Hey everyone, back from Baselworld and back from the dead!
Yes, it certainly seems that way doesn't it? A story every few weeks instead of one or two a day? Yeah, I'm not very good at juggling the requirements of a daily read website vs a monthly published magazine!
But here you go, and the news now is that Baselworld sucks. Or to put in context, it has been shrinking in size for the last two or three years. This year though has seen a massive drop in the number of exhibitors in the halls of Messeplatz. So what's going on and why should you care?
Not caring is fine
And that's the God honest truth. If you want to buy a watch tomorrow and you have a rough idea of what you want, then this Baselworld nonsense has nothing to do with you.
But if you need to connect the dots between brands and retailers and suppliers and everyone in between, then yes, Baselworld being on the skids is definitely something to keep an eye on. If you're someone in the industry, no matter how distant you are from the actual manufactures, Baselworld affects how you do business. So here's the skinny on what you need to know:
- Greed is not a good thing. For at least the last five years, there has been a steady criticism that Swiss watchmakers are asking too much for their watches. But then at Baselworld, they are made to pay a fortune to be seen among their peers and for the world's media to get a taste of the coming collections and pieces. So something has to give and it turned out to be that the fair is something expendable especially if you are an expensive brand. Then you have SIHH in Geneva in January to be your new beau.
- Is it as bad as has been reported? Yes and no. The bulk of the clients that left Baselworld were the small to medium sized jewellers. You could find these guys in Hall 3 or something to that affect. But at no point did those guys get the kind of foot traffic or media coverage that was afforded to the watch brands. Simply put, Baselworld is a watch fair first and the jewellers were along for the ride. Jacob & Co, Graff et al have timepieces that they stick diamonds and other precious stones on. Short of that, and as cruel as it sounds, no one is likely to care. Even this year, the few valiant brands that stayed and shifted into Hall 1.1 were pretty much a ghost town for the most part. But for me and most other media, it was business as usual. I actually saw more brands this year than last. Throw in the email clients and Baselworld 2018 has easily been a big step up compared to Baselworld 2017.
- Mounting anger is also something to think about. Like point #1 about greed, there is a large and increasingly vocal pushback against the nonsensical pricing of hotels and other accommodations. See for yourself on sites like Booking.com or Agora.com. Check how much the same hotel charges for Baselworld week and then for the rest of the year! Should there be an increase, yes as that is business during high demand. But giving an entire industry the feeling that they are being sodomised is never a good idea. So when the fair began to experience turbulence, the abused masses have been quick to put the boot in!
Will the show go on?
Yes, for the time being any way.
Baselworld is more than just brands and media. Hall 2 has the suppliers assembled as well as accessory makers and other smaller brands that see their worldwide retailers at this fair. So while losing Hermes to SIHH may have the headlines on most watch sites, it's the bread and butter guys that need to be taken care of and that will keep the fair going strong. I did see a marked absence of the wonderful machines and other technologies brands use to make watches. So that's somewhat concerning.
A trade fair is where everyone sees everyone else. The packaging guys want to see the brands and vice versa. Brands also have the option of seeing new parts suppliers and deals can be done. That's the backbone of Baselworld. It's the Swiss watch trade in one place, talking to each other and making things happen. Throw in the Japanese who were very visible this year in brands like Citizen, Seiko and Casio and that's the bulk of the world's watch trade. If everyone, especially the folks who run the fair take a reasonable view of pricing and also make some inroads to the association of hotels and what not, Baselworld will likely flourish very quickly.
2018 has more or less been a market correction. It is up to those in charge to take the necessary steps to make Baselworld fun and, more importantly, viable again.