Baselworld was home to over 1500 exhibitors during its peak years ten years ago including watchmakers, jewelers, gems and equipment suppliers. This year, that number was down to 520. Richemont brands exhibit at SIHH, Swatch Group has its own event in Zurich, Movado invites retailers to a ski resort, Fossil drags people to its office block down the road and several brands including Breitling hold smaller events around the world.
Despite this, Baselworld’s managing director Michel Loris-Melikoff says there will be around 20% more exhibitors in 2020 than earlier this year.
“We will have more exhibitors than in 2019 by a clear margin. The question now is whether we will be over 600 or over 650. This year was exactly 520. People have started to realize that things are changing,” he tells WatchPro exclusively in an interview to be published in November.
If that sounds like the sort of arrogance for which Baselworld was once famed, think again. Mr Loris-Melikoff is a pragmatist and ready to stay abreast of changes sweeping through the industry.
One of those changes is the desire of brands to meet retailers, press and customers in their own markets, rather than once a year in the universally maligned city of Basel.
“Baselworld has to go to where the market is. We are working very seriously on this issue,” Mr Loris-Melikoff reveals.
“Next year we are going to present details of the first destination for a new show; that is for sure,” he adds.
Accepting that watch brands would like to spend less, not more, on exhibitions, he realizes that the cost of exhibiting in Basel has to come down so that budget can be freed up to spend at other shows around the world. One idea to keep a lid on costs is to reduce the cost of building stands. To that end, Baselworld is looking to nudge brands away from the mega stands that take six weeks to build and another month to break down by drawing up new rules on the maximum height allowed.
Mr Loris-Melikoff insists that stand building accounts for 40-50% of the cost of exhibiting at Baselworld and only 15% is spent on the square meter floor space. Cut the cost of the build and you free up money to spend on space somewhere else in the world. Limit the size and complexity of the stands, and they might even fit into containers that can tour the globe.
And there may even be a single registration point for multiple shows. “Maybe in the future it will be that when a visitor checks in here at Baselworld they will automatically be registered to attend another event in Miami or Manhattan,” Mr Loris-Melikoff hints.