Basel calls Zurich plan a ‘major success’; dissidents’ show has 300 ‘committed’ exhibitors

In a statement released on July 22, the Basel Fair called its “one show, two locations” plan for 2003 “a major success.” According to the Basel Fair management, 70% of its Zurich, Switzerland, facility is booked, and they contend that resistance by “some [national] groups of exhibitors” to being moved to Zurich is “waning.”

However, a spokesman for an alternative 2003 show in Lausanne, Switzerland, organized for dissident Basel exhibitors, says it now has 300 firms from seven countries “definitely committed.” Talks are planned with trade groups in six more countries including the United States, he said.

Meanwhile, some Hong Kong watch and jewelry associations—whose members have comprised the largest single national pavilion at Basel—were expected to meet this summer to decide whether members should participate at Lausanne or Zurich.

The 2003 international watch and jewelry fair, scheduled for April 3-10 in Basel, Switzerland, will mark the first time the event will be held in two places. Individual watch and jewelry brands, including prestigious brands, will remain in Basel, “clearly segmented … according to their position in the market,” says a show statement. Watches will be in Halls 1, 4 and 5; jewelry in Hall 2; and brands of related industries in Hall 3. Companies that don’t pursue a brand-oriented strategy and are part of country delegations or pavilions will be moved to a new Zurich exhibition center, owned by Basel’s parent firm. The two exhibitions will be held simultaneously.

A number of exhibitors in the national groups have opposed the move. They claim that despite Basel’s support, including increased marketing and shuttles for the two-hour round trip between the shows, they will see fewer buyers and lose business.

On July 22, Basel’s management announced to exhibitors that 85% of the companies in Basel 2002 national delegations have already booked 70% of the exhibition space in Zurich. A separate press release says exhibitors from 18 countries, including Hong Kong and the United States, are already registered. (There is no official U.S. organizer for U.S. firms, but a Basel show spokesman told JCK that one will be chosen by the end of August.) Reasons for the “very encouraging” figures, it says, include an attractive pricing policy (including a 20% reduced participation fee for those at Zurich) and strong marketing support for the Zurich project.

Meanwhile, the organization of “Lausanne 2003: The International Jewelry and Watch Fair” is moving ahead. The show is scheduled for March 30-April 2, 2003, in the Beaulieu Exhibition Center in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is being held four days before Basel, says Mauro Arati, managing director of Studio Arati, the Italian firm handling the show’s logistics, because “we’re not fighting with Basel, and don’t want to overlap it.” Arati notes that the dates will enable buyers to attend both shows.

As of July 22, he said, 300 exhibitors from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Italy, Israel, Thailand, Russia, and Australia were formally committed to the show, and talks concerning possible participation in Lausanne will be held this summer with national jewelry and gem associations from Taiwan, Lebanon, China, India, and the United States (the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America group. “The target is 600 exhibitors,” Arati said, “with each country’s [pavilion] organizer organizing participation.”

Lausanne was chosen by the organizing exhibitors, he explained, because the city’s cost of living is lower than that of either Basel or Zurich, and it has twice as many hotel rooms (5,000) as Basel. Exhibitors’ key buyers will be offered free lodging, he added, and the Lausanne Fair is working with travel agencies on low-cost travel packages and organizing travel groups to the fair from the United States.

In a related story, sources say the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers Association is organizing a meeting of Hong Kong watch, jewelry, and gem associations to consider a proposal to participate in the Lausanne show “as an alternative to Zurich.”

Hong Kong exhibitors were among early opponents of the Zurich move, though the Hong Kong Trade Development Council—which has organized participation in previous Basel shows—has agreed to organize a Hong Kong pavilion in Zurich.

Representatives of Hong Kong watch and jewelry associations met in Hong Kong with members of the Basel Fair management on June 27. They were told that the move was definite, but that the Basel Fair would provide travel, hotel, and marketing support for exhibitors in Zurich.

But that didn’t satisfy all those in attendance. In a July 3 press release, the Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association noted, “There seems to be no chance of staying at Basel. Under such circumstances, all members are advised to take serious consideration of exhibiting in Zurich next year, according to each individual situation.”