Jewellery brands have more choice than ever of global events at which to meet existing and new clients, even as bad economic news continues to take its toll on the international luxury market. Richemont, for example, reported a 3 per cent decline in profits for the final quarter of 2015 and cancelled this year’s Watches & Wonders fair in Hong Kong.
Each event serves its own purpose. In the last month alone, jewellers could reach wealthy individuals in Doha or fashion fine jewellery customers during Paris Fashion Week. Executives and designers agree, however, that no other show is close to having the same scale as Baselworld.
More than 1,500 watch and jewellery brands are exhibiting and visitor numbers this year are expected to remain stable at 150,000. While there may be complaints behind closed doors about the show’s expense and a perception that jewellers fall below watch brands in its pecking order, most companies still regard it as the year’s key event.
“It is the most expensive show of the year. And it’s also the best show of the year, in terms of the amount of clients you get and the calibre of business you get,” says Michael Hakimian, chief executive of Yoko London, who attends about 20 major trade shows a year.
“Basel is demanding for us, but it deserves the preparation and investment,” agrees Greek designer Nikos Koulis, who is exhibiting for the fifth year; he says every year has been better in terms of sales than the last. “For 2013-14 we grew 20 per cent. For 2014-15, it was approximately 13-15 per cent,” he says, adding that the slight slowdown last year reflected market turbulence in France, Ukraine and Russia.
Amrapali, the Indian jeweller, took a break of seven years before returning to Baselworld in 2015. Tarang Arora, chief executive and creative director, says the decision to return after being awarded an improved stand location close to Hall One has paid off in terms of sales. “Location is key in any show but especially at Baselworld. We get a lot of passing footfall from the top brands.” This year the company has made additional investments to its stand, including handcrafted Indian cabinets and mirrors.
For Garrard, “Baselworld is a pinnacle event,” says head of sales Laura Davidge. Its luxurious two-floor, 292 sq ft stand gives the British heritage jeweller an opportunity to present new products in the best light to both international wholesale partners and press.
“Our participation at Basel has aided in increasing our international wholesale partner network over the past four years approximately fourfold,” she adds.
After 16 years at Baselworld, however, Stephen Webster is not exhibiting this year. The company has its own extensive store network as well as strong wholesale relationships. This, together with the collapse of Russian-speaking market, meant “we couldn’t justify the costs any more”, he says. “The rent on my Rodeo Drive store in Beverly Hills is less in one year than Baselworld is in eight days.” He will revisit the situation in future. “We’ll see how Baselworld intends to connect me with my client.”