Friday, November 12, 2021

Stick A Fork In It

It seems that last call has come around for Baselworld. Long story short, what was once THE WATCH FAIR has  said: "no mas", at least for the foreseeable future.

Remember that warm and fuzzy message that Baselworld was, to quote that other great commentator on the watch business - Kool Moe Dee:
Comin' back, like "Return of the Jedi" ?

Well, apparently not so much. It would seem that the much vaunted 24/7/365 Baselworld Spirit is now nothing more than the wistful memories of a romantic encounter years before. 

Early this morning, news limped into the North Shore HQ of Tempus Fugit that Baselworld 2 - Electric Boogaloo was going to be on hiatus for yet another year, and that Managing Director Michel Loris-Melikoff would be dusting off his resume and pursuing other professional challenges.

Here is the press release, in its entirety:

Press Release:
Baselworld relaunch needs more time

Basel 12 November 2021

Baselworld organizers have decided to take more time for the launch of the new concept. Baselworld, scheduled for spring 2022, will therefore not take place. This decision is based on the one hand on the experience gained from the Pop Up Event at the Geneva Watch Days and on intensive discussions with manufacturers and retailers. On the other hand, it takes into account the fact that it is particularly difficult to launch a new concept for a new target segment due to the renewed aggravation of the COVID situation and the associated uncertainty among customers. 

"Over the past few months, we have studied in detail our Watches, Jewellery and Gems ecosystem and gained important insights from discussions with major industry representatives," says Beat Zwahlen, CEO of the MCH Group. "The conclusion is that the market exists for a B:B:C platform that brings together medium-sized and specialized manufacturers with independent retailers. But their needs must be analyzed in more detail. This means we need to have significantly more time to get there." 

In the coming months, therefore, an interdisciplinary team from the MCH Group will analyze the target segments and, in close exchange with manufacturers and retailers, make a deep dive into their marketing and transaction needs. In this context, particular attention will be paid to the latest trends in marketing and distribution with a view to the post-pandemic period, especially internationalization and digitization. The goal remains to create added value for the community's business in its target markets with the internationally anchored Baselworld brand and innovative platforms. 

Due to the cancellation of Baselworld 2022, Managing Director Michel Loris-Melikoff has decided to leave the company and take on a new challenge. Loris-Melikoff had taken over the management of Baselworld in 2018 under difficult conditions and brought it to a successful execution in 2019. In a short period of time, he managed to gain access to the industry and win its respect. He initiated and helped shape the necessary transformation and repositioning of Baselworld. The MCH Group regrets his decision. It thanks him for his tireless commitment and wishes him all the best for his future engagements.

Well, there is a lot to unpack here, but as we say in the mediation game, Baselworld  didn't get here overnight. And unlike what a horny teenage boy might whisper in your ear at the drive-in movie, you don't get a "little bit pregnant".

So let's reconstruct part of the series of events that led us here, shall we?

1.    For the past several years - let's say from 2016 to the final gasp in 2019, Baselworld has been shedding participating brands at an ever increasing rate. The stated explanations were myopic at best. The message was consistently - We at Baselworld are AWESOME, and if you are too foolish to see that, then we never wanted you anyway!

And then...

2.      Swatch Group, en masse, gently explained what Baselworld could do with their fair and the associated expenses. And of course all sorts of platitudes were issued from the fair organizers as to how much better Baselworld would be without Swatch Group! Spacious, well appointed areas encouraging customers, brands and retailers to interact! Well, we waited, and we saw...
Shamelessly borrowed from the worldwide infoweb

Baselworld 2019 already had the stink of death, and eerily resembled a midwestern shopping mall in a once prosperous, now forgotten factory town that was once bustling but now deserted since the factory that employed half the town shut down.

At the final go-round in 2019, you could have literally driven a double-wide trailer through the center of Hall 1 and not hit a thing. No amount of impromptu fashion shows, or Lamborghinis on pedestals managed to change that reality.

3.     Avarice - like a grasping bully, the Baselworld sales team in 2020 attempted to get money from every brand that it could, even when the organizers had already decided to cancel the fair. If you signed a contract (even if you did so the day before the cancelation notice went out) you would be getting regular, sometimes rather menacing communications insisting that you pay up, even though the fair was not going to happen. 

And the result?  Well, let's just say that the people running watch brands don't tend to forget that type of experience. So when the call went out for participants for the next iteration of Baselworld, there were very few takers.

Where are your friends when you need them?

4.    You don't tug on Superman's cape - Rolex, Patek and some of the other big dogs decided that enough was enough, and announced their departure.

And that final group departure effectively sucked all of the remaining oxygen from Hall 1. 

And what then remained? Nothing but broken dreams and the unpleasant odor of a bargain priced cologne, flamboyantly labeled: 

"Baselworld Sprit!"  

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