Baselworld – Long Since Purely A Luxury Watch And Jewelry ShowMarch 29, 18
What better illustration of the changing nature of the diamond and jewelry business than the transformation of the Baselworld watch and jewelry show from the behemoth of years past to its current smaller and leaner profile.
The 2018 show ended on Tuesday after six days compared with the previous eight-day affair. Even more surprising was the sharp drop in the number of exhibitors to 600-650 from 1,500 in years gone by. Have hundreds of exhibitors become fed up with the cost and relative low value for money of attending the fair, or was it because Baselworld's organizers decided to reduce the length of the show and the number of exhibitors to make it smaller and more focused?
Clearly, Baselworld will claim the latter, but there is no doubt that companies have been voting with their feet in recent years not wanting to renew contracts. Baselworld organizers – rather undiplomatically – have spoken about being more interested in quality than quantity. But smaller exhibitors, in any case, have long felt that they were being milked for large amounts of money in order to take part in a show where they were not the focus and seemed to be just the padding.
I remember visiting the show for the first time in the middle of the last decade. I wasn't exactly new to tradeshows, but Baselworld fairly blew me away. The size of the event staggered me. Even the press center was impressive, with all-day food and drink, computer terminals and telephones that were free to use, all on a far larger scale than any of the other, smaller, shows that I had attended up to that point. And the press conference held by the organizers was far larger even than those I had attended even when writing for Reuters covering pretty big events.
A client had asked me to write an article on a certain theme and to interview diamond jewelers at the show. But how to decide who to interview and quote? There were so many to choose from that it somehow seemed wrong to select one firm and not another. Round and round I walked, from one floor to another, trying to decide who to speak to. In the end I simply selected jewelry firms from India, Belgium, New York and Israel as that seemed the most equitable thing to do.
On the other hand, walking around the halls hosting sellers of loose diamonds and gemstones was a dispiriting affair even then. Seemingly relegated to halls far from the action and well off the beaten path, those firms saw low foot traffic. Even at that time - 2006 – many companies had come to the conclusion that they were wasting time and money at the fair.
I remember interviewing a former senior figure from the Israeli diamond trade who had a booth at the show. Back on his home turf, he was always busy and, because of his position in the exchange, constantly on the go either in official or business meetings. How different he looked standing somewhat forlornly at his booth, almost desperate for potential buyers to stop by.
All of this is not to say that the show is not a perfect fit for many exhibitors. The big luxury brands are still taking part because this is where business has long taken place and where you have to be seen. They don't so much have booths as temporary luxury houses/offices of at least two floors. These makers of high-end watches and jewelry may be users of diamonds and gemstones in their often extraordinary creations, but they are not the diamond industry jewelry players which make the items that most consumers around the world buy.
Sellers of polished diamonds and diamond jewelry have become far more choosy over the past decade or so. Where once they were willing to take a chance on exhibiting at a fair such as Baselworld, those days have long gone. Quite sensibly, they are looking for a shorter fair that costs less and that has the kind of visitors they can turn into buyers.
From everyone at IDEX, Happy Passover/Easter!