The autumn 18 show season is fast approaching, so use Drapers’ handy guide to start making your bookings.
As we near the start of the autumn 18 buying calendar, the trade show debate rumbles on for another season. Are they outdated, uninspiring and irrelevant? Or are they still the best one-stop-shop to connect with brands and network with the industry, while getting business done?
For some, such as Bethany Rowntree, director of womenswear etailer Studio B, trade shows are no longer important.
Rowntree does not see the need for them, and has discovered and connected with most of the brands she stocks via the internet: “I think trade shows seem a little outdated in both their aesthetic and agenda – I find them pretty generic and soulless.” She also feels exhibitions have lost their industry focus and “exclusivity”, and, by opening up to more people, have diluted their impact.
For others, such as Kyle Stewart, co-founder of London independent Goodhood, trade shows “will never be dead”.
Stewart argues that hunting for gems at multiple international events is still vital to his buying strategy, and, even if Goodhood only discovers one new brand a season, trade shows are still worthwhile: “We’re product people – we need to see the product. We need to get out there and go through every single rail.”
The reality is different for each brand, buyer and business. While the days of blockbuster events such as Berlin’s Bread & Butter in its heyday are over, trade shows – whether they be large or small – remain a vital part of the industry, and a missed opportunity for those who totally dismiss them.
They offer a place for both established brands and, more importantly, newer labels to showcase their collections in a central, convenient location.
There is also no better place to understand the product direction of a new season than browsing a trade show’s aisles, whether it be for order writing or simply research.
And it is almost impossible to find another occasion where so many industry insiders, from brands through to buying teams, come together in one place, offering endless networking opportunities.
Events such as Pitti Uomo are a shining example of this. The city of Florence is taken over by the menswear industry twice a year (see the sold-out flights and booked-up hotels for proof), as the entire market – from luxury tailoring through to sportswear names, and global megabrands to artisanal newcomers – descend on one location.
The most important thing nowadays is quality.
As Goodhood’s Stewart says: “Trade shows are relevant through the curation of the brands that are showing at them. If the brands aren’t good, then the trade show is not good.” Trade shows need to maintain a curated offering to make any visit worthwhile. Some would benefit from editing, and focusing on quality over quantity.
And the shows themselves need to remain fresh, whether it be through new concepts or simply reorganising layouts to keep both exhibitors and visitors engaged. Copenhagen’s CIFF, which continues to reinvent itself with new formats, layouts and offerings, is an example of a show that does this well.
Here you will find more views and opinions on trade shows, plus a list of the key dates to know for the coming buying season.
I hope to see you there.