BaselWorld 2007 Opens with Sunny Optimism

 BASEL, Switzerland—BaselWorld, the world’s largest watch and jewelry show, opened Thursday under bright sunny skies that reflected show management and exhibitors’ optimism about the international luxury goods business this year.

Show director Sylvie Ritter cited “the current boom in the luxury goods business and the favorable prevailing climate” and said that as a result, “our exhibitors’ expectations (are) higher than ever.”

Comments by the leaders of major watch and jewelry exhibitor groups echoed that in an international press conference held Wednesday, a day before the show’s opening.

Titter added that many of the retailers and dealers, buoyed by healthy sales are “coming to Basel with a good deal of optimism,” which will have a positive impact on exhibitors and suppliers. “Together,” she said, the fair management expected “the climate of confidence engineered by BaselWorld [to give] the whole sector a positive injection of energy.”

The red ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday morning officially opening the show was done in the newly renovated lobby of Hall 1, with red carpeting and pillars stuffed full of red roses. On hand were Hans-Rudolf Merz, federal councilor for business and finance, Eva Herzog, president of the Government of the Canton of Basel-Stadt, René Kamm, chief executive officer of MCH Swiss Exhibition (Holding) Ltd., and Jacques J. Duchêne, president of the Exhibitors’ Commitee.

The fair this year has 2,109 watch and jewelry exhibitors from 45 countries in six football-sized halls, and expects more than 90,000 visitors from 100 nations, plus more than 2,500 journalists from 70 countries.

Exhibitors will be out in force to showcase their latest products and ranges, with many of the companies exhibiting exclusively at BaselWorld. During the show, 90,000 industry professionals from 100 countries are expected to visit the city.

A number of leading exhibitors expressed optimism about business at this year’s show, based on conditions at their own markets.

“Swiss watch manufacturers have never had it so good, especially the major prestigious brands,” said Duchêne, noting that 2006 was “a record year in every respect” with watch exports up 10.9 percent in value to $11.2 billion. This year should be “another good vintage,” Francois Thiebaud, chairman of the Swiss exhibitors committee and president of Tissot SA.

Patrice Besard, heading the French exhibitors group, noted a 46 percent gain in export value for French watches in 2006, and a 26 percent gain for French jewelry, especially silver and precious stones jewelry.

Peter Rost, head of the German exhibitors noted a stirring in the sluggish German economy (“positive signs of increasing demands”), benefiting German watchmakers, and noted efforts to boost the “Made in Germany” label with domestic and foreign consumers.

Ralph Chow, director of product promotion for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and speaking for the huge Hong Kong delegation (338 exhibitors), noted that in 2006, Hong Kong watch and clock exports reached $6 million (a 2 percent gain), while fine jewelry exports rose 14 percent to $3.7 billion. He also noted that Hong Kong watch and jewelry makers are “moving upscale,” putting more focus on “quality, design, and production speed” and said that “brand building is clearly way ahead, especially in the massive Chinese market with its emerging middle-class and millionaire consumers.

“Made in Italy is also on the promotional agenda of Italy jewelry makers, said Gaetano Cavalieri, president of the Italian jewelry exhibitors. The Italian jewelry industry will put more emphasis on branding, promotional marketing and the Internet to “communicate directly to consumers,” he said. “Branding of Italy is on the way.”

Highlights of this year’s show include Hall 1’s redesigned foyer and first-ever roofed plaza entrance with glass walls on either side through panes, which water continuously falls down; and BaselWorld Village, a restaurant and bar complex 10 minutes by car from Exhibition Square, which the show has taken over for the duration of the fair, where vendors, visitors, and guests can relax in the evenings.