Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Incredible Shrinking Fair

So news has filtered its way to the North Shore, and if the rather loud whispers are to be believed, it would seem that BaselWorld will be contracting once again.  Hall 2 will be closed and for all intents and purposes, the entire fair will all be in Hall 1 in 2019.

Now for many of us who had to race back and forth between Hall 1 and Hall 2 it meant often being late, and running a very real risk of contracting second-hand lung cancer as we passed through the wall of nervous sales reps and indolent influencers doing their level best to boost tobacco sales by 23% every BaselWeek.  For us, this is not such a bad piece of news.  And if I am being very honest (if unkind) the atmosphere and "decor" of Hall 2 was often more reminiscent of the Jackson, TN Greyhound bus station than of a luxury destination -

Courtesy of
Having gotten off the bus at 11:45 at night at this very station, I can tell you that, well... it's pretty depressing.  

When I worked for DOXA, Hall 2 (somewhat in the right armpit of the building) was where we were located.  The advantage was that the sausage stand was a mere 45 second walk away, the disadvantages?  Too many to count.  When you are in a shitty location, people are more likely to miss their appointments, and not make any effort to reach out for a "make up".  As a rule, nobody goes to Hall 2 unless they have a reason, because the sausage stand has moved across the street.  It just isn't sexy.

And for the fair organizers?  One less building means fewer security guards to pay, lower power bills, etc.  Logistically?  Smoother, easier to deal with.  

In terms of public perception?  Not so good.  Over the last few years we have seen the fair shrink from four halls, now down to one.  The number of attendees (journalists, fans, and retailers) has drastically reduced has well.  And more and more brands have been looking for "alternative" accommodations by renting out cafes, restaurants, shops, even houses rather than drop the cash on space in any of the halls.  And my suspicion is that the powers that be might try to "adjust" pricing to reflect the "exclusivity" of being in Hall 1.  So if you were a brand that was saving some pennies by being in Hall 2, you will be paying Hall 1 prices, or you will be looking for something different.  The question then becomes, will Hall 1 be able to accommodate everyone who wants space?  Or potentially more worrisome, will the potential uptick in price encourage some of the potential tenants to skip the whole thing altogether, leaving a look and feel like a dead shopping mall?

Courtesy of Architectural Afterlife
Let us hope that the new regime in charge of organizing this shin-dig will view it as an opportunity for rebirth and reinvention.  And more than anything else, let's hope they fill the halls and support the brands, the journalists and the retailers - because that will be the true measure of a successful BaselWorld fair.


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