By  on November 22, 2006

MILAN — Good food, good products and good service. Italian trade fair organizers are banking on this apparently simple recipe to attract new visitors to their exhibitions.

"We started offering free food stalls in March, and there's no going back," said Giorgio Cannara, president of AIMPES, the Italian leather goods association that organizes accessories fair Mipel, which next year will run March 15 to 18, together with footwear show Micam. Cannara said that he has been pushing to open new accessories categories such as hats, gloves, scarves and costume jewelry to expand the number of visitors.

Mipel, which reported a 7 percent increase in visitors in September, will push back its dates in 2008, running at the end of February. Cannara attributed this decision to the earlier dates of leather and accessories components exhibition Lineapelle. "Lineapelle is our point of reference," said Cannara. "The new calendar will allow us to be ready earlier in the year and to meet the needs of our buyers."

Cannara also said that, starting in September 2007, Micam and Mipel will finally be held together with women's ready-to-wear fair Milano Vende Moda, after a test last September. "It will be a big moment of synergies, which I've always pushed for," said Cannara.

Mipel and Micam will continue to show at the new, sprawling Rho-Pero fairgrounds designed by Massimiliano Fuksas and inaugurated last year. "Once you are there, it works well. We've made very minor changes in the layout, which makes it easier for our visitors," said Cannara. Visitors, he said, are increasingly using the subway to reach the fairgrounds, as ongoing construction in the area makes driving a trying journey.

Conversely, Paolo Zegna, president of textile show Unica, said the location at the Portello fairgrounds in the city is "definitive, for sure." After a negative debut at the Rho-Pero space in September 2005, Unica has relocated to the city. "It's closer and more manageable," said Zegna.

The executive said he was pleased that "exhibitors now understand the spirit [of Unica]," which stemmed last year from the union of Ideacomo, Ideabiella, Shirt Avenue, ModaIn and Prato Expo. "This is not only a commercial fair. There is a message we want to put through about the excellence of our industry, the innovation, the research, the history, the added value, so that when clients see our samples, they know they are looking at a piece of Made in Italy," said Zegna. Unica will run Feb. 13 to 16.While established fairs such as Unica, Mipel, Micam and men's wear exhibition Pitti Uomo are intent on consolidating their businesses and expanding their product categories, others are in the midst of a restructuring project, such as ModaPrima and Pitti Filati.

"We want to go back to a big international distribution and make ModaPrima distinctive," said Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine, which, in addition to organizing Pitti Immagine Uomo, Pitti Bimbo, Pitti Filati, and Pitti Immagine Fragranze, now controls the management of several trade fairs from organizer Efima, including niche apparel shows White, Neozone, Cloudnine and ModaPrima.

Last May, ModaPrima, held in Milan, reported a 10 percent increase in visitors compared with the November edition a year ago, for a total of 1,992, with 50 percent of visitors coming from outside Italy. "We are already seeing positive results," said Napoleone. ModaPrima will run May 27 to 29 at Milan's fairgrounds.

Napoleone also said that yarn exhibition Pitti Filati, running Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at Florence's Fortezza da Basso, is "evolving, as it reflects the restructuring of that sector." However, the executive said Pitti Filati remains "the only international quality exhibition" of its kind.

Napoleone said women's rtw shows White and Neozone and women's accessories exhibition Cloudnine, all held in Milan Feb. 22 to 25 in the Via Tortona area close to the Giorgio Armani Teatro, are "evolving and becoming stronger and stronger, with a great image — we see a very positive consensus." In particular, Napoleone said Cloudnine mirrors the "driving force" of accessories today.

W Lo Spazio, which will showcase handbags, shoes and leather accessories in Milan Feb. 15 to 18, stemmed from the need to cater to such an accessories-driven market, according to Luisa Pandolfi, fashion consultant and partner. "We want to be selective, with a maximum of 40 exhibitors, and offer emerging brands that are innovative and stand out in a

crowded market," said Pandolfi. Service is also a priority for Pandolfi, as the show, which is entering its third edition, opens at 8:30 a.m. and, on the first evening, closes at 9:30 p.m. with cocktails. The organization is partnered with Workshop Fashion Agency in Paris."Buyers want new products," agreed Massimo Toni, business development manager of Rimini Fiera, who is organizing the premiere edition of First Alternative, a rtw and accessories show running Jan. 12 to 14 in the Adriatic town of Rimini. "This exhibition was created for small and medium-sized firms that did not find the right space to show because they were overshadowed by bigger brands," said Toni. Aware that First Alternative will conflict with Pitti Uomo, Toni said, "There should be more synergies. Why should retailers come to Italy 20 times per year? This is one fashion moment for all categories."

Toni noted that the Rimini area has the added advantage of being much less expensive than cities such as Milan and Florence. In addition, as the Rimini fairgrounds are located around their own train station, the organization will pay a fee to Italy's train company to have 16 more trains stop there.

Toni said his objective is to reach around 170 Italian exhibitors in the medium to medium-high range of the market, such as Miss Sixty and Guru, which are due to show at the first edition, along with one as yet unnamed foreign special guest exhibitor. Toni said the July edition will likely also comprise a beachwear section.

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