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Spain: Building Bridges

Spain’s trade fair organizers see potential in foreign markets for strengthening their global position.

Major Spanish trade fair organizers are looking to boost sales at upcoming editions by courting new business in Latin America and Eastern Europe, offering a more diversified vendor presence and wider array of products and intensifying campaigns that promote the country’s efforts to pump up creative levels and quality.

“Our domestic customer is slowly recuperating and circumstances abroad are improving, so we have a chance to attract new brands [to the fair] by opening markets in areas like Latin America and Eastern Europe,” said Pola Iglesias, director of SIMM, Madrid’s biannual ready-to-wear show.

The domestic market is pretty well covered, she added. “We have almost all of the significant Spanish brands.”

The upcoming edition to be held from Feb. 11-14 also will reestablish daily runway shows. They will feature upscale domestic labels, fur manufacturers and “probably” a contingent of Latin American vendors from Columbia, Brazil, Peru and Mexico.

An upgraded product offering translates into better sales, “and our purpose is to sell,” Iglesias explained.

SIMM is the second-largest apparel fair in Europe after Düsseldorf’s CPD. According to IFEMA, organizer of the Spanish capital’s trade events, exhibitors at the four-day August show increased 12 percent over the previous year, to 960, including more than 200 from the European Union, Asia and Latin America. The exhibitors stretched across 355,230 square feet, or 5 percent more floor space, in five pavilions of the Juan Carlos I fairgrounds.

Traffic increased marginally to 25,600 visitors, including 2,668 foreigners, or 118 more than last year. Major

buying groups came from Portugal, Mexico, France and the U.K. Iglesias said she was optimistic about the coming year’s growth. “This year’s fair exceeded expectations. Given the sluggish European market, we didn’t expect such an animated response. The fair grew in quantity and quality, and I think the trend will continue.”

Pasarela Cibeles, the SIMM-sponsored runway presentations, will kick off on the last day of the trade event and be held Feb. 14-17. “The function of Cibeles is to promote Spanish fashion and the Madrid fair, so concurrent dates are an advantage,” said Cibeles’ director, Cuca Solana. She added that the show calendar has yet to be finalized, but said it will be similar to the one held in September, which featured 23 shows and 26 designers, including regulars such as Miguel Palacio, Jesús del Pozo, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Roberto Torretta.

Traditionally, the runway shows attract an audience of 800 accredited journalists (80 percent of the seating capacity). The additional 20 percent is made up of retailers, political figures and social luminaries.

Modacalzado, Spain’s twice-yearly shoe fair, in tandem with Iberpiel leathergoods show, is scheduled for April 1-3 at the Madrid fairgrounds. Most available space, which expanded last season to a roomier six pavilions, has been spoken for, according to Iglesias, who oversees both events under the banner SIPIEL or International Leather Week.

Modacalzado’s September edition registered a 5.6 percent drop in visitors over the previous year, to 23,350, while foreign attendance was up 1.3 percent or 15.8 percent of the total, according to official figures. Significant retail groups came from Portugal, Italy, the U.K. and France.

Iglesias said domestic traffic slipped because of problems facing the Spanish footwear industry. Among those problems are Chinese imports, which are threatening jobs and employment in the country. In an ugly incident recently, local teenagers burned warehouses and storage containers stocked with Asian footwear to protest the growing presence of Chinese companies in one of Spain’s main shoe-making areas. Reportedly, the attack caused damages of $1 million.

Additional problems are stagnant European economies and a soft dollar, manufacturers reported.

In general, they said, local producers are reacting by sharpening their creative skills to emphasize innovative design and quality. “Spain doesn’t produce cheap footwear; we can’t churn out shoes for 6 euros [approximately $7.50]. We’re on the same design-quality level as Italy. That’s our competition, not China,” said an industry spokesman.

Textilmoda, which targets producers and buyers of textiles, apparel and components, is also under IFEMA’s umbrella. The upcoming edition, the fair’s eighth, to be held in Pavilion 7 of the Madrid fairgrounds, has upped its dates to Feb. 22-24. This is two weeks before the textile fair in Paris, Première Vision, which is a competitive advantage, according to commercial director Félix Perez-Fajardo.

Exhibition space is expected to increase about 7 percent over September’s 60,278 square feet, while vendors — 50 percent foreign — could total upward of 300, a triple jump since the fair’s inception and an increase of roughly 10 percent over the previous edition. Last season’s visitor tally hit 4,000, mainly from Galicia, in the north of Spain; Barcelona and the Cataluña region, and Portugal, Perez-Fajardo said.

Because the Spanish textile industry is going through “a bad moment,” vendors are focusing on design and quality, Perez-Fajardo explained. To support their efforts, Textilmoda, in collaboration with the Paris-based fashion agency Nelly Rodi, will help spot trends in colors and textures through fabric displays, samples and social-marketing guides “so domestic producers won’t have to travel to see the trends.”

Over in Barcelona, there are three major fashion-related trade events: the annual BCN Bridal Week, including the Gaudi Novias runway shows and the Noviaespaña trade event, and the biannual Moda Barcelona-BCN Fashion Week.

Next year’s BCN Bridal Week is being held June 15-19 in the Pabellón Italiano and Palacio 8, both in Barcelona’s Montjuïc fairgrounds. For the June edition of Noviaespaña, roughly 180 vendors are expected on upward of 231,424 square feet of floor space, according to fair organizer Flaqué International. Traditionally, the runway presentations feature local collections by Spanish designers who are particularly strong in bridal, with the Pronovias evening catwalk show for

international retailers, featuring Emanuel Ungaro, Elie Saab and Badgley Mischka, being the week’s highlight. The latter event is organized by Barcelona-based Pronovias, which is the largest bridalwear manufacturer in the world.

Barcelona Fashion Week’s main draw, meanwhile, is Pasarela Gaudi, five days of runway shows to be held Jan. 31-Feb. 3 in the fairground’s Pabellón Italiano. Last season’s presentations were watched by 38,000 spectators and 900 journalists, according to Flaqué International. Foreign participation included rtw designers from Brazil and Portugal.

Alex Flaqué, head of Flaqué International, said the following trade fair, called BCN Showrooms, scheduled for Feb. 4-6, will maintain the innovative format initiated in September that featured 190 exhibitors in five color-coordinated spaces in Palacio 6, including such categories as women’s and men’s rtw, accessories, denim, swimwear and lingerie. Roughly 8,700 visitors attended. He said floor space for the coming show would remain “more or less the same” at roughly 75,345 square feet. Flaqué said he still couldn’t predict upcoming vendor participation, but added, “The reaction has been very good. We’ve had continued requests for booths.

“The fair is no longer a distribution center,” he explained. “It’s a professional meeting place. Sales come later, but they’re dependent on the Barcelona show.”