Monday, November 13, 2017

There Was Shrinkage!

shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

Yes, BaselWorld is officially shrinking this year.  And given the wailing, wringing of hands and rending of garments from some of my more well-heeled colleagues in the Fourth and Fifth Estate, you'd think we were in end times.  Clearly flying coach and staying in an Air B&B is not a pleasant reality after so many previously well-funded trips ; )  


And what this really underscores is that when times are good (or at least appear that way) you tend not to pay real attention to the bigger picture so long as you're still getting comped travel and wined and dined by sugar-daddy brand managers.  

But you see, gentle reader, I have a different take on this, much of which is down to working on both sides of the booth, and to living in the real world.  And what I have noticed, and frankly anyone attending BaselWorld for the past five years should have noticed, is that the fair has been consistently shrinking over the past few years.  

At first it was subtle.  You'd see a few holes on the floor.  Maybe not quite as many brands as the year before, but hey, that's no big deal.  But then more noticeable shifts happened.  Brands that had been there for years pulled up stakes.  Brands that had said they were only skipping one year then became repeat abstainers.  It was becoming clear that brands could not continue to afford the very high price of presenting.  But the other thing that came along with that was fewer and fewer retailers coming.  And believe it or not, fewer and fewer journalists, bloggers and influencers as well.  And that is a curiously under acknowledged reality.  Because if we are really honest about this, brand come to BaselWorld to meet potential retail partners and maintain the relationships that they have with existing ones.  Meeting the press and those who help spread their message are important too, but the retailers are the really important thing.  And if retailers are going to be there, then believe me, the brands will find a way.

Did the directors of the fair have eyes bigger than their stomachs?  Quite possibly, and from what I understand they did not significantly adjust their prices downward for the upcoming year to reflect the change in circumstances for many brands. 

But this slide has been happening for at least the past three years.  The fair actively acknowledging the new reality is certainly, well, new.  But for anyone who has been actively watching, this is not unique to BaselWorld.  The SIHH can crow and boast, but the attendance there is not set to change the world.  And for those of us in North America, anyone who tells you that JCK / Couture are "must attends" needs to spend less time in the casino bars and more time out in the fresh air.  

The concept of the lavish fair is not going to die anytime soon.  And I don't think it should.  But life moves forward, and evolution is part of that.  

And one last thing - yes the Swiss export numbers keep increasing, as do the number of fairly serious-minded Swiss brands showing up in the grey market.  We all want things to be like they were in the good old days, but as Slim Charles, that other great watch commentator opined -

Courtesy of the Wire


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