By Michelle Graff
Attendance at Baselworld declined 4 percent year-over-year, and show organizers have announced that the 2018 edition of the watch and jewelry show will be shorter by two days.
Basel, Switzerland--As the show concluded Thursday in Switzerland, Baselworld organizers issued a press release confirming what was obvious to anyone who went to the annual watch and jewelry show: attendance was down.

A total of 106,000 buyers from more than 100 countries attended Baselworld 2017, down 4 percent from 2016.

The drop marks the fourth year in a row the Swiss watch and jewelry show has marked a single-digit year-over-year decrease in buyer attendance, as it was down 4 percent in 2014, 3 percent in 2015 and another 3 percent last year.

All told, buyer attendance has fallen off about 30 percent in the past four years, from more than 150,000 to just over 100,000.

Due to what Managing Director Sylvie Ritter described as a “challenging phase” for the industry, particularly for smaller companies, show organizers are shortening the show from eight to six days next year and will be adjusting prices accordingly.

Baselworld 2018 is scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 22 and end the following Tuesday, March 27.

The fact that Baselworld 2017 saw attendance decline and reported a 13 percent drop in the number of exhibitors should come as no surprise.

Though it is a touted as a watch and jewelry show, the centerpiece of Baselworld are the Swiss watchmakers, many of which are grappling with declining sales.

Statistics from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry show that Swiss watch exports were down 10 percent last year in value terms and have returned to 2011 levels, erasing the gains made between 2011 and 2014.

It was the second year in a row that Swiss watch exports have dropped. A sharp decline in demand in Asia, particularly Hong Kong, fueled much of the decline, though demand also was soft in the United States and Europe.

At a press conference held the day before the show opened, organizers fielded questions from reporters about the future of the struggling show and possible changes that could be made to boost attendance.

One journalist asked if organizers have considered moving the dates of the show to January to coincide with SIHH, eliminating the need for people to travel to Switzerland twice in a short span of time, while another asked if show organizers would consider holding Baselworld every two years instead of annually.

These suggestions were roundly rejected, with show organizers maintaining that the purpose of Baselworld is to present to the “novelties” in jewelry and watchmaking every year, in the spring in Basel.

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