By  on May 23, 2007

TOKYO — Japanese trade shows are working to stand out in a world where retailers can choose to attend any show in any country they wish. Tactics employed include adjusting schedules to better accommodate the seasons, introducing unique and imported merchandise and offering shorter lead times and flexibility to the market.

At its next edition, to be held July 18 to 20, the International Fashion Fair will offer a new import area called Terroir, showcasing approximately 60 overseas brands.

Included among them are a number of Turkish labels, approximately 10 European kids&' brands and lines from France and Italy, including bags and shoes. U.S. brands exhibit only in January under the coordination of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"By introducing imported brands of good quality, we will [improve] this exhibition," said Hiromi Kudo, IFF division manager. IFF aims to be the best show in Asia, and introducing the European brands is the key to attracting Asian buyers, Kudo added.

One of the more popular offerings at IFF is Creator&'s Village, where new designers and small businesses exhibit original and creative brands. Buyers are looking for something new, and "CV is the corner that answers the demand of the buyers," said Kudo.

Buyers agree that shows need new and exciting elements to draw crowds.

"A large-size exhibition is good to have an entire look at the industries effectively," said Takatoshi Ogawa, buyer and representative of Japanese specialty store Nara. "Buyers need the chance to meet new talented people. I will keep visiting the exhibitions from now on."

IFF expects to have 700 exhibitors and 29,000 visitors at Tokyo Big Sight in July. Asked about the possibility of moving show dates to better reflect the global fashion cycle, Kudo answered that, due to the availability of the venue, IFF must continue to be held in July and January. However, a new show, called Plug In, will be staged in April and October at EBISU 303 to better meet the demands of the fashion industry. "The April show is for fall-winter and the October show is for spring-summer. We started [Plug In] in March 2006 and the reaction is good," Kudo said.Casualwear exhibition Frontier, on the other hand, holds its show five times a year to match up with the Japanese fashion cycle.

Eager to better serve customers, Frontier recently launched a Web-based B2B system for registered participants. "This can be a new step to the world&'s stage. The Web is the new tool for both vendors and buyers to find new business partners," said Takashi Yoshioka, producer of Frontier.

Global expansion is another key for Frontier. At its February show, Frontier teamed with the Australian Embassy to show Australian brands for the first time. "They want to see buyers from department stores and specialty stores, with whom we can help them for business matching," Yoshioka said.

At its Sept. 4 to 6 show, Frontier will showcase approximately 40 New York brands under an agreement with Global Creative Works in New York. "Their merchandise will show in the exhibition as well as in the showroom," said Yoshioka.

Exhibitors at Frontier are proud of short lead time, usually one to two months, and quick delivery of in-stock merchandise. "They can ship on the very next day," said Yoshioka. "The market changes very rapidly, and the climate is also unstable. In order to answer the market, we have to be careful and quick to the needs of buyers. To be useful and effective as a fashion exhibition is the key," Yoshioka said.

In addition to the September show, Frontier also will be held June 5 to 7 and Nov. 6 to 8.

Rooms will hold its exhibition Aug. 29 to 31, during Japan Fashion Week. "We have been aiming to become the international fashion exhibition. And in that sense, working with JFW is meaningful," said Mika Sato, producer of Rooms.

A major draw for Rooms, Sato said, is that the show considers the exhibition to be one of creation, not simply of fabric industries.

"Creation is the added value. Designers want to show their creation, and buyers are looking for it. The meeting point is Rooms," Sato said.

Within the usual exhibition, Rooms plans to construct a space for JFW exhibitors. The next JFW will be held at Tokyo Midtown, and Rooms will be held at Roppongi Hills Academy, about 15 minutes away on foot.JFW is set at the forefront of the world&'s collection circuit, and in the interests of compatibility, Rooms will be the first exhibition in the world to show merchandise for spring and summer 2008.

Rooms is working to get the word out to the industry. Sato sent e-mails to all exhibitors about the connection to JFW, and the Rooms staff met buyers in person to explain the advantage of the exhibition.

For the spring 2007 show, Rooms had 11,000 visitors. "JFW is strong at public relations to the overseas market. We will have other buyer groups by collaborating with JFW," said Sato.

Rooms also introduces brands from other countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Iceland and Greece. "We can show their merchandise through the viewpoint of beauty that has a root in Japan," Sato said.

At Japan Creation, an exhibition open exclusively to Japanese companies, "Japan quality" is the motto. At the December 2006 show, JC created two sections within the venue: a business section for more active business transactions, and a promotion section for a more effective introduction of companies and merchandise to visitors. "We listened to both suppliers and buyers," said Mutsuko Tatsukami of JC, who added that 44,262 people visited the show last December.

JC also is aware of pressure to adapt its schedule to match the global fashion calendar, but the show is not changing, Tatsukami said. "As the biggest textile exhibition in Japan, we don&'t plan to change the schedule according to the overseas schedule. Instead, we will focus more on the quality of the domestic textiles."

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