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Baselworld 2019 - Interview with Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director

Baselworld 2019 Interview with Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director

In a week of conflicting announcements, we talk to the Managing Director of Baselworld about the future of the exhibition.

Just like last year’s announcement by the Swatch Group that it would be leaving Baselworld, the press release announcing Breitling’s absence next year was issued early on a Sunday morning. One might argue that this is the perfect way to attempt to bury bad news. But the news was not entirely bad, since it coincided with a confirmation that the world’s biggest and best-known watch company, Rolex, is extending its presence at the show next year and allocating a brand-new space for its sister brand Tudor. WorldTempus spoke to Baselworld’s Managing Director, Michel Loris-Melikoff, about what this means for the future of the exhibition.

Mr Loris-Melikoff, people seem to be focusing on the negative side of your recent announcement (the fact that Breitling is leaving), but what about the positive news regarding Rolex and Tudor?
Indeed, I think that this is a very strong signal. Rolex is the first company to make such an announcement in a very clear way and they allowed me to inform the media accordingly. But there will be others. We are in discussion with around 30 brands who had left Baselworld who have got in touch with us about coming back to the exhibition, so that is also very positive.

We hear a lot about experience, from yourself representing Baselworld but also from other brands. Isn’t Baselworld the best-placed to offer the best experience for customers and visitors on a multi-brand level?
My job is to try to bring brands together and offer them a strong platform. That was the reason I wanted to coordinate the dates between the SIHH and Baselworld. But there are other ways of bringing brands together, and there are other events that we should try to integrate into our schedule so that these two weeks in April become the two weeks where the entire watch and jewellery industry meets up in Switzerland.

At the closing press conference at Baselworld this year we saw the slogan “Baselworld goes global”. Can you tell us more about your specific plans under this slogan?
I will very soon start travelling the world… The Baselworld brand is strong enough for us to take things beyond the city of Basel.  We already have a strong presence in Miami and Hong Kong thanks to Art Basel and we already have teams in place there. The growth of the watch and jewellery industries is strongest in Asian countries, so just as the brands themselves are doing, Baselworld is going to start looking at these markets and we will be making some announcements along these lines in the next few months.

At the local level in the city of Basel, a lot of watch brands are present in the city but not at Baselworld. How can you combat this problem?
First of all, whenever an event is faced with ambush marketing we have to consider that the event is a success. So, I believe that the presence of brands in hotels surrounding the exhibition is a sign that Baselworld still has its place in the industry and that these brands want to take advantage of Baselworld, which is quite positive.

We do, however, need to look at why these brands prefer to book these hotel rooms rather than have a stand at Baselworld. There are two things to consider here: the first is our relationship with the hotels and their willingness to accept these brands. To some extent they are impacting our sales even though we are bringing them the business! So we need to find solutions with them. Second, we have seen cases this year of hotels which have accommodated brands who might have been presenting counterfeit versions of watches from exhibitors at Baselworld! We have a legal platform in place to combat this inside Baselworld, but if a company is exhibiting outside the exhibition and we are made aware of it, we are obliged to get the police involved. In such cases the hotel runs the risk of becoming a platform for illicit trade. Unfortunately, the hotels don’t have the knowledge to determine whether their customers are legitimate or not.

What about the price differences between the hotels and a stand at Baselworld?
Of course there is a significant price difference, but we also see hotels selling space at prices that are far in excess of the framework agreement we reached last year with our hotel partners. Here too, we have to find solutions that appeal to these brands. With the incubator that we introduced this year, many brands have seen that we can offer attractive ways for smaller brands to make their debut at Baselworld.

The incubator seems to have been a resounding success. Are you considering expanding it for next year?
Yes, of course. But we don’t want a thousand exhibitors in the incubator either! We plan to extend it to jewellery and gemstones as well.

What are the next major steps for you apart from your world tour?
We will start our sales much earlier this year because we only started them last year after I had arrived, which was in early July, and we started the negotiations with exhibitors in September and October. I now have a sales manager, so we can share the task and I can concentrate on other tasks, like the gemstones section.

Do have an objective for the number of exhibitors next year?
More than this year! [laughs] But seriously my objective is between 600 and 700 exhibitors. I think that is a reasonable figure.

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