Uncertainty shadows Bread & Butter’s future as Barcelona threatens to launch a breakaway event in response to the trade show’s rumoured return to Berlin
Bread & Butter looks to be heading back to its roots in Berlin, but the mayor of Barcelona is considering launching a breakaway show
in an effort to retain the city’s fashion status and the economic boost that the trade fair’s presence had provided. So what does the future hold for B&B?
That Europe’s leading fashion trade fair is returning to Berlin might be one of the worst-kept secrets in the trade - organiser Karl-Heinz Müller was still refusing to confirm the streetwear show’s new location as Drapers went to press. But a rumoured spat with Barcelona mayor Jordi Hereu and talk of a breakaway show called Pa Amb Mantega to be run by the Spanish government is threatening to overshadow the future of the event.
Last week B&B bade farewell to Barcelona, angering the Spanish city which has supported it financially for the past eight seasons. As Drapers went to press, it seemed certain the show would be relocating back to Berlin, which the core show deserted in 2005, to take up an offer of a free location in the disused Tempelhof airport. Key brands were due to take a tour of the airport location as Drapers went to press.
UK exhibitors broadly support a relocation. Most say it is time for the show to be refreshed with a new venue. Visits fell this season by about 20% to 79,942 on last January, although some of this can be attributed to the economic downturn. Others point out that they do more business in northern Europe because consumers have similar tastes to UK shoppers. Historically, the Berlin event attracted far more German, Dutch and Scandinavian buyers than Barcelona, simply because of its closer proximity to these markets.
Ben Sherman chief executive Miles Gray says: “I am 100% happy the show is going back. We don’t do much business in Spain, which makes you question the purpose of us actually showing in Barcelona. Berlin is a great move for us.”
Other exhibitors agree. One says: “Barcelona was beginning to feel stale. I’m happy to know the show is moving but I’m slightly disappointed it won’t be going somewhere completely new, which I think would have excited buyers more. A lot are saying Berlin is ‘boring’ now too. It’s somewhere they have already been to for past Bread & Butter shows. For us, though, it doesn’t make any dramatic difference.”
Another exhibitor says Berlin provokes a more business-like and “order-writing” attitude, which is what brands need given the current climate. “There was also the vibe that Barcelona was a bit of a holiday. It was never a show to do business at,” he adds.
Last Friday the mayor of Barcelona is understood to have called a meeting with key brands at the show, where he outlined plans to launch a rival fair to B&B in an effort to keep Barcelona’s economy booming. B&B is reported to have brought in millions of euros annually to the city and the Spanish government understandably is desperate to hold on to as much of that extra income as possible.
It remains unclear whether brands will support a breakaway event. It would be a brave move to launch against the experience and expertise of Müller, who set up Bread & Butter in Cologne in 2001 with just 50 exhibitors, growing it to become a show with more than 800 exhibitors this season.
Müller’s strong relationships, trade show experience and understanding of the young fashion market are likely to hold much weight with the key brands B&B needs support from to retain its hold over the market. However, Spanish brands, or those with a large customer base in southern Europe, may stay in Barcelona if the opportunity arises.
Müller said at a press conference held last Friday: “We have grown up in Barcelona. We were able to become the leading fair in the sector here. Nothing went wrong here, but the market is boss and the market is king. This is what guides us and leads us. We were in Cologne three times, Berlin eight times and Barcelona eight times. I believe this is a lifecycle.”
Müller’s decision to move is undoubtedly the correct one to ensure B&B doesn’t become a victim of the show fatigue which has brought so many other events down in recent years - think London’s 40˚ and Cologne’s Interjeans. But whether a move back to Berlin will be sufficient to reinvigorate the show remains to be seen.