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Decision time looms for Bread & Butter’s consumer days experiment

The annoyingly catchy Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz is not a track I have on my iPod, but it was in my brain at Bread & Butter Berlin (BBB) on Wednesday.

Brands there are going to have to decide if they are going to support the audacious move by BBB’s founder Karl-Heinz Müller to add two consumer days to the three-day trade show in July.

As we reported last year (Drapers, December 21), Müller believes the fashion dynamic between brands and buyers now needs to include end-consumers if the industry is to prosper. Some see the point he is making in this digital age when the consumer has more knowledge - and power - than ever. Others see it as a fairly desperate attempt to keep afloat an exhibition that has been sinking for several seasons.

Just as the Bucks Fizz favourite was the Eurovision Song Contest winner in 1981, so BBB has been the Euro show winner for many years. Since it was launched as a small, quirky sideshow to the major menswear and jeanswear fairs in Cologne in 2001, it has been the most exciting and innovative trade gathering on the continent. We will not know until July if the new concept might work, but the signs after a day-and-a-half of this season’s event are not encouraging.

“A lot of us have already made up our mind, but we haven’t spoken up yet. We won’t be coming back,” the sales director of a regular British exhibitor told me. “We have been scratching our heads about this since it was announced and we still can’t work out what it’s about or how it will work,” added another. A third admitted he was already composing the goodbye note to Müller: “This really pains me, as this has been a great show for us, but we can’t justify the time and cost of giving up two days during our busiest selling season.”

The beneficiaries of the expected exodus, if it happens, are likely to be the other fairs that popped up in Berlin as satellites of the mighty BBB, notably Seek, Capsule and Bright, which cover various nuances of the directional casualwear and streetwear areas that BBB once dominated. The more grown-up Premium, which started in January 2003, the same season Müller relocated to Berlin, is also a possibility for some brands, but the other three have an edgier vibe.

The Müller plan, it must be said, has gained support from some larger German brands, which can see advantages of linking directly with native consumers. “It’s good to try something new and it would take someone like Karl-Heinz to come up with this 360-degree thinking,” a premium-level womenswear boss told me. “Next July we will remove the spring 15 range we will have for three days of the show and replace it with the autumn 14 offer that will be more relevant to put in front of consumers. We will give it a try, but part of the problem is that people are going to come only from the Berlin area and there is not much money here.”

Although Müller has stressed that the two public days of the new BBB will be for showcasing not selling, so as not to undercut retailer stockists, my German friend had a spark in his eye when he said: “The idea of having a two-day selling show to the public is really interesting.”

That may be a leap too far, but it surely will not be long before we know if the new BBB concept is being toasted with a glass of Buck’s Fizz or a shot of Angostura bitters.

Readers' comments (1)

  • We sell and so buy more than one category and often look into the fashion industry with outsiders' eyes. One of the most exciting things happening right now in our calendar is games com, a mega trade fair for video games with 30,000 b2b visitors and well over 1/4million private visitors. The excitement, and press inches (youtube views etc), generated for next season's launches from this event alone is immediately felt by us instore through conversations and advance orders for titles. And it has reminded me of the discussions about the muller plan here. While i personally could not visualise Mr Muller's plans for B&B, I was impressed that he dared to stray from the well trodden path. Fashion seems to becoming more and more of a commodity in our customers' eyes, with micro peaks and troughs but perhaps a longterm downward trajectory and I wonder whether the industry could not do with more visionaries prepared to pull us out of our comfort zones .

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