By Michelle Graff
The 2019 edition of the Baselworld watch and jewelry trade show closed Tuesday in Switzerland with management outlining the details of a three-year turnaround plan for the show, which has seen the number of exhibitors and attendees decline for the past six years.
Basel, Switzerland—The statistics from Baselworld 2019 should not come as a surprise to anyone.

The number of exhibitors was down 20 percent from 2018, to 520 brands.

The watch and jewelry trade show counted 81,200 visitors, a 22 percent year-over-year drop, while media attendance suffered the least, dropping 12 percent to 3,300.

It is the sixth year in a row that Baselworld has seen both the number of exhibitors and attendees shrink.

The message new Managing Director Michel Loris-Melikoff relayed after presenting these figures: Yes, show organizers know both the number of exhibitors and attendees is down.

They are working on turning around the watch and jewelry trade show, but they cannot—and do not have the money to—fix everything at once.

2018 Michel Loris MelikoffBaselworld Managing Director Michel Loris-Melikoff, who started running the show in July after Sylvie Ritter resigned. “We were in a downward spiral,” Loris-Melikoff said. “The job now is to invert the direction.”

At the show’s closing press conference held Tuesday afternoon in Basel, Loris-Melikoff shared some details of the three-year turnaround management has crafted for the watch and jewelry trade show, a plan that will begin with the 2020 edition.

To start, Baselworld has changed its tagline from “The Watch and Jewellery Show” to “The Watch and Jewellery Community,” reflecting organizers’ aim to expand the scope of Baselworld from a week-long business-to-business show to a 365-day-a-year resource for the watch and jewelry industries, servicing both the trade and consumers.

Prices for exhibitors will come down 10 to 30 percent next year, depending on the exhibitor’s hall and position, and Baselworld is simplifying its pricing structure, charging a flat fee calculated using hall and booth square footage.

Organizers plan to reopen Hall 2.0 and move both the gemstone and pearl dealers and the national pavilions there.

Also planned for Hall 2.0 in 2020 is an “Innovation and Digital Transformation Zone” that will include space for smart watches and wearables and will be “urban, dynamic and young,” Loris-Melikoff said, designed to appeal to younger people.
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Future plans floated at Wednesday’s press conference included a retailer summit, an event for CEOs to meet up and discuss current challenges, and education events for consumers that could involve pulling in watch and jewelry schools in Switzerland and France.

Show organizers also will keep the expanded press lounge for 2020, though Loris-Melikoff noted that it might not be right off the show floor in Hall 1.0, depending on which exhibitors return to the show.

And that seems to be the ultimate question hanging over the once-mighty watch and jewelry trade show as the 2019 edition drew to a close: Which major brands will come back?

Loris-Melikoff said in response to a reporter’s question that while show organizers are in constant conversation with exhibitors, they do not yet know the major brands’ plans for 2020, which mirrors what many exhibitors told National Jeweler during the course of the show—they have not yet made up their minds about 2020.

One exhibitor who attended Tuesday’s closing press conference, Julien Rotstein of Amsterdam-based Tirisi Jewelry, spoke up in defense of the show, saying that exhibitors must be proactive when attending trade shows, reaching out to their clients to encourage them to attend, and arranging on-the-ground hospitality, like airport pickups and dinners.

“We as exhibitors have a role to play,” he said, before issuing a tough truth about business today.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever get back to the number of exhibitors in the past, simply because there are fewer jewelers. Retail has changed and will continue to change.”

Baselworld 2020 is scheduled for April 30-May 5, back-to-back with SIHH in Geneva, which moved its show from January to April 26-29.

The agreement for the two shows to take place consecutively extends through 2024.

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