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Exhibitors Clash with Baselworld over Refund Policy

Apr 13, 2020 8:51 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... Exhibitors who had signed up for Baselworld’s 2020 show are frustrated over the fair’s choice of new dates and refund options after the show was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Organizers MCH Group delayed the fair, which was due to take place April 30 to May 5 alongside Watches & Wonders Geneva. However, the new edition, scheduled for January 28 to February 2, 2021, conflicts with a number of other shows exhibitors also attend, including the Miami Beach Antique Show, Italy’s VicenzaOro fair and the Tucson Gem Show.

MCH Group is also refusing to provide full refunds to those that are unable to attend the Swiss fair on the new dates, stating it has already laid out CHF 18.4 million ($19 million). Instead, the company has offered participants the options of either rolling over 85% of their initial payment to the price of the 2021 fair, with MCH keeping the other 15% for expenses incurred, or a refund of 30%, with 40% rolling over to 2021, and the remaining 30% going to MCH.

The terms have led to anger among exhibitors, who claim they were not consulted about the new dates before they were implemented, with some 68 companies sending a joint letter of complaint to show's management.

“None of us were consulted about the new dates,” the companies noted in the letter obtained by Rapaport News. “The new show timing poses an immense conflict and stress for many Basel buyers and exhibitors as there are three other important shows at this time of year. As a consequence, we should be able to cancel our participation...for a full refund.”

However, MCH claimed while it could not reach out to all 600 exhibitors, it did consult with an advisory council that represents participants from all three trades that take part in the show - watches, jewelry and loose diamonds. The company also felt it had gone beyond its obligations, noting the proposed refund options were more favorable to exhibitors than its contract required.

“We are offering unprecedented conditions, which go far beyond contractual obligations and are much more generous than the vast majority of similar European shows that had to be canceled or postponed,” said Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director of Baselworld.

Exhibitors objected to Baselworld’s response, noting they were only given until April 30 to decide. Hubert du Plessix, president of Baselworld exhibitors’ committee and chief investment officer of Rolex, one of the fair’s biggest exhibitors, sent a letter to Loris-Melikoff in which he lambasted MCH for its decision.

“MCH Group encloses itself in a rigorous reading of contractual provisions to justify its position,” he noted. “We would have expected more from the MCH Group….This lack of consideration on the part of the leaders of MCH unfortunately recalls an era that we thought was over.”

Du Plessix warned that if MCH did not accede to exhibitors’ demands for full refunds, he feared it would be the “end of Baselworld.”

In a response published on the Swiss news site Le Temps, Loris-Melikoff defended MCH’s decision, stating that it was impossible for the company to reimburse exhibitors fully, as the outlay would jeopardize Baselworld.

“For MCH, it will take one to two years to compensate for this and regain profitability,” he said. “Realize that Baselworld is also in survival mode.”

Loris-Melikoff conceded that the company was open to discussion, and that if an alternative viable solution could be found, MCH would take it into account.

Image: The Baselworld fair. (Baselworld)
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Tags: Baselworld, Coronavirus, Hubert du Plessix, MCH Group, Miami Beach Antique Show, Michel Loris-Melikoff, Rapaport News, Rolex, Tucson gem show, Vicenzaoro, Watches & Wonders Geneva
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