Little has changed in terms of the economic backdrop heading into next year's international trade shows. Attendees are still coping with a bargain-hunting consumer with more deals at their fingertips each passing day, as well as the ever-present political uncertainty on a global scale. To combat this, event producers have added more choices, more experiences and hopefully more to inspire buyers to spend.
Here’s a rundown of what’s in store for trade shows across the globe in the first half.
 MILAN: Shifting GroundAfter an earthquake, there are inevitably aftershocks.Following a year of big changes in the Italian trade shows schedule, with the major fairs aligning their dates in September along with Milan Fashion Week and the Milano Unica textile exhibition anticipating its summer edition in July, most of the national fairs are consolidating their new appointments while a couple of shows are adjusting their dates accordingly, filling new spots in the calendar.April is the most affected month, counting Milan-based artistic perfumery show Esxence’s move from the end of March to April 5-8 and the city’s renowned Design Week, which will be postponed of a couple of weeks compared to its usual dates and run April 17 to 22.On the other hand, Sì Sposaitalia Collezioni exhibition will shift its dates from mid-May to April 6 to 9, in a move to meet the evolving demands of the bridal market.“It was a decision shared by our exhibitors, who asked if we could open the season of bridal weeks,” said Si Sposaitalia Collezioni’s director Simona Greco. “With these new dates, we facilitate production processes of our companies, which have to answer more quickly to market demands. The timing has changed, so we had to realign the fair accordingly,” she continued, adding that buyers will also have full budget capacity to dedicate to exhibitors in this way.In addition, the bridal fair is renovating its format flanking the exhibition hosted at the Fiera Milano City fairgrounds — which showcases more than 200 collections, 35 percent of which are coming from abroad — with a White Carpet fashion show, to be held in the city center on the inaugural day of the fair. As part of the event, a number of renowned fashion designers, whose names haven’t been revealed, will partner with historic bridal companies to realize capsule collections to show on the catwalk.The decision of changing the format is part of a renovation strategy, which aims to enhance the quality of the event and its impact on a global scale. To appeal to foreign markets is the biggest challenge according to Greco, who added that the fair is working with the Italian Trade Agency ICE to increase the appeal with Far Eastern, Middle-Eastern and North American buyers.Last year, the exhibition drew more than 8,000 professionals, 2,000 of which are coming from 67 foreign countries, led by Japanese buyers, up 8 percent, French buyers, up 23 percent and Chinese buyers, up 35 percent.In general, Greco believes the bridal market in Italy has overcome a negative moment and is now facing a new era of “great potentiality.”According to Ercole Botto Poala, president of the leading textile fair Milano Unica, 2018 might be positive for the macroeconomy but ups and downs are just part of the industry. “There are different situations, as wool is facing a positive moment, while shirt [manufacturers] are suffering because T-shirts and jersey are more requested and in trend right now,” he said. Botto Poala also underscored the role of new big players, such as Amazon, and digital startups, which are reshaping the market. “Milano Unica’s role is to intercept these new clients and [shopping] formula, so that the companies that are ready can work with them,” he said, adding that, on the contrary, many firms are not ready and may suffer from this new, digitally driven approach.Milano Unica confirmed its spot in July’s calendar as the initial test paid off, registering “a growth that exceeded our expectations,” said Botto Poala.The exhibitors registered were 456, up 20 percent compared to September 2016, with significant increases coming by companies offering women’s wear textiles and accessories, which were up 29 percent and 19 percent, respectively.“These are important figures, especially in a field where there are more companies shutting down than new ones opening,” noted the executive, underscoring that the main goal is to “consolidate” this numbers and enable the firms “to keep working well and be satisfied of the service the fair offers.” “There are trade shows seeking for quantity for their business, but we are not after that,” the executive said.Regarding February’s edition, running from 6 to 8 at the Rho Fiera Milano fairgrounds, Milano Unica launched the theme of sustainability, under the motto “Save the Planet.” Air, water and earth are the key words of the spring 2019 trends that will inspire the textile companies’ new collections.