The Berlin trade show has filed for insolvency, blaming the relocation of this year’s event to the former home for now-defunct show Bread & Butter. Is Panorama set to follow in the footsteps of its fallen rival, or can plans to change its format revive the exhibition?
In September 2019 Panorama announced it would move the 14-16 January edition of the trade fair from Messe Berlin to Tempelhof airport. With only four months to go, it was a bold decision.
The airport was the venue for rival show Bread & Butter, before it closed its doors in 2019 after relaunching as a direct-to-consumer event.
German etailer Zalando saved Bread & Butter from insolvency in June 2015, but despite relaunching with brands including Adidas, Nike, Reebok and Converse, the show failed to take off.
The new venue was a big talking point of Panorama in January. Exhibitor reactions were mixed. Some told Drapers that Templehof, with its curved sweeping roof, runway views and vintage planes, was visually impressive. Others said it was difficult to navigate. Footfall seemed lower than previous seasons, and UK buyers were particularly scarce.
On 28 February, Panorama chief executive Jörg Wichmann filed for insolvency, blaming the relocation.
A Panorama spokeswoman said at the time: “It became necessary to file for insolvency because the relocation of the event from the Messe Berlin trade fair grounds under Funkturm radio tower to the new venue at Tempelhof airport entailed far higher costs than planned, including a number of unforeseen developments.” It said these included “far higher costs”, such as fire protection and logistics expenses.
Some local media reports said the smaller venue – Tempelhof space totalled 215,000 sq ft across two aircraft hangars, compared with 430,000 sq ft at Messe Berlin – led to reduced turnover.
Yet some exhibitors told Drapers they found the scale of the show overwhelming. An app, intended to replace paper maps and show guide, failed to be comprehensive enough said some attendees. Among the 271 exhibitors were 12 British brands, including White Stuff, Fynch-Hatton, Brakeburn, Weird Fish and Angeleye.
Nevertheless, industry sources said they were surprised by the insolvency.
James Crabtree, menswear controller at buying group AIS, which attends Panorama and runs UK trade show INDX, said he was “shocked” at the news: “From what I understand out of the European show calendar, it’s one of the better-attended and better-supported events.”
One industry source said: “At the moment there’s lots of stuff going on [tough trading market, bad weather, coronavirus] that is impacting exhibition businesses.
“But this seemed completely out of the blue. I think it’s happened really quickly. I’m genuinely surprised because they’ve only had one season at this venue.”
Chris Silverwood, head of UK and international sales at clothing brand Brakeburn, exhibited at the January show. He said the insolvency was “disappointing”: “Panorama has always been a very successful show for us.
“We’ve got more than 300 customers in Germany, so it’s a really important show for us. It was good this year – and busy. We did the same, if not more business this year.
“Obviously, it was in a different location. Maybe it wasn’t massively appealing when you walked in, but it was a busy show for us.”
Silverwood added: “We had signed up for the next [edition], but it’s a question of where we put our investment.
“We are relatively small but rapidly growing and we need to make sure we’re spending money in the right places. That’s one of the main things we need to be looking at now this news has come out.”
“Voting with their feet”
Juls Dawson, director at Just a Group, which runs mini-trade show Just Around the Corner in London, said the insolvency was not unexpected: “It is sad to see Panorama enter insolvency proceedings like this but to be honest this is not a surprise. Buyers and brands are tired of this format and they have other options, they have been voting with their feet for some time.
“Sadly, I feel that a Panorama restructuring won’t be enough to entice brands back, and they won’t be the last of the older guard that run into trouble.”
Karen Bueno, vice-president of marketing at Blowfish Malibu, which exhibited at Panorama this year, said: “I’m was a little bit surprised but not shocked because of the state of trade shows in Europe. Shows in general on the continent are on a downturn. I don’t think that you get much new business from trade shows in Europe any more – they’re better for networking.
“Panorama is kind of hit and miss: sometimes we’ll have a really good show and sometimes just nothing. But it’s one that we go to from a consistency point of view.”
Julia Jaconelli, owner of independent womenswear retailer The Courtyard in Guildford, said she attends Premium rather than Panorama, as it is more relevant for her market, but she praised the city’s show scene: “I love going to Berlin and am always surprised not more people go from the UK, as I have found some great labels there that are not normally stocked at home.”
The future of the show
Drapers understands that Panorama is looking to change the format for the July show.
Local media reports say the exhibition is adding food and music for the summer edition. Panorama declined to comment on the format of the next edition and would not confirm whether it was considering opening it up to consumers.
Industry experts have warned against going down the same route as Bread & Butter, which relaunched as a direct-to-consumer event after it was rescued from insolvency.
“I’m not sure that the world needs a fashion, music and food event, whether it’s B2B or corporate or consumer facing. It all seems a bit of a muddle,” said an industry insider.
“The next show is only four or five months away in July, so I’m not sure they’re going to be able to get anything of any size turned around that quickly in a new format. [In] a new venue like that, I wouldn’t want to have that responsibility.”
Blowfish’s Bueno said European shows – including Panorama – need a refresh: “Trade shows in the US are phenomenal. They’re definitely evolving, bringing in digital aspects and installations – making it not just about buying but doing interviews, panels and events. That’s helped keep the momentum going. But I think European trade shows have lost a bit of that flavour. Yes, buyers are going to buy, but it’s also an event.
“They’re [European shows] going to have to evolve.”
Despite the insolvency, CEO Wichmann is hopeful that Panorama will continue in the summer: “In the weeks to come, we will be working extensively to secure a binding commitment from the industry in this regard [to hold a summer edition]. In spite of the unavoidable insolvency petition, we are determined to work together with a view to safeguarding Berlin as a fashion destination for years to come.”
The Drapers Verdict
Panorama may have bitten off more than it could chew with the last-minute change of venue. And reports of a new format being discussed for the summer edition, suggests it risks doing the same again.
Before potentially adding elements such as food and music to the show, Panorama organisers should heed the warnings of Bread & Butter’s mistakes and ensure they are delivering what their brands and buyers want.
But most of all, whatever the summer edition looks like, exhibitors and buyers need clarity – and soon.