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Japanese Fairs: Back to Basics

Organizers are retrenching in the wake of business downturns.

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TOKYO — Japanese trade show organizers are stripping away the superfluous splash and refocusing on their core mission: to lure as many buyers as possible.

 

JFW Japan Creation, the nation’s main textile show, has been dwindling in size over recent seasons. For the next edition, scheduled for June 1 and 2, organizers are moving the event from its former home at convention center Tokyo Big Sight to a new venue called Stadium Place Aoyama, located in a fashionable district of the city.

 

JFW Japan Creation used to include a range of events like fashion shows and a textile contest. Often held over a three-day weekend, the trade show was open to students and other interested parties. That’s set to change, at least for one season.

 

“In the past it has been broader, but for June we are treating it as more of a business conference,” said a spokeswoman for Japan Creation.

 

The change comes after exhibitors requested more of a business focus to the show. Organizers are limiting visitors to the June event to buyers.

 

However, for its fall 2012 edition, scheduled for October, JFW Japan Creation will revert to its usual trade show format and will be held yet again at Tokyo Big Sight.

 

Another trade fair that is changing its strategy to incorporate a more business-oriented approach is the casual fashion show Frontier, which runs Feb. 1 to 4 at Tokyo Big Sight. The fair, which used to be held twice a year in conjunction with the Tokyo International Gift Show, has altered its format. Organizers are adding smaller, more specialized editions of the fair so there will actually be about six different appointments throughout the year. The dates and locations of these mini installments have yet to be determined.

 

Also of note, Frontier recently added an online shopping service that will allow customers to place orders without attending the event.

 

Takashi Yoshioka, a representative of Frontier, said the smaller shows will be mainly appointment-driven, focusing on business discussions between buyers and exhibitors.

 

“Rather than trying to get lots of makers to participate, we will concentrate on working more closely with fewer makers,” he said. “Having the ’Net shopping option will link the fair more to the real market, with an emphasis on in-season products.”

 

But not everyone is convinced that downsizing is the way to go during tough economic times. Naoya Jita, a representative of the JFW International Fashion Fair and Plug In, a trend-oriented apparel fair that attracts smaller brands, said it is important for trade fairs to hold parties, seminars and other events to drum up interest.

 

“Because market conditions are so difficult, exhibitