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The trade show trade-off

Everyone - organisers, exhibitors and buyers - is having to adapt to tighter seasonal schedules and budgets.

Tight budgets and packed schedules have caused both brands and buyers to re-evaluate their trade show presence this season, meaning long-established shows have had to act in response.

In May, Bread & Butter Berlin announced it was to charge a €500 (£424) fee for non-buyer attendees and also culled about 25% of its long-term exhibitors as part of a major overhaul of the streetwear show.

Despite a flurry of new exhibitions such as Berlin’s Panorama, even fledgling events are finding it tough.

The organisers of S London - who were also co-founders of menswear show Jacket Required - announced last week they were cancelling this season’s debut show, citing a short lead time and a “combination of other factors”.

Keith Ewing, owner of lifestyle indie Number Eight in Stirling, Scotland, usually attends Bread & Butter but said the cost and concerns over its line-up meant he attended neither edition this year.

“Last summer’s Bread & Butter was the same old brands,” he says. “There’s often only a small showcase and it seems more about entertaining the customer. It’s not what I’m looking for as a buyer any more. I can go anywhere and get entertained and have a beer. I want to go and buy and see fresh new product.

“I know you need to get out there and look out for the next Superdry or the next Ugg,” he continues, “but going
out to Bread & Butter just to see two brands costs the best part of two or three thousand pounds - you just can’t be chucking that kind of money around any more.”

Brands have similar concerns. Neil Smith, UK sales manager for underwear brand Björn Borg, showed at Bread & Butter, and the brand also shows at Vision in Copenhagen, Pitti Uomo in Florence, Moda in Birmingham and Bubble London. He says the brand’s UK arm has to reassess which shows will yield deals.

“We’ve been saying for a number of seasons that Bread & Butter is becoming less relevant for the UK with regards to the number and quality of the buyers there,” he says. “Most people we see are existing accounts. For taking on new business, it’s no good for us. Going forward as a UK subsidiary, if it was up to me we wouldn’t do Bread & Butter. We would reinvest the money and do a big brand campaign.”

But for other brands, even if a deal isn’t done on the day, attending a show is vital for future sales. Talha Veri, marketing executive at denim brand ETO Jeans, says failure to attend a show can have negative repercussions.

The brand opted out of showing at Bread & Butter this year, but will show at Vision and Moda. It also attended exhibitions in Australia and Moscow and is looking for more events in emerging markets.

“[Trade shows are] a vital source of business. They give us a lot of opportunities,” says Veri. “Brands shouldn’t shy away from attending shows. If it’s about the cost and the return on investment, you can’t put a measure on that.

“To build a strong brand profile is important,” he adds. “When you speak to people on the phone or email it doesn’t compare with the rapport you can build face to face. For existing customers, it’s about showing the new season to them and solidifying relationships.”

So are buyers still taking trade shows seriously, and can brands expect to take large orders on the show floor?

Dan Hufton, assistant menswear buyer at House of Fraser, says: “How much buying we do has varied. We purely go to the trade shows to see what’s happening at the moment and report back to the company. We wouldn’t really do [buying] there and then.”

He adds: “We normally go to Jacket Required because it usually shows a lot of up-and-coming brands. Shows are still vital. When looking for new brands to develop, it’s hard to see if we didn’t go to these kind of things how we’d be able to find them.”

Story in Numbers

  • €500 (£424) Bread & Butter’s new fee for non-buyers
  • 25% Number of long-term exhibitors axed by Bread & Butter for spring 14 edition
  • 900 Brands exhibited at Berlin show Premium’s spring 14 edition
  • 5% Attendees at Premium who were from UK and Ireland

Readers' comments (1)

  • There doesn't need to be the amount of trade shows that there currently is. Certainly some should merge or fold. It's better to have less shows, but of a higher quality, whereas it is spread too thin at the moment.

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