Fog Slowly Lifting Over British Economy

London trade show organizers see better times ahead.

Checking out the fabrics at the Textile Forum.

LONDON — London’s trade show organizers are upbeat despite the cloudy economic climate, and exhibitors are making creative efforts to adapt to difficult conditions.

This story first appeared in the November 13, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“In terms of trading conditions, I think that the last summer season was one of the toughest yet for the U.K., and those that have survived it, both brands and retailers, will be all the stronger for it,” said Lindsay Hoyes, event director at Bubble London, which focuses on children’s wear.

“We are at a stage now where only the most commercially viable businesses, or most desirable collections and stores can be successful,” Hoyes added. “I believe we all have to evolve and adapt each season, as one thing I have learned is that a lot can change in six months.”

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Hoyes said there are a number of challenges ahead for exhibition organizers, one of the main ones being the difficult economic environment facing U.K. retailers.

“This has caused a decline in the number of independent retailers domestically, while at the same time we are seeing an increase in the number and diversity of brands now available in the U.K.,” she added.

Nick Cook, commercial director of Moda, which features contemporary and classic apparel and accessories, remains hopeful for the upcoming season.

“The climate is still very tough for fashion retail in the U.K., and although I do think things will improve in 2014, it’s going to be a long time yet before we recover from the effects of recession,” he said. “These are still challenging times for fashion retail, but there was a new sense of cautious optimism at our August show, and a feeling that conditions are going to improve in 2014. I do feel that both retailers and brands are feeling better about their prospects for 2014, and that kind of positive mood always makes for a better show experience.”

Carole Hunter, director of marketing for LondonEdge Original, LondonEdge Fashion and The Ledge, which highlight the alternative and streetwear markets, said her strategy has been to draw in new buyers, while maintaining regular attendees.

“While the world seems to be moving out of recession from a political and economic point of view, the average man and woman on the street have much less to spend on luxuries such as fashion,” Hunter said. “So, without doubt, it’s improving but we’re not there yet,” said Hunter. “Our plan…is to revisit aspects of the show that have worked well in the past, such as adding value with fashion show performances, buyer gifts and show parties, as well as to keep it fresh and new by driving the campaign to bring in lots of new collections.”

Linda Laderman, cofounder and organizer of Textile Forum, believes that brands will have a better rate of success through creativity and standout selling propositions.

“It is still tough times for the fashion industry, however it has been proven that if companies find a unique selling proposition and continue to be creative, they have a great chance of succeeding,” said Laderman. “Designers are conscious about where they buy their fabric, so anything produced in the U.K. is important. A survey conducted at the show revealed that 75 percent of the respondents thought it very important to source product from the U.K.”

In a bid to entice buyers and boost numbers, exhibitors will be implementing innovative elements, new installations and show upgrades. Bubble is developing a series of short films that feature evocative images of childhood, with the first being previewed at the January show. In addition, they are launching The Bubble Effect — a guide to how to make the most of a brand’s presence at a trade exhibition and ways they can engage with the press and buyers before, during and after the show.

Scoop, an international showcase of contemporary designers, has also implemented new elements for the upcoming season.

“We now have incorporated Phillips [art gallery] into the Scoop fold, as well as the Saatchi Gallery for Scoop International,” said Karen Radley, Scoop International organizer. “This was due to outstanding demand for space from prospective exhibitors — a double Scoop in essence.”

Radley added: “New to the show this year will be an installation of artisan scents presented by IntertradeEurope, a showcase where fashion, art and scent are linked…playing on the senses, captivating and enticing in the journey into each other’s worlds.”

Also new to Scoop International is the introduction of “Scoop Picks,” where organizers will curate works by chosen artists to adorn the walls of Phillips.

Scoop reports that for each edition of Scoop International there has been a 10 percent increase in buyers and visitors.

Moda, meanwhile, will be incorporating some upgrades this upcoming season, introducing a new eveningwear section.

“We’re bringing in a number of changes to Moda Woman this season in order to develop some of the key areas of the show,” said Cook. “Moda White, the most contemporary area of the show, has been relocated to allow us to grow the number of brands taking part, and we’re also introducing a brand new eveningwear area. Moda is already the key U.K. show for this sector, but this new area — Moda Noir — will feature some great collections new to the show.”

Moda has also focused on improving the quality of visitors and exhibitors, in addition to concentrating on increasing the numbers. Earlier this year, Moda created the new role of visitor relations manager within the Moda team, to work closely with key buyers across all sectors. LondonEdge aims to attract the same number as the September 2013 show and ideally attract more overseas buyers.