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PFW's trade show trail is in danger of overkill

The increasing number of trade shows at Paris Fashion Week is a mixed blessing that can leave buyers spread too thinly and exhibitors without orders, writes Paul Alger.

No one knows for sure how many buyers and press attend Paris Fashion Week. Some say the figure is between 10,000 and 20,000 but others would suggest many more. Paris is famous for its amazing catwalk schedule and is home to some of the highest profile catwalks. But what makes Paris truly unique is the size and scale of the trade shows and showroom activity which goes on at the same time.

There are some 20 trade show venues and myriad showrooms that represent a vast amount of business for established designer labels and start-ups. For many companies, this is the place where they write most of their international business. From the UK alone, more than 300 companies showed under UKFT’s Brits in Paris banner, scattered like confetti throughout the city in a complex arrangement of hotels, tents, showrooms and other spaces.

The UKFT team always gets a little jittery in the run up to Paris Fashion Week. This is the biggest event of our calendar and, for the designers, everything hangs on its success. The main shows and showrooms saw a steady stream of buyers and press and the mood was generally good. Première Classe, Paris sur Mode Atelier, the Box, Tranoi, Vendôme Luxury and Zipzone exhibitors reported seeing a good number of buyers. However, business was not uniformly good for all exhibitors and the newcomers still need to do more to get buyers to consider them – every season there are winners and losers.

The increasing number of trade shows and exhibitors in Paris is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it confirms the leading position held by Paris for so long and suggests that this will continue.

On the other, it leaves buyers having to spread themselves and their budgets ever thinner.

This is not a new problem but it was particularly felt in a number of areas this time around, not least in some of the footwear shows which have added capacity this season.

Exhibitors in Atmosphere’s were also bitterly disappointed by the new location of their tented exhibition on the corner of Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Elysées. Attendance here was significantly down as buyers struggled to add yet another new venue to their planning.

Strategically, there is a fine balance between the number and style of collections on show in Paris and the number and location of venues. None of the buyers can visit all the shows and, in these challenging times, most concentrate their efforts on two or three shows, which have an edit to suit their customers’ needs. The more centrally-located and reliable the show, the more likely it is that buyers will spend their budgets there.

Paris’ huge draw is set to continue, as will the difficult choices which buyers and press have to make as to which shows to visit and which brands to support. For the foreseeable future at least, the appeal of Paris remains irrésistible.

Paul Alger is the director of international affairs at UKFT

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thierry BAYLE

    Paul, Thank you for this presentation.
    We all agree that multiplying locations makes it diificult for buyers ( and even for non buyers whether consultants like myself or others ) to find the time to visit all the shows and identify precisely where to go.
    Every season, you find brands who have selected the wrong show.
    With the current economy, it is about working smarter and therefore acting on the above.
    I can only stress that every season you see brands heading to the show expecting the organisor to bring the traffic! They cannot bring necessarily ALL the traffic you want and they cannot certainly bring the traffic IN FRONT of your booth.
    Paris is "irresistible" so let's work hard to prepare the next session.
    Global Fashion Management

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