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Editor's Comment: Cool Copenhagen keeps trade shows relevant

Keely Stocker

Last week I spent a few days visiting the very cool – and I don’t just mean the weather – Copenhagen.

I’m pleased to report the mood was extremely upbeat across CIFF, CIFF Raven and Revolver, with one brand representative declaring Revolver “the best show ever”.

This season the Drapers team has asked buyers and brands at events in London, Florence, Berlin and Copenhagen whether the increased use of digital platforms and pop-up showrooms has rendered trade shows irrelevant. The response in Copenhagen was mixed, although most visitors and exhibitors believe there is a reason still to attend.

This season the Drapers team has asked buyers and brands in London, Florence, Berlin and Copenhagen whether trade shows are still relevant.

For bigger brands trade shows are largely social affairs: an opportunity to remind buyers of their prominence in the industry with their large stands, where, with the help of a few alcoholic beverages, they can network with new and existing customers. The more cheerful mood this season lent a party atmosphere to the Copenhagen shows – although not quite on a par with the old Bread & Butter days, I’m told. Evenings were spent celebrating in quirky venues, including the top floor of the yet-to-be-finished Crowne Plaza hotel, accessed via a service lift.

For smaller brands, trade shows remain an important arena for making those initial contacts, showcasing who they are and catch the eye of passing retailers. Buyers at CIFF told us that they had spotted new brands, highlighting its importance for emerging businesses. 

What makes the Copenhagen shows stand out are their layouts. CIFF Raven’s Projects area was particularly spacious and design-led (curated by John Skelton, founder of London concept store LNCC). Concrete and scaffolding separated each stand, creating a unique space. The stands were quiet at times – some were even empty of those working for the brand – but footfall increased when speaking panels were on in the Projects area, which was a good way to remind visitors it was there. Overall, the layout lifted the traditional trade show format, making it feel more like a concept store or art gallery.

The roomy feel continued in CIFF’s Lab area, where more business was being done. More-established brands that those showing in Raven Projects showcased an edited selection of product, pulling in buyers from Urban Outfitters, Topman and Harvey Nichols, among others. The main CIFF areas had a more traditional trade show feel, but natural light made it pleasantly open and airy.

The bouyant mood continued across town at Revolver, where the quality of brands and buyers in attendance was just as good. However, the traditional layout felt slightly more cramped and lacked the style and “wow” factor of CIFF.

Business is done at all three shows, orders are written and relationships formed. Many brands said the shows are the only way to see Scandinavian buyers, who are not fond of travel – and that is what gives Copenhagen its USP. The Danish shows served to underline what many are telling us: that while digital and pop-up showrooms have their part to play in this industry, so do trade shows. But to stay relevant they, like everything else, must continue to evolve and excite.

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