“Sustainability is a megatrend that we can’t avoid,” said Botto Poala. “We want to show how we 'do' sustainability, not only talk about it, because there are excellent companies that are applying this for years but no one knows them or talks about them. So we want to spotlight them instead,” he concluded.White’s founder and president Massimiliano Bizzi also aims to consolidate the trade show’s position and affluence. Running Jan. 13 to 15, the show focuses on men’s and women’s contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories.“We hope to replicate the success of last January’s edition, which registered over 10,000 visitors,” Bizzi said, adding that White’s top buyers are Japanese, Chinese and Korean.As part of the new services the fair will offer, the ‘Showroom Connection@White’ project will create a bridge among brands, showrooms and buyers in order to facilitate and enhance the number of orders. “We will also offer a service of courtesy cars to easily move from the fairgrounds to the showrooms,” Bizzi added.Running Jan. 9 to 12 at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Pitti Immagine Uomo will be the first appointment of the year.Brooks Brothers will kick off its 200th anniversary staging its first fashion show and a comprehensive retrospective from its archive during the trade show; the Japanese fashion labels Undercover and Takahiromiyashita The Soloist will be the guest designer brands, while Finland will be the guest nation. In addition, Malibu 1992 label’s designer Dorian Stefano Tarantini will debut his brand’s new moniker M1992 in Florence, as he has been selected as special project. GERMANY: Narrowing FocusGermany’s trade show and fashion week organizers are consolidating locations, event timing and activities, which means fall 2018 should be an easier season, at least in terms of getting around Berlin when the trade show action kicks off there Jan. 16-18, 2018. The German capital will host nine fairs, two conferences, as well as the Berliner Mode Salon with its group still life presentation and assorted runway shows, and a newly organized Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, this time running concurrently and not spread to the farthest reaches of town.The Premium Group, which encompasses Berlin’s Premium, Show & Order, Seek and Bright platforms, had already brought the similarly authenticity-driven Seek and Bright together in one location, and is now moving the more feminine-driven Show & Order from Kraftwerk to the Kühlhaus at Premium’s grounds at The Station. “What we basically learned is that buyers don’t need another location,” commented Premium founder and director Anita Tillmann, who added Show & Order’s brands asked if there was any way to move to Premium.At the same time, Premium’s #FashionTech conference was getting bigger all the time, and with new cooperation partner Messe Frankfurt, the event is relocating to Kraftwerk, also the new home of Messe Frankfurt’s Greenshowroom and Ethical Fashion Show Berlin. These two fairs have been gaining greater acceptance each season, but the search for roomier quarters had exiled them to an attractive but remote outpost last season. No longer: The Station and Kraftwerk are two-and-a-half miles apart. As an added Kraftwerk plus, Messe Frankfurt is also launching FashionSustain in January focusing on the future of textiles and sustainability.Next hook-up: The heritage men’s and crafted goods show Selvedge Run is moving to Marshall House on the Berlin fairgrounds, thus neighboring Panorama, the 800-brand-strong fair for more commercial domestic and international brands. Both Selvedge Run and Panorama will continue to operate separately but plan to work together on visitor services and other synergetic opportunities.Conversely, Cookies Show for kids’ shoes and fashion is now opting for a home of its own in the Palazzo Italia off Unter den Linden. The organizers said the emphasis will be on quality versus quantity in an effort to create a more innovative and inspiring business and networking environment.Nearby, the Berliner Mode Salon is moving up its curated group presentation of Germany’s most fashionably advanced designers and labels to Berlin’s opening day on Tuesday, making it an easier-to-schedule stop on buyers’ packed agendas.In terms of business, Germany’s fashion retailers like their peers elsewhere certainly don’t have it easy, yet things aren’t so bad either. Consumer sentiment in Germany remains positive, and the German Retailer Association is forecasting 2 percent growth in 2017. For apparel stores specifically, German Apparel Retailers Association director Jürgen Dax said most are hoping to end the year with a small plus, and noted that even in weak months like this past October, it’s a matter of context. “We ended September up on last year, and though October was then bad, that’s only in comparison to October 2016. If you look back five or six years, it wasn’t such a bad October after all.”Where Dax does see challenges and changes ahead for the country’s fashion retailers is in coping with the consolidation hitting Germany’s apparel manufacturing end. Mounting bankruptcies, reorganizations and the demise of former core brands is creating gaps not only in assortments but margins.