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BREAKING NEWS: Baselworld outlines its vision for the future of the show

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Baselworld has announced its plans for the future at a press conference on the last day of this year’s exhibition.

Broadcasting via an often-interrupted live stream on Baselworld’s website, the show’s managing director Michel Loris-Melikoff outlined his vision for the next few years of Baselworld.

With speculation about even the very existence of Baselworld rife among brands, retailers and the press during this year’s event, Loris-Melikoff is hoping that the changes that he wants to introduce will convince current exhibitors to sign up for at least another year, while also luring those potential exhibitors that are sitting on the fence.

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Starting with a healthy dose of realism, some cold facts about Baselworld 2019 were displayed on a giant screen. This showed that there had been 81,200 visitors (a reduction of 22% from last year), 520 brands exhibiting (down 20% from 2018) and 3,300 individuals attending from media outlets (12% down).

In light of this, a big emphasis was placed on ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ – two words which were used a lot – and a focus on expanding and diversifying the role that Baselworld plays, beyond just a traditional trade show model.

Details were scarce and buzzwords plentiful, but the general theme seems to be to embrace the digital world more and more. E-concierges, AR, VR and Instagram Spots were all mentioned, mostly to a crowd of raised eyebrows.

A simpler pricing structure that will involve price reductions of 10-30% for exhibitors in certain areas of the show, as well as greater support for booth construction by the organisers, will be of a lot more interest, in the short term at least, to companies considering their presence in Basel in 2020.

Loris-Melikoff’s claim that the show’s ‘Hospitality Programme’ for this year had been a success seemed a bogus one. Prices at restaurants and hotels seemed as high as ever, with the standards of service and food/drink coming nowhere close to justifying these high prices. This is something that will need to be improved upon significantly in 2020.

All the changes and plans mentioned will cost a lot of money, Loris-Melikoff said, and therefore will take three years to be fully implemented. In other words, don’t expect everything to be fixed by next year.

The Q&A at the end of the press conference shed arguably more light on things than the presentation itself, with the issue of dates for 2020 being raised. WatchPro has heard from many brands that the proposed dates of 30 April until 5 May next year are far later than ideal, but Loris-Melikoff insisted that it was their only option.

He claimed that January was “too early for the jewellery sector”, February doesn’t work because of the Chinese New Year, March wouldn’t be okay for SIHH because there’s a motor show on in that month that uses the same space (as a reminder, the current proposal is to host SIHH and Baselworld one after the other) so April became the winner by default.

This will be viewed with scepticism by many in the trade, who will also point out that other major exhibitions in the watch and jewellery industries, such as Vicenza and Inhorgenta, already take place in January and February.

Loris-Melikoff played an admirably straight bat when it came to the question about Rolex’s and Patek Philippe’s attendance at Baselworld next year, simply saying that these decisions are out of his control and that he expects “an announcement to be made very soon.”

Baselworld will be hoping that some of the positive changes that were seen this year – and a number of exhibitors at the show this year told WatchPro that they’d had a genuinely productive and worthwhile time – will translate into goodwill and trust across the industry and therefore result in more exhibitors signing up for next year.

Other key points to come from the conference included:

  • The re-opening of Hall 2 in 2020
  • A change of the tag line of Baselworld to: “The Watch and Jewellery Community”
  • A greater emphasis on the jewellery sector, including gems and pearls
  • Pop-up events around the world over the course of 12 months in between instalments of Baselworld. How these will look was not fully explained
  • Another new press centre to be made for the media in 2020

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Daniel Malins

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