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Canadian Exhibitions Eye Clearer Skies

Competition for U.S. dollars seen as top hurdle.

MONTREAL — Canada’s economic growth in 2012 is expected to come in around 1.8 percent, revised downward from August, due to continuing high risk in Europe, the slower-than-expected U.S. recovery and the softening of growth in China and emerging markets, according to TD Bank, but trade show organizers see improvement on the horizon.

 

The forecast for 2013 is for a continuation in the U.S. recovery and a “soft landing in emerging markets,” which should boost Canada’s gross domestic product to 2 percent. Of more concern for retailers is Ottawa’s decision to double the amount of duty-free goods Canadians are allowed to bring back from the U.S. Another compelling reason to border shop is that prices on average in Canada are 13 percent higher than in the U.S.

 

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“The steady drain of Canadian shoppers heading south is weighing on retail sales in this country,” said a report from BMO Capital Markets. “For the first time in years, U.S. retail sales growth is running faster than in Canada.”

For Canadian trade shows, the concern is a currency close to on par with the U.S., taking away any economic advantage. So far, it doesn’t appear to have had any impact, according to Alice Chee, manager of the Mode Accessories Show, set for Jan. 27 to 29 at the DoubleTree Toronto Airport Hotel.

“Our numbers have been pretty steady at about 200 exhibitors and 3,600 buyers,” Chee said. “One thing we’ve noticed is a lot of independents are adding shoes to their product mix to compete with the chains. They also have to buy in shorter cycles to compete with fast-fashion stores like Zara.”

The Ontario Fashion Exhibitors Profile Show, March 2 to 5 at the Toronto Congress Center, is expecting 180 exhibitors and 2,000 buyers, said show manager Michael Dargavel.

A popular feature of the past two seasons that will continue is a group of 50 mannequins in the center aisle displaying the exhibitors’ hottest lines. The last show also featured motivational speaker Bob Negen,  who discussed how “to explode your sales,” said Dargavel, who is lining up another speaker for March.

Toronto Fashion Week in March, now called World MasterCard Fashion Week, has more marketing muscle behind it now that it’s run by marketing powerhouse IMG, which operates several fashion weeks internationally. IMG took over from the Fashion Design Council of Canada last August, so there was little lead time to make any wholesale changes to the last fashion week in October, said Carolyn Quinn, director, fashion events for IMG Canada, who previously worked at FDCC.

“But with their expertise running other shows, they raised the standard of production, including better lighting, replacing bleachers with risers and chairs, and providing better working space for the media,” Quinn said. “We also had an on-site cafe that was catered by the Ritz Carlton.”

The week attracted over 30,000 attendees and featured some 50 designers, including eight new Canadian designers promoted in an event called Mercedes-Benz Start Up. The event also attracted a lot of international press thanks to support from the Canadian Tourism Commission, which flew in media from South Korea, China, Japan, Brazil, France and India.

After the warmest winter in recent memory, the fur industry hopes to bounce back at the North American Fur & Fashion Exhibition in Montreal, April 28 to 30 at Place Bonaventure.

 

“The last show was challenging, which was reflected in attendance, which was down about six percent, while the number of exhibitors was down by 10 percent because a lot of Europeans knew how tough the market was,” said Alan Herscovici, vice president of the Fur Council of Canada, which organizes NAFFEM. “People are looking forward to a better season because November started off cold, the U.S. election is over and there’s an uptick in the economy.”