By  on November 21, 2007

LONDON — In the face of grim market conditions, British trade shows are relying on intimacy with their clients for a buoyant season.

Organizers are keying in to dominant industry trends and creating offerings that benefit both buyers and exhibitors.

Pure, the women's fashion and accessories show, will launch a footwear section at its Feb. 10 to 12 exhibition after learning that 66 percent of buyers had increased their footwear sales within 12 months. Organizers are expanding its exhibition space at Olympia London to 139,930 square feet, up 19,375 square feet from the previous season.

The increasing presence of footwear also can be felt at London's directional streetwear show, Margin. Last season, organizer Odysseas Constantine launched Gild, an area for everything from jewelry to hosiery.

"Gild worked really well for the buyers, and we had a good response from the labels," Constantine said.

For Margin's Feb. 10 to 12 show at the Vinyl Factory, Constantine is marketing Gild as a separate exhibition and is expanding, though plans to keep the number of exhibitors below 85.

"I always make sure to grow the show organically and slowly," Constantine said, adding that he selects all the labels that show at Margin. "We've curated the show so that buyers don't have to wade through hole after hole — they know that we've hand-picked a really good mix of brands."

Still, separate accessories areas do not work well for all organizers. At London Edge, the alternative clubwear show, organizer Carol Hunter said her buyers and labels prefer a mixed-in approach.

"Our exhibitors like to be mixed in because it gives them more visibility....They have a better chance of being found. Our buyers like to see accessories alongside clothing to see how they work together," Hunter said.

London Edge is slated for Feb. 3 to 5 at the Olympia 2 fairgrounds.

Elsewhere, organizers are seeing surging interest in green products and are rolling out a range of eco-friendly initiatives.

Premier Kids will unveil an Eco Kids section that houses organic cotton, fair trade and "the latest" recycled products when it returns to the NEC in Birmingham from Jan. 27 to 29."In the last year we had suppliers that had made garments out of organic fibers," said Premier Kids event manager Olga Carola-Downing. "There is a lot more awareness of the environment. We just want to show something that can be done without compromising on quality, fashion and style."

Premier Kids will host a seminar titled "Fibres to Figures," which educates buyers on how to offer ethical initiatives without hurting the bottom line.

Similarly, organizers at Moda, to be held Feb. 17 to 19 at the NEC, will distribute reusable cotton bags instead of its usual cardboard bags.

London Fashion Week's Esthetica collection — which showcases lines by London's eco-friendly designers such as Noir and Katherine Hamnett — has been earning its green credentials over the past two seasons. For the next show, which will run Feb. 10 to 17, media representative Caroline Rush said LFW plans to continue building upon this as its "main initiative."

And the British Fashion Council-sponsored show is very particular about which designers it partners with.

"We are looking to make sure that we don't compromise on the quality of

designers," Rush said. "We have to make sure that they are on the same level as the designers within the exhibition."

The exhibition will return to London's Natural History Museum, which organizers favor for its historical significance, despite frustrations with space restrictions and the off-center location.

"We are still going to be at the Natural History Museum. Going forward, we are not entirely sure what the plans are," Rush said. "It's not easy getting from one side of London to another. The ideal scenario is that we have a location that's easy to get to."

Trade shows also are amplifying the qualities that set them apart as they realize that buyers are spending more carefully.

For Textile Forum, the only fabric trade show in the U.K., being a niche player with a distinct identity is paying off. Organizer Linda Laderman said 95 percent of the 25 brands showing at Textile Forum, running March 12 to 13 at the Vinyl Factory, are return exhibitors."You wouldn't get consistency of exhibitors, people showing season after season, if you weren't delivering what they wanted," she said.

And what buyers want — especially given the uncertain economic outlook — is the ability to make purchases with no strings attached.

"Buyers will be just a little more selective about what they purchase," Laderman said, adding that the show caters to high-end designers and bridal specialists. "They are not going to want to commit themselves to large quantities of fabrics, and because we are offering short runs, they can sample, test and come back if they want."

The rapid evolution of fashion trends and quick stock turnover in retail outlets has more buyers favoring short orders over advance orders. Organizers at Pure and Premier Kids are seeing more of their exhibitors begin to offer short-order business.

"I think buyers are withholding some of their forward-order business for short order," London Edge's Hunter said, adding that all of her 220 exhibitors deliver orders within eight weeks. "In our show, they can order more accurately in terms of trends. They know what their cash flow is like at the moment and there is a demand for it."

Pure sales manager Samantha Bleasby said her exhibitors also are feeling the pressure to provide more collections for the upcoming season.

"With the climate change, it's not just two seasons anymore," Bleasby said, adding that Pure is considering offering more than two shows annually. "Exhibitors are having to provide up to five collections to keep up with the trends."

And in order to generate buzz and attract new buyers, organizers are increasing their online presence with everything from overhauled Web sites to interactive marketing campaigns.

"It's not easy. You definitely have to work much harder to get buyers right now," London Edge's Hunter said.

Moda introduced an e-broadcast last season to much positive response. London Edge has started creating publicity with blogs, MySpace pages and Facebook pages.

Casualwear show TBC has taken on a new organizer, Idex Media, and a colorful new online campaign. The show will remain at the Truman Brewery for its Feb. 10 to 11 edition, but will have more widespread online presence with click-thru ads on other sites and a revamped Web site."We intend to take a new direction with the show that will be very Internet-led," said organizer Buzz Hunter.

Pure also updated its Web site for the upcoming show, and buyers now can see an "exhibitor zone" with images and descriptions of products in the online collections.

"This is to reflect the growing number of visitors who are registering online. It's the way the market is," Rush said.

Beyond the virtual experience, organizers are looking for new ways to ensure that guests are plugged in at exhibitions that could have upward of 1,000 people milling around.

LFW organizers kept guests in the know last season with its first publication of The Daily Rubbish, which provided "inside info" on social events as well as features on designers. About 3,000 copies were circulated last season, and Rush said the presentation will be slightly updated for the coming season.

"It was the first time that we managed to do something like that," Rush said. "It gave a little bit of inside info, like who was where. It was a magnet around fashion week."

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