News reached the North Shore offices of Tempus Fugit that in the ongoing struggle between two egomaniacal show organizations, two more brands have slipped through the rapacious grasp of "The Fair Formerly Known As BaselWorld". Louis Moinet and Rebellion have both decamped to the SIHH. And yes sports fans, what that really means is that in 2022, you will likely see both brands head south to Geneva.
What began as a rivalry and morphed into a battle of attrition has now devolved into a rather humiliating smackdown. In fairness, Louis Moinet and Rebellion do not a fair make, but add this to the raft of brands that fled prior to lock down - Rolex, Patek and others, and you really begin to understand that there is probably more at work here than simply a desire to speak French as opposed to German.
Make no mistake, watch fairs will come back after COVID. One historian/economist has mused that post COVID-19 will likely be similar to post Spanish Flu pandemic which ushered in the Roaring 20s. Yes, there was also the end of the Great War, but those two things together had radically changed the world for several years. Peace and a cootie-free environment drove economic growth, and also a strong desire to re-connect to the world at large. But contrary to what the suits in Basel would have you believe, this is still at least 9 months away. That is still very positive news, but the successful control of COVID is not something that can simply be willed into happening. And claiming that "every safety precaution will be taken" does not fill me (and clearly not many others) with confidence.
But with that being said, if the folks in Basel could wait a beat, take this year to try and actually connect with the brands on a level beyond simply getting their money, they have a real opportunity to create a much better show. And as someone who has been to several of these, let me state clearly - a fashion show, expensive sports cars, and over-priced in-hall restaurants with ridiculous waiting times to be served are not innovative ideas. But here are a few crazy ones that might work, should anyone in Basel be listening:
1. Provide brands with a fair price. Period.
2. Accept the reality that you are no longer viewed as necessary. Quit the strongman tactics. FOMO is no longer a realistic negotiating tool.
3. Regain your customer's trust.
4. Make the show length realistic. In truth, the fair should not go beyond the Monday. Traffic dwindles down to next to nothing. Have the show from Wednesday (press day) through Monday. Given the much smaller number of brands, journalists and retailers, this will be better for EVERYONE.
5. Start treating the brands, journalists and retail partners as if you actually care whether or not they attend your event.
6. Go small now so that you can grow back into being big.