Baselworld 2009 opens in tough times
|Number of buyers seen down from 2008|
|By James Clatford|
BASEL, March 26, 2009 – Baselworld 2009, the world’s premier luxury trade fair, opened on Thursday against a backdrop of falling profitability in the jewellery and watches sector, and organisers said the number of buyers was expected to be down from 2008.
The main watches hall was crammed with visitors shortly after the show opened its doors, but outlying fine jewellery halls were much quieter.
Sylvie Ritter, show director of Baselworld, said in a speech on Press Day on Wednesday that the economic
crisis had triggered very few cancellations, and that well-established brands were weathering the storm.
“I admit (predict) that the number of buyers this year will definitely be down on last year,” she said. “However, this does not mean that a lot of retailers and wholesalers will miss the trade show. No, buyers will definitely be present, but the delegations will be smaller due to economic instability.”
Ritter said more exhibition space was dedicated to watches at Baselworld 2009 than last year. Forty companies had invested in building a new stand in order to showcase their brands, she added.
“There have only been very few cancellations from the jewellery sector, which has been heavily affected by the crisis, mainly due to bankruptcy,” she said. “Nevertheless, all jewellery companies which are well-positioned on the international market have continued to participate.”
Ritter said the economic crisis had encouraged market players to seek refuge in established institutions which have stood the test of time — including Baselworld. She said Baselworld was fully booked with regard to the gems and pearls sector despite the severe economic climate.
Baselworld is a prized event in the global jewellery and watches industry. Some exhibitors hope to achieve up to 50 percent of their orders for the year here. But the industry has reported falling sales and profits, and industry observers expect orders to fall year-on-year, with the smallest and least established brands suffering the most.
|Sylvie Ritter, show director, Baselworld|
Jacques Duchene, president of the exhibitors’ committee, said in a speech on Press Day that the key for watch-makers to pull through the present crisis was to:
• Have a good financial base;
• Control production while continuing to invest in research and development;
• Demonstrate creativity;
• Control costs and quality in a stringent manner;
• Pay close attention to the distribution of their product; and
• Ensure irreproachable after-sales service on a global scale.
Exports of Swiss timepieces slid 22 percent in February, the fourth straight monthly decline.
Before the global economic slowdown, the Swiss watch industry had boomed as bankers and ultra-wealthy people paid staggering sums for exclusive watches. But the current round of job and bonus cuts has sharply eroded demand from the former “masters of the universe”.
Despite the crisis, Duchene said he was optimistic for the outlook. “Whatever happens, business will pick up again one day,” he said.
“At that time, companies of all sizes need to look into the manner in which they approach the future in relation to their own development.”
Ritter said that Baselworld was still very much recognised for its importance to the global watches and jewellery community.
She said, “I remind myself of what a buyer recently said: `It doesn’t matter whether the economic situation is good or bad, taking part in the trade show is voluntary. But not being in Basel is simply unthinkable!”