Basel fair faces `crucial’ decision as dissident vendors consider own show

Delegations of jewelry exhibitors from 14 nations are close to pulling out of the international watch and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland, JCK has learned. They have tentatively agreed to start their own show, probably in Lausanne, Switzerland, if the Basel Fair insists on sending them to Zurich next year to exhibit.

The deciding factor will be a decision by the Basel Show’s organizing committee when it meets June 16.

“This is a crucial and very delicate moment,” JCK was told by Prida Tiasuwan, executive chairman of The Pranda Group, a leader in Thailand’s jewelry and gem trades. Tiasuwan is chairman of the dissident delegations’ newly formed organizing committee.

“We’ve asked Basel to keep us where we are, and not make us move to Zurich . Find a place for us in Basel,” he said. If current show halls are too crowded, he added, there are empty buildings at the trade show site that could be used.

Tiasuwan was elected chairman of the committee representing the dissident exhibitor groups during an hour-long meeting at recent The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas. Some 10 people attended, including representatives of Great Britain, Thailand, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Brazil, and Spain. Tiasuwan said at least 14 delegations are ready to pull out.

Basel management has maintained for more than a year that the global show has run out of exhibition space. Its solution: Keep individual watch and jewelry brands in Basel, along with support industries’ vendors, and send national pavilions to a new Zurich exhibition center (owned by MCH Swiss Exhibition, which runs the Basel Show). Many foreign vendors have insisted for just as long that they don’t want to go. Despite the promise of free shuttles for the hour-long trip to Zurich, they fear they’ll see far fewer buyers and less business.

“We hope [the Basel Fair management] changes its mind,” says Tiasuwan. “After all, as manufacturers, we’ve all been together with the Fair for 30 years, and helped make it grow. But now,” he asks incredulously, sounding a little hurt, “they want to make us move and take our space for some fountains and gardens, and more room for watch and jewelry exhibitors?”

If Basel show management remains firm, the dissident delegations will go ahead with plans for their own show.

At its June 10 meeting in Las Vegas, the organizing committee tentatively chose Lausanne, Switzerland (over Seville, Spain) as the site for their proposed show. It would most likely be held just before the Basel show, to enable buyers to attend both.

Ironically, the Hong Kong delegation, one of the Basel Fair’s largest groups with 325 vendors and a leader of opposition to the move, was undecided at press time whether to support a new show in Lausanne. The other dissident delegations are composed primarily of jewelry exhibitors, but Hong Kong’s delegation has watch, clock, and jewelry exhibitors. Its timepiece vendors worry that while the new show might attract jewelry buyers, most watch buyers would skip Lausanne for Basel, the world’s largest and most important watch trade fair.

A final deadline for all dissident exhibitors to make their own go-or-stay decision is July 15-the deadline to apply to exhibit in the 2003 Basel Fair.