Opinion from jewellery on the show floor of this year’s BaselWorld.
Last month’s BaselWorld marked a new era for the world’s largest watch and jewellery show, following a multi-million pound makeover that brought a renewed energy to the show floor. Kathryn Bishop reports on a week in Switzerland.
"D-Day is finally here," announced BaselWorld managing director Sylvie Ritter on April 26, the first day of this year’s most anticipated global jewellery show.
After three years the Basel Messe exhibition halls were finally ready to welcome a throng of journalists, buyers, and jewellery aficionados with 1,000 new stands filling its total 141,000sqm hall space. The new-look Hall 1 and additional areas have cost a total CHF430 million (£297m).
Beyond this fresh exterior lay 1,460 exhibitors from 40 countries waiting to unveil brand new collections to the masses – at the time of Professional Jeweller going to press with its May issue BaselWorld officials had offered a total of about 100,000 visitors to the show over its 10-day period – with much anticipation placed on meeting new clients and international distributors.
In the run-up to this year’s show there was much discussion about the increase in price that many brands were being asked to pay for their stands. While official statistics from BaselWorld show that this year’s largest stand measured 1625m², likely hitting millions of pounds, both big name and smaller companies have felt the affect of the increased price of exhibiting at the show, causing them to downsize or even pull out altogether.
At the press conference held to mark the opening of this year’s show, Jacques J. Duchêne, president of the Exhibitors’ Committee at BaselWorld, said: "Let me begin my thanks with all the exhibitors who have invested appreciable sums in new stands. And I should like to add that this is all the more remarkable, since at no time were we urged to create new stands. Every exhibitor would have been completely free to use the same stand as in previous years if they had wanted to."
His statement was one that caught the attention of the press, following a year in which high-profile brands such as US jeweller David Yurman and, closer to home, Berkshire-based jewellery brand Ungar & Ungar, chose not to take part in the show.
British jeweller Stephen Webster had also been vocal about the demands placed on him and his business to take a larger stand, reaching a compromise this year with a smaller space in Hall 2.2.
He told Professional Jeweller after the close of the 2012 show: “We’ve played ball with the Basel organisers because although the prices have gone up 20% for a stand they said will be capped for some time.”
Silver jewellery brand Ti Sento took on a larger stand in Hall 1.1 at this year’s show, introducing a two-storey space that while only functional on a single floor was positioned close to high jewellery brands such as Roberto Coin and Marco Bicego, offering instant impact.
With impact in mind, it was Swarovski that stole the show among jewellery brand’s at BaselWorld, building a circular stand around the ‘Basel hole’, part of the new architecture of Hall 1. The space, flanked by the likes of Burberry, Mikimoto, Fabergé and Vertu, even led to the area winning the moniker of the ‘Swarovski hall’.
Robert Buchbauer, Swarovski’s chief executive of its consumer goods business, used the Swiss show to showcase some of Swarovski Group’s plans for the coming years, as well as its 2012 turnover, which totalled €3 billion (£2.56bn), with 70% of sales from Swarovski’s mainline jewellery and watch collections.
He also reported on a three-fold increase in sales of its men’s jewellery and watches in the three years since its first men’s pieces were launched, with a 30% growth rate in 2012, as well as plans for Swarovski to acquire already successful jewellery brands in the coming years.
Views among many of the exhibitors and UK distributors hosting appointments at the show were positive, with the fresh upgrade seemingly bringing with it a new energy following a tough 2012 for the global jewellery industry.
Peter Ungar, distributor of Messika in the UK, said that feedback about the diamond brand had been positive from British retailers, many of whom were on the hunt for simple, wearable diamond jewellery. "We have been busy with enquiries from the UK and have had a lot of appointments here at Basel, especially from high-end, Rolex retailers," said Ungar, noting a surprise amount of interest in the brand’s slightly bolder Gatsby range.
Hatton Garden pearl brand Yoko also experienced an influx in interest, in particular from markets further afield than Europe. Its sales and marketing executive Mandy Namdar said: "We have seen evolution of wholesale for the brand with a real surge in interest from Russia and China this year. We have also met with clients from Brazil and Kazakhstan."
A number of brands also spoke of their intentions to increase their presence in the UK, namely Hulchi Belluni – which has just secured a distribution partner for the UK – and Misaki, which currently sells through Harrods’ airport store in Heathrow and Richard Sinton in Newcastle.
Olivia Pasquale, PR Manager for Misaki, a Monaco-based pearl and silver jewellery brand, said the UK market is one it hopes to develop, while its airline sales have also been strong in the past year.
High-end jewellery brands were also keeping an eye on the UK, with Fope hosting a special retailer event in London ahead of BaselWorld to gain opinion on a new line of high-end gold and diamond jewellery called Mia Luce. It placed the range before a set of its existing retailers who gave positive feedback and thus Mia Luce was officially launched at BaselWorld, with sell-through of items already taking place in Harrods in London.
Bridal jewellery companies spoke of a changing customer at this year’s show, as more international buyers seek out British-made diamond jewellery. Domino, which showed for the third time at BaselWorld this year, welcomed enquiries from as far afield as Colombia, while Stubbs & Co. said retailers from Germany had shown interest in its bridal sets. Stubbs director Eran Shem-Tov reported that its six new bridal collections, many of which were angular designs with a brushed finish, were proving popular, as was a yellow gold bridal set called Addison where a single ring appeared as two bands, owing to the placement of the diamonds.
So while costs might have increased for exhibitors, so too had the sense of enthusiasm among buyers and brands in the jewellery halls. If one feeling could have been captured at this year’s show it was a clear desire to push business forward and showcase collections that had adapted and evolved to stand out to today’s ever-demanding consumers.
This feature was taken from the May issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue online, click here.