Monday, January 2, 2017

Perhaps it is Time for a Royal Marriage

This year and the year preceding it have already proven to be wildly unusual.  Jobs lost, companies on the brink, some fat cats getting even fatter.  It is not necessarily always survival of the fittest ; )

But I would like to float an idea that I think is a good one, which means that the people who could intact it will, of course, not do it ; )

And the idea is simple - perhaps it is time for a "shot-gun" wedding between the SIHH show and BaselWorld.  Because with the geopolitical realities being what they are, it is becoming less and less of a reasonable "ask" to drag retailers and journalists to two different shows at great expense in the span of 60 - 70 days.  Logic had been that these were two very different shows - if the shows were department stores then the SIHH would be Saks Fifth Avenue, BaselWorld would be Macy's. And I guess that would make the Las Vegas shows Kmart.  But these past few years have proven that some realities can no longer be ignored:

1.  Sales are not going to magically rebound in the foreseeable future.  Brands have cancelled movement orders for the next 2 years.  This means that they do not envision selling beyond what they currently ALREADY HAVE ON HAND for the next 18 - 24 months.  In addition, with the less than 12 months until Swissness enforcement, there is not just a mountain, but a veritable alpine range of watches that need to be shifted before any large number of new watches can be considered.  Owing to this, brands need to focus more on the wants and needs of the customer - both existing and potential.  And it is not easy to reach all of these people from behind a velvet rope several thousands of miles away in the rarified air of Geneva.

2.  Media outlets are either closing up or shifting their focus.  Digital is growing but that has created some interesting challenges and opportunities.  Some who formally declared that bloggers were nothing more than dilettantes and "fan boys" with a blogger account and a wifi connection have been "born again" as electronic journalists.  Some with more success than others.  But more interesting is the death of several print outlets.  In the US this is a cause of consternation for some, but also underscores a certain reality.  There is always going to be some want for printed watch coverage.  But  with more and more people becoming more and more comfortable getting their coverage from their phones and tablets, well there is less and less of a demand for print.  I believe that the US can support maybe 3 different print outlets.  The problem is that we currently have four (some will argue more) and they are pretty much exactly the same with exactly the same formulas.  Until a print outlet shows some courage and tries something different, then it will continue to be an overcrowded playing field.  As brands see less and less of a difference, they will funnel their advertising budgets to the one or two with the greatest distribution.  This will leave some outlets adrift and sooner or later they will have to pull the plug.  And as advertising money is getting thinner and thinner on the ground, fewer outlets will be able to justify the expense of sending 2 or 3 people to Geneva and to Basel.

3.  Most brands end up attending both shows in some manner or other.  This is the particularly dopey part.  Why should I pay to visit both fairs if I am the retail partner when I can go to BaselWorld, then have my sales rep meet me there?  Alternatively take two extra days and visit the factory or HQ?  And as for the journalists, unless they are traveling on someone else's dime, they are hesitant to stump up their own funds twice over such a short period of time.

So maybe it is time to combine these two shows.  SIHH is, I am sure, a lavishly beautiful event.  I declined my invitation this year somewhat on principle - the company organizing the fair on the behalf of Richemont are pretty rude and frankly, should be dumped.  There, I've said it.  And it is interesting to note that more and more people are skipping SIHH - just like last year.  Moreover, several brands are skipping BaselWorld as well.  Meaning that there is, indeed, space for everyone.

But ultimately, this all comes down to ego.  Can the egos be compromised for the good of the brands and the overall good of the industry?  Probably not, but wouldn't it be nice?

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