In the lead up to Baselworld, the industry can be forgiven for speculating what this year’s show was going to be like.
The news was out, “Baselworld slashes exhibitor numbers by half as it focuses on quality over quantity”. It sounded like a good PR headline, against potentially damaging news.
The reason for certain big companies pulling out varied, and certainly in the jewellery hall there was a sense that many didn’t want to stop exhibiting at the show but rather felt pushed out as Baselworld closed the halls they used to showcase in.
Many told me they were still going to attend, if anything to see what it was like, and I for one was certainly intrigued.
Arriving at the show on a sunny Saturday afternoon, it didn’t take long to realise Baselworld had in fact not lost its sparkle yet.
There was still a buzz around the show, smiles on people’s faces, UK retailers to be seen galore, and a general feeling that this was a trade show that could not be missed.
Yes, some big brands were missing, but Baselworld did a good job at making the halls still feel full and exciting, and it wasn’t until I started reflecting on my time at the show that I even remembered some of the companies I used to visit that were no long exhibiting.
I for one still had many brands to see, and for the third year in a row was dashing around the halls like a kid in a candy shop gawping at exceptional gemstones and snapping pictures of the latest SS18 designs.
And it wasn’t just the press who were extremely busy, the retailers we spoke said the same – there was still lots of business to be done in Baselworld.
That leaves us to last but not least consider the exhibitors themselves, how did they feel about this year’s edition?
Well actually, every exhibitor we spoke to was extremely positive about the smaller show.
In fact, for jewellery exhibitors, the loss of other jewellery stands meant that retailers were less overwhelmed when they walked through the jewellery halls and had more time to spend exploring new brands and booking longer appointments then they would usually.
Many met with UK retailers and felt positive they would be opening new accounts in the next few months, while others attracted international interest and left Switzerland knowing they would be entering new markets.
These exhibitors weren’t being naïve, they didn’t ignore the fact that times are a-changing and that next year might be a different story, and they also acknowledged that the real fruit will be seen in the next few months when they can count how many accounts they actually opened off the back of appointments from the show, but they were pleased they were present this year.
I know this is just the point of view of the jewellery brands I managed to see during my three days at the show, and it does not paint a picture of the watch side of things (read the editor of our sister publication WatchPro’s thoughts here), or the companies I didn’t manage to speak to, but it is true 2018 wasn’t as bad as the industry feared.
Being shorter and smaller made the show more concentrated, which many claim to be a positive development, but that’s not to say Baselworld is safe.
The rumour mill has already begun that some of the shows biggest exhibitors may not return next year, and it almost certainly will never be as ‘grand’ as it used to be.
Exhibitors also said footfall was down, with some saying they may not have seen the same amount of people but the appointments they did have were of high quality, while others found themselves missing important clients.
So, while the show managed to shine for many jewellery brands this year, there are certainly some changes to be made to make sure Baselworld remains relevant for years to come, and 2019 could prove to be a more difficult edition than this year.