Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Denial 2.1

It would seem that every party needs a pooper, and I am feeling like a man who's been constipated for the past few months and is about to be blessed by the results of an all-you can eat buffet of 3-Alarm chili, bran muffins and 15 cups of coffee, so here goes -

Despite what some bubbly, perky, Kool-Aide chuggers masquerading as "influencers" (and just what the f*&k is an influencer anyway?) would have you believe, this year's BaselWorld could best be called one of the worst in recent memories.  The number of retailers from North America - a very real indicator of "BaselWorld health" was drastically reduced from last year which was (wait for it), drastically reduced from the year before...

The fair organizers waxed long and poetic this year about how the departure of 200 or so exhibiting brands was a clear drive for quality, that by cutting out the "riff raff", they were clearly improving the fair.  And then this happened-

Hermès to leave Basel to join SIHH (Courtesy of Le Temps)

Hermès is not exactly a Walmart brand.  And there were plenty of those "off brand" brands alive and well and displaying in Hall 2, so I'm calling bullshit on this one.  

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

Losing Hermès is not unlike your girlfriend breaking up with you the night before Prom to go with your best friend instead.

As I said before, there is essentially one key qualifying factor for having a booth at BaselWorld - the cash to pay for it.

And let's talk about where all that cash goes...
As a member of the press, I truly do appreciate some of the largesse bestowed upon me and my fellow flaks.  I will say the atmosphere took an ugly turn during Monday's lunch when they ran out of sandwiches, but sometimes you have to fight for your meal, and I do apologize for throwing that haymaker, but these are battle conditions and my blood sugar was dropping...

But  then let's talk about something else -

Courtesy of Rod Hess
For those of you not familiar, this is a very common sight on the streets that run from the fair grounds to the train station and the 3 Kings.  

Courtesy of Rod Hess
What you see here are two brand new, unwrapped BaselWorld media guides and some other catalogs produced and distributed by a few brands you might have heard of.  They are beautifully laid out books containing hundreds of glossy pages in a hard cover format that weigh enough to push your baggage weight well over the mandated 20 kilos for Swiss Air.  Think I'm full of it?  Wander around the check-in area of Zurich and Basel's airports and you will see people making a quick deliberation between the merits of the hardcover guide (and brand catalogs) and the pounds and pounds of chocolate and swag.  Spoiler alert, the chocolate and swag win every time.

Nobody wants to see BaselWorld do badly.  We enjoy it, it is truly an exciting week.  But it is time for the fair management to take a break from drinking their own bath water and admit that things have changed.  Eliminating the fair "omnibus" would be a good first step in money savings (and would certainly be an eco-friendly move).  And the brands need to follow suit.  The glossy catalogs are a monumental waste of money in their production, shipping and inevitable premature destruction before they are even opened. 

Change is hard.  Change is scary.  I know of several brand managers and sales executives who were summarily dismissed just prior to the fair.  And truth be told, for many of these terminations there were several reasons to cut ties.  The argument could be made that it is all "the factory's fault" for making too many watches and expecting too many sales.  It could also be said that perhaps some of these folks are making fairly impressive base salaries with the motivation to sell being somewhat buffered by a 6 figure guaranteed income.  Business class airfare, premium rental car, $250 daily per diem, these are not the signs of a company or of employees that understand the severity of the current situation.  Brand managers tend to treat budgets as if they are non-profits depending on grant money to survive and if they don't use the entire budget, they'll get less next year.  I would love to see a watch brand reward their staff for coming in UNDER BUDGET in terms of expenses.

It is easy to resist change, to look back on previous good times with the expectation that tomorrow will be better somehow.  But as my colleagues and I constantly remind some of our more reluctant consulting clients, change is only possible when the pain of continuing in the current manner is so dreadfully unimaginable that there are no other possible conceivable alternatives to that change.

Or we can be oblivious with our optimism and declare -


As a lifelong Cleveland Indian's fan, I can relate that there is no guarantee that NEXT YEAR will ever come.


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