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Canadian Trade Shows: Money Troubles

The fluctuating value of the Canadian dollar versus the greenback makes upcoming shows difficult to gauge.

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, the Canadian dollar was worth about $1.05, due mainly to the strength of Canada’s resource sector, particularly oil and gas and metals.

But with the current economic slowdown bordering on a recession, demand for those products is down and so is the Canuck buck, which has been trading around 80 cents for most of the fourth quarter of this year.

As a result, cross-border shopping in the U.S. has come to a “screeching halt,” according to the Consumers Association of Canada, and is making things interesting for the trade show sector, especially when the precipitous dive in the U.S. economy is factored in.

“Last year, exhibitors were concerned because our dollar was so strong, making their products so expensive. Now, the reverse is true,” said Alice Chee, organizer of the Mode Accessories Show being held at Toronto’s Doubletree International Plaza Jan. 25 to 27.The show will feature a capacity 220 exhibitors and is expected to attract around 4,000 buyers.

“But there’s concern about what’s happening with the U.S. economy. Although our economy is on a more stable footing, we will still experience some volatility. It may even streamline our industry, which would be positive,” said Chee.

Both Montreal Fashion Week and L’Oréal Fashion Week in Toronto, taking place March 9 to 13 and March 16 to 20, respectively, continue to vie to be the number-one fashion week in Canada.

Jean-François Daviau, president of Sensation Mode, which produces MFW, said the October edition of MFW was the best to date, both in terms of the quality of designers and the number of buyers and media.

“We brought in 50 media and buyers from Toronto and our major sponsor, Procter & Gamble, brought in 15 more media. We also had about 30 international buyers, including 18 from the U.S. and eight from Japan, a first for us. One of the Japanese buyers was from Itochu, a major department store in Japan.”

A new initiative that MFW plans to expand in March is an on-site showroom that featured 100 apparel and accessories companies.

“A lot of designers don’t want to be part of the fashion shows, and this gives them a nice alternative,” explained Daviau.

LFW draws bigger crowds than its Montreal rival, mainly because its fashion shows are open to the public and it is the media capital of Canada, which draws some Montreal designers to Toronto.

It also includes non-Canadian companies, such as Spanish retailer Mango, which put on a fashion show at its October event, at which model and actress Mónica Cruz, Penélope’s sister, made an appearance.

“There will be significant growth in the number and international range of designers as well as continued sponsor growth” in March, according to Megan Loach, communications coordinator of the Fashion Design Council of Canada, which organizes LFW.

With its new Beautifully Canadian branding campaign unveiled in Russia in September and China this month, the Fur Council of Canada is optimistic that its North American Fur and Fashion Exhibition being held May 3 to 6 at Place Bonaventure in Montreal will generate big numbers, both in sales and attendance from overseas.

“We felt a bit of a weakening last year, and whether it will affect our show in May is tough to say at this point,” said Alan Herscovici, executive vice president of the Fur Council of Canada, which organizes NAFFEM. “On the bright side, the weaker Canadian dollar will make Canadian furs more attractive for U.S. buyers.”

Attendance at last year’s show was down slightly at 3,300 buyers, about half from the U.S. Herscovici hopes the Beautifully Canadian campaign will attract more buyers from Russia, which reached 30 last year, as well as China.

There was one casualty on the trade show circuit. After combining its men’s wear and women’s wear shows last year, FashionNorth has dropped its women’s wear portion of the show due to a lack of support, and might even cancel its men’s wear edition in February for the same reason, according to show organizer Ralph Weil.