Managing Director Baselworld
There are always reasons of existence and then there are objectives to make those count. There will always be rain so we all appreciate (and enjoy) sunshine. So long that negativity won’t conquer our will to achieve success, our determination to be what we are made of, then those same reasons will only flourish green and vibrant horizons.
The minute the Baselworld organizers announced the number of participants for Baselworld 2018 being dropped to 700 exhibitors from 1300 during the previous years, gossip and rumours showered by the “media” all over the internet with negative impressions about the show. Suddenly, the so called “experienced” minds that were only born yesterday started to produce opinions about how “this is the end of Baselworld” and “it is all collapsing at Baselworld”. Some even spread rumours that the 2018 edition will not even see the light!! What annoys me most about people is when they see a certain change in any capacity or any environment, they immediately think negative. Without showing any respect whatsoever, they turn that change into bad gossip, ugly jokes or whatever just to serve their bad hobbies/intentions, believing that by doing so they will acquire the attention that they desperately seek. As the Editor-in-Chief of International Watch Middle East and Watchoogle.com, I can assure everyone that 101-year old Baselworld is going nowhere, Baselworld is not collapsing, in fact the fair is just embarking on a refreshing phase for a much brighter future, serving the Swiss watchmaking industry with real quality and humility.
Upon hearing all the above and reading about it on social media by some who did not surprise me at all, we reached out to Sylvie Ritter, the Managing Director of Baselworld, who welcomed our request for an exclusive interview to share with us and all of you the facts as they are. Here’s what she had to say and before I invite you to read the following pages, please remember the one thing I strongly believe in and I keep repeating to everyone: “Why do the bad when you know how to do the good.”
Baselworld 2018 in comparison to the previous years, what are the changes lined up and what benefits would those contribute to?
The most obvious changes have a more technical character: The show will last six days rather than eight, and we expect about 600 to 700 exhibitors after circa 1,300 in 2017. Much more important than numbers are the reasons why we made these changes: to maintain the outstanding quality of Baselworld; and to cater to the needs and requirements of our most important exhibitors. The concept was developed in close cooperation with them. So there’s a reduction in numbers and duration on the one hand, but this will lead to a more concentrated, more attractive, more focused show. We expect a perceptible shift in quality. Baselworld will remain the leading event for premier global brands, and this in all segments.
Allow me to jump right in.. there have been many rumours and gossip (especially during the most recent months) aimed towards the decline of Baselworld’s importance to the watchmaking world. What is your reply to those who seek the truth? What is the actual position of Baselworld and the show’s essence to the watch industry?
To give you a more complete picture: none of the “big” watch brands have dropped their participation. The Swiss watch brands exhibiting at Baselworld still account for the vast majority of Swiss watch exports, both in value and volume. Anyone who visibly achieves top performance, has something unique to offer and wants to address an international clientele will not find a better platform than Baselworld. It gathers the most important players from all segments of the industry at a given date, offering them a unique platform to stage their innovations and to create a worldwide buzz. Baselworld is the undisputed premiere show and stands for the essence, for the very core of the industry, and is therefore essential.
The most productive way to eliminate negativity and its related tirades is by adopting positivity with a strong self-confidence and implementing prosperous plans and projects. What positivity Baselworld 2018 carries to the watch industry as well as to the visiting watch businessmen?
We believe that by reducing the number of exhibitors and focusing on quality, we are in fact increasing the attractiveness of the show as we improve the conditions for a successful show for the most important players in the market. We have always measured attractiveness through the possibilities for a brand to stage their products/innovations, to take the time to interact with the main partners and media representatives – and not in the race for the highest number of exhibitors. What do these numbers reveal about the success or failure of a show? What is the point of having 1,000 exhibitors, 500 of which have not really succeeded in capturing the interest of buyers? What is the value of a show for 500 exhibitors who are not attracting anyone and sell nothing? We want exhibitors and buyers to be able to say: We made good deals and found what we were looking for.
One of the prominent watch journalists recently wrote a “what if..” article about what if the SIHH becomes the supreme annual “rendez-vous” replacing Baselworld. Now, we all know for a fact that the two fairs cannot be compared for many reasons, the most obvious one being that the Geneva fair is owned and managed by one specific watch Group, hence Baselworld is 100% neutral. How concerned are you about such possibilities?
You are absolutely right, one cannot compare the two shows because they are completely different: At SIHH, you have 35 exhibitors from a very specific industry segment; at Baselworld we have 600 to 700 exhibitors representing an entire industry – watches, jewellery and precious stones, in all their diversity. We are convinced that the concept of Baselworld meets the needs of the vast majority of the industry and retailers. We see no advantage in a scattered show landscape as this only results in higher costs and poorer results for every stakeholder.
Having been at Baselworld for more than two decades, one of the most frequent subjects that I discovered coming up in many visitors’ discussions is the overpricing factor particularly in respect to hotels, restaurants and all relevant services that are especially needed by Baselworld visitors. What stance are you taking to tackle those concerns which are serious enough to be addressed?
I can assure that we were and are well aware of these concerns and have constantly sought dialogue with the hoteliers and other service providers. We have certainly managed to get some improvements, but we have not been able to solve the fundamental problem. In the end, however, only supply and demand regulate the price. In this respect, the reduction in the number of exhibitors in 2018 could perhaps also have positive effects for exhibitors and visitors.
With more than a century of history, I always believed in Baselworld for what it stands for and for what it represents and offers. What is the vision of Baselworld today compared to previous decades?
The vision has not changed at all, and that’s exactly why we took the measures: to maintain the unique position of Baselworld – as the show of the leading global brands and the premiere show of the entire industry.
Being the Managing Director of such an important fair with a global magnitude must instill a certain pride in yourself, especially with all the successful achievements to date which were marked even when surrounded with negative environments and demanding challenges. How do you foresee success and measure it with the in-demand challenges?
Who can foresee success – or the future? I cannot. Can you? I’m convinced that success is always the result of hard work, passion, and the conviction to achieve specific goals. Our aim is to offer the most important players in the industry a unique platform to stage their products and to do business most successfully. Thus, Baselworld 2018 will be the first step in a new, forward-looking concept. In order to continue to meet the industry’s needs, all efforts to develop the traditional trade show into an expanded marketing and communication platform will be pursued. From 2018, new forms of real-time digital communication will be offered. At the same time, conceptual approaches for future editions are already being developed.
When it comes to the watchmaking industry, you have one of the most envious witnessing views of previous and current situations. Are you concerned about the watchmaking industry, in general, and the Swiss fine watchmaking industry, in particular?
No, because the global demand remains high. Swiss watches have always been, and still are, much more than “instruments that show the time”. Swiss watches embody values that cannot be programmed. They have status value, are collectible items and are not subject to any fashion, but fascinate through their advanced mechanics and they tell stories. Their quality is so extraordinary that they have held an exceptional position throughout the world for centuries. It is therefore no wonder that they are considered such a valuable asset, and perceived as an investment that competes with real estate, art or vintage cars and not consumer goods.
Your implemented changes taken place in last year’s Baselworld, Les Ateliers being one those, were praised and highly regarded. How important development is for Baselworld 2018 particularly with several changes occurring in the global industrial and commercial markets?
One thing is clear: the industry and also the retailers are undergoing a radical change fuelled by digitisation, verticalisation and concentration and it would be presumptuous to present a concept today that is valid for the next five years. Five years ago no one could foresee the challenges we are facing today. So we rather want our concepts to reflect and accompany the market from year to year. Our customers and visitors move in agile environments and markets, and we must adapt to this agility.
Having known you for so many years, you always stressed and fought for top quality plannings and achievements, always prevailing quality over quantity. Do you still believe such vision is still appreciated nowadays?
It’s the only possibility – only quality can make a difference. That’s essential to Baselworld’s profile and it’s the most important core value.
Last but not least, what final word do you have to those who spread hostile gossip and plant negativity around Baselworld?
Come and enjoy the show!
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