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May 2003

Basel, the world’s largest tradeshow for fine jewelry and watches, was left reeling when, on top of travel fears that kept U.S. and Asian buyers home, the Swiss government issued an edict barring hundreds of exhibitors from Asia.

Following Basel’s lead, Italy’s OroArrezzo also banned Asian attendees, adding to the negative vibe associated with spring fairs thus far this year.

According to show management, attendance at the 2003 Basel World Watch and Jewelry Show was down 22% (to 64,350), with organizers citing the Iraqi war, worries about the risk of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and sluggish economies in the United States and around the world.

With major buyers from many U.S. retail chains skipping the Basel fair, and the Asian exhibitors (from Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Vietnam) absent from Basel’s new Zurich outpost in its debut year, manufacturers were left complaining by fair’s end about sluggish sales.

The technical committee of the OroArezzo international gold, silver and jewelry trade exhibition, meanwhile, cancelled all scheduled delegations of attendees from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam because of concerns about SARS.

With American shows–notably the JCK Las Vegas event in June–less than two months away, there is no word on whether organizers here will follow their European counterparts in reacting to SARS scares.

The apparent winding down of the war, however, has many hopeful strong U.S. spring shows will balance out the weak European events.

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