Baselworld
Baselworld responds as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard abandon show; future in doubt
Uproar: Baselworld exhibitors demand full refund
Baselworld calls on industry to work together
An unexpected opportunity to resolve the Swiss watch industry's problems
Baselworld 2020 cancelled











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Wednesday, 03 June, 2020 01:29am
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