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SHANGHAI — There is no doubt that Novomania, a fashion trade show with the goal of helping smaller, urban brands enter the Chinese market, is still experiencing some growing pains.

But for the brands that attended the show, held for the third year at the beginning of March in Shanghai, it seemed like it was worth it to be there. And it also seemed like there was a general sentiment that Novomania could soon become one of the most important trade shows in China.

“It is much better than before,” said Olivier Petragallo, regional sales and marketing manager for Replay. “To go through China talking to landlords or potential partners, it will take you three months. Here, in three days, you get to meet not all of them, but you get to meet lots of them.”

Novomania, organized by Novo Holdings, which also has a distribution and multibrand concept store business in China, attracted about 150 foreign brands. Some participants, like Replay, Mango, Miss Sixty and Evisu, already have an established presence in China with stores in Beijing and Shanghai as well as smaller cities. For them, the show was an opportunity to try to meet new business partners in even smaller markets where they do not yet have stores.

“Having set up our own direct arm here, we want to start to really show the brand and to speak with landlords and sit down and talk to people who might want to open stores for us in Urumqi,” in the far west of China, Replay’s Petragallo said.

For many of the others, such as Claes Göran, a Swedish shoe company, and Iriedaily, a German streetwear brand, the show was their first-ever foray into the Chinese market.

Wandering around the exhibition hall was a strong presence of representatives from shopping malls or soon-to-open shopping malls in second- and third-tier cities. Their priority was to try to find tenants to rent spaces in their properties.

A representative from a shopping mall to be built in Wuhan, a city with a population of around 9 million in China’s interior, said she had little, if any, interest from exhibitors.

Zhou Mo, who works in the leasing department of a mall in Nanjing, a city near Shanghai, had a similar experience: “Nanjing is not very popular,” she said. “None of the brands want to pay the money [to rent a space]. It is a problem.”

Claes Bondelid, founder of Claes Göran, said “mostly shopping malls and department stores” visited his display at the event. “Most of them wanted to rent off space,” he said. “I am not interested in renting a place. I don’t know how it works [in China].”

“When we go to trade shows in Europe and the United States, 90 percent of the visitors are wholesalers,” said Patricia De la Hormaza, who handles trade marketing for Desigual, a Spanish brand. “We are used to shows where you have a lot of people ready to place orders, ready to buy things. Here it is lower. ”

“This show needs a couple of more years,” De la Hormaza added. “The concept is great. Right now, for getting contacts, it is OK, but they are basically all shopping malls and department stores.” 

This notion from brands that they will be bombarded by wholesalers looking to buy their products is a notion that Novomania is trying to change, according to Guilherme Faria, general manager of the event.

“Retail drives the market in China,” he said. “It is not wholesale. This is not a product oriented market, and this is why the visitors in our trade show are not buyers. It is not wholesale or buyer oriented. Leasing managers come here to say, ‘I am opening a shopping mall. This is the brand I want to have.’”

Faria said the aim of the show, now in its third year, is to create synergy between leasing managers, franchise businesses, distributors and brands to facilitate a deeper and broader penetration of the market.
“It is all interlinked. That is the uniqueness of Novomania. There is no other trade show in the world like this,” he said. “We are the only ones who are really retail oriented.”

It does appear brands are changing their strategy for Novomania and, in turn, for entering the Chinese market. Compared to previous years, Faria said this year exhibitors placed more emphasis on showcasing retail concepts at the event.

This year, “they are really showcasing the best of the brands,” Faria said. “Last year, they came to see what the show was about, so they came in with something that did not represent their brand but was a lot more simple.”

This year’s event also featured fashion shows, real estate seminars and parties to “create a full three-day interactive experience between the visitors and the brands,” Faria said.

“With the show that we have, everything is here. It is just a matter of creating more awareness to create more business,” he said. “That is what we need to do.”

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