LONDON — British trade show organizers have reason to be optimistic: They’re attracting increased foreigner visitors tempted by the weaker pound, and witnessing a surge in domestic buyers scared by the powerful euro.
To add to the growing momentum, a new men’s wear show will open in February, and elsewhere organizers are expanding floor space and investing heavily in Web site overhauls.
Samantha Bleasby, event manager for Pure, the women’s fashion and accessories show that takes place Feb. 14 to 16 at Olympia, has identified a silver lining to the shrinking British economy.
“We went to a lot of the overseas shows and it seems that none of the [British] independents traveled, which was brilliant for us, and we saw our attendance rise when other shows were down,” she said.
Pure has seen a “significant rise” in applications from foreign brands wishing to exhibit at the spring show, which will take the West London venue to capacity and spotlight approximately 950 labels.
“What we’ve actually seen is an influx of European brands who want the U.K. buyers. So now we’re getting to a point where about 55 to 60 percent of exhibitors are non-U.K.,” said Bleasby.
She said she plans to introduce an eveningwear space called Spotlight and to expand the young fashion area following research undertaken during the last show. New brands for the February billing include Calvin Klein and John Smedley.
Carole Hunter, managing director of London Edge, the alternative clubwear show that runs Feb. 7 to 9, has reported a rise in new exhibitor applications.
“It’s hard to work out where they’re coming from in particular,” she said. “I think there will be a nice selection of new product for February.”
At the next show, Hunter hopes to feature an ice rink, hot tubs and entertainment in the form of burlesque dancers.
Stitch, Britain’s first men’s wear show slated for the capital’s Billingsgate Market on Feb. 14 and 15, hopes to attract British men’s wear buyers who are unable to travel to continental Europe.
“I think now is a good time to launch, [considering] the financial readjustment to the recession, and also because of the strength of the euro to the pound. Brands find it extremely difficult to go to Europe,” said managing director Brian Duffy.
The new fair is divided into three main areas — denim, contemporary and sportswear — and Duffy said he aims to showcase 177 brands. He has already signed brands including Nike, Puma, Richard James, Hunter, McQ and Fred Perry.
Simon Ward, co-chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said the 25th anniversary of London Fashion Week in September significantly exceeded expectations, with attendance up 26 percent since the BFC relocated the event to its new West End home.
Ward said the number of international buyers rose for the week, coming mainly from the U.S., France, Italy, and the Middle East.
New features at the exhibition included Boudoir, an area for lingerie, and Hedonism, a millinery showcase curated by Stephen Jones, who is in talks with the BFC about repeating the initiative for next season.
“There are a lot of great new shoe designers around and we’ll look at how we might best stock for that,” said Ward of his plans for LFW in February. “We may have a new footwear feature running alongside Hedonism. Watch this space.”
British organizers are also investing in the power of the Web to keep their brands and buyers connected via their sites throughout the year. Pure recently relaunched its Web site to make navigation easier for its users, who can go to the site for industry news as well as for information about the exhibition.
Bleasby reported that many of the buyers who visit Pure are doing their homework and researching the brands they wish to see prior to attending the show.
“What’s really important in setting us apart from other exhibitions is that it’s not just a trade show for six days a year. It’s actually a network of people, and we bring them together throughout the year,” said Bleasby of Pure’s site, which attracted approximately 130,000 unique users before the last show.
Textile Forum, the U.K.’s only fabric trade show, which will take place March 10 and 11 at the Music Rooms in central London, will launch a new application on its Web site early next year. “We’ve spent a lot of money developing the Web site and encouraging people to use it throughout the year,” said organizer Linda Laderman, “and we’re going to be launching a product finder in the New Year.”
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