BaselWorld 2011 Marks End to Luxury Slump

Basel, Switzerland—Despite a theft of several millions worth of gems in its final days, BaselWorld 2011 finished Thursday on a high note with show officials and some exhibitors saying results confirm a luxury rebound is firmly in place.

Noting that overall attendance for the annual international jewelry and watch fair was up 2.5% to 103,200 visitors, Sylvie Ritter, show manager, called this year’s edition of the world’s largest watch and jewelry show “one of the best BaselWorlds of all time.” That’s welcome news in the luxurygoods industry which saw its worst years ever recorded in 2008-2009.

‘Luxurygoods Slump a Thing of the Past’

Watch business was particularly strong with March registering the 14th consecutive month of increases in Swiss watch exports. “2011 appears to be following in the footsteps of 2008, the industry’s benchmark year for its remarkable results,” said Francois Thiébaud, president of the Swiss exhibitors’ committee. “The question no longer seems to be one of sales, but of keeping up with production over the year.”

BaselWorld, which had 1,892 exhibitors showing in six buildings comprising some 1.7 million square feet, is viewed as a bellwether since it draws exhibitor and visitors from more than 45 countries. Despite a “slight decline in number of Japanese and Arab visitors—due to the present troubles—“ European and Indian visitors made up the largest groups of visitors. American visitors were down, however, show officials said. Media attendees increased 5% to more than 3,000.

While majors watch companies, such as Swatch Group, PPR and other, have been reporting rebounds in sales as demands for watches from Asian, especially Chinese, consumers, increase, jewelry companies reported getting more orders this year than in the past few years. “It was a strong return of Russian and Eastern European retailers who were rather thin” last year, a spokesman added.

“The economic upturn was successfully rung in last year and the slump in the luxury goods sector is now thing of the past,” said Rene Kamm, ceo of MCH Group, which produces the show at Messe Basel.

 Thieves Make Off With ‘$10 Million’ Worth of Diamonds

The final days of the show weren’t without controversy. On Wednesday, a group of four to five suspects stole four diamonds, some 30 carats—about $10 million worth according to some news reports—from an Israeli diamantaire in Hall 3 where major diamond and gemstone companies exhibit.

Swiss police handed over images on Thursday to Interpol of suspects believed to have stolen the diamonds.

“We obtained several images from surveillance cameras depicting who we think are the perpetrators,” of the theft at Baselworld, said Markus Melzl, spokesman for Basel’s prosecutor’s office. “This looks like the work of a professional gang.”

BaselWorld 2012 is scheduled for March 8 to 15 next year, a few weeks earlier than usual as construction begins on a new building linking Hall 1 and Hall 3, planned for completion by BaselWorld 2014.

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Jeff Prine

Jeff Prine, Editor at Large, Accessories Magazine
Jeff returns as a regular contributor to Accessories magazine. Initially Jeff worked as senior editor at Accessories more than 20 years ago and his love of the industry has followed him until present. Since his tenure here, Jeff has continued to report jewelry, watch and other luxury goods trends as executive editor at Modern Jeweler magazine, fashion director at Lustre, and as contributor on products and trends for consumer and trade publications and websites. In addition to his editorial experience, Jeff also served as an adjunct instructor for accessories merchandising at Fashion Institute of Technology. jeffp@busjour.com