“There are more problems in the middle and higher genre where more and more suppliers are falling to the wayside. Basler is a particularly critical example. It was fashionable, not so young and affordable, and there’s no (obvious) replacement. And I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the insolvencies. A lot of smaller brands will probably follow.”The positive side of this equation is that buyers will be forced to look for substitutes, opening up new opportunities for smaller or new brands. “To be sure, buyers will be looking for more new brands [at the fairs] than before, but they all say you can’t really earn money with them,” Dax commented. “The data on consumers, the logistics are not there. But even if they may not earn so much, new brands are a way for stores to show ‘I’m interesting’ and not so mainstream.”German trade show activity doesn’t stop in Berlin, with active sports powerhouse Ispo presenting 2,700 exhibitors in Munich from January 28 to 31. Other key dates and events include Gallery Dusseldorf from Jan. 1 to 27; Munich Fabric Start from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2; Premium Order Munich from Feb. 2 to 10, and Gallery Shoes in Düsseldorf from March 11 to 13. LONDON: Both Global and NicheLondon’s trade show organizers are focusing on emerging names with niche, specialized offerings, in a bid to stand out in the challenging retail climate and cater to the increasingly popular specialty retailers.“There are new store openings, and many of these are stocking a more creative and diverse mix of brands and product and moving away from the traditional fashion model,” said Lindsay Hoyes, event director at Bubble London, adding that at the same time there are continuous closures on the U.K. retail scene that create a challenging climate. “[Next year] will certainly be a difficult year as more brands enter the market, whilst at the same time, U.K. bricks-and-mortar stores close their doors due to increases in business rates and rents and the growth in the myriad of alternative ways for brands to reach customers directly.”To respond to the shifting retail dynamics, Hoyes said that the focus at Bubble will remain on the show’s “Pop” area, a section featuring emerging designers, which was among the first to sell out last season. “It gives buyers a chance to see brands and products that are new to the market,” she explained.Scoop, which takes place at the Saatchi Gallery in London, will be focusing on offering “a strong accessories lineup” and rtw designers whose work incorporates the world of art and design, while London Edge is introducing a new area called “Makers and Designers” designed to help fledgling labels to expand their wholesale businesses.“This new initiative continues the London Edge reputation for assisting and sustaining small fashion businesses. We expect more than 24 new, exciting young businesses to be exhibiting their collections with us,” Carole Hunter, managing director at the fair.Taking a more global approach, despite the uncertainty of the looming Brexit, is another priority for the U.K.’s trade shows; Scoop organizers said that they are focusing on sourcing designers from art schools all over the world, while London Edge is looking at opportunities of taking its show overseas in the next year. PARIS: New Names Draw InterestAmong new additions to the Paris calendar, Tranoï Week and Texworld Denim will be making their first appearances in the January to June lineup, having both launched in fall.Presented as a showroom-gallery hybrid, Tranoï Week, held in collaboration with the British Fashion Council, will take place Jan. 18 to 23, then from February 28 to March 6, in the VNH Gallery in Paris’ Marais district. On offer will be around 30 hand-picked men’s and women’s brands.David Hadida, the show’s director, said the market has been showing signs of recovery since September. Sales on textiles in the month rose 19.5 percent year-over-year, according to Gildas Minvielle, head of the economic observatory at IFM, albeit coming off a low base.With 1,200 retailers attending the inaugural edition, Hadida said the new salon, which offers a more "straight to the point," intimate format, is proving a commercial success in shifting times for the trade show and fashion show landscape with the industry increasingly keen to experiment with new ways of presenting."The digital revolution is keeping us on our toes, it’s in constant evolution," said Hadida.Texworld Denim, set to run February 11 to 14 at the Parc des Expositions in Le Bourget, returns after a successful debut in the fall where the Texworld shows saw a year-over-year increase in attendance of 13.9 percent. The denim show will host over 80 exhibitors spanning fabric mills from both Texworld and ready-to-wear from sister salon Apparel Sourcing. This year, organizers are adding an agora and social media lounge to the venue.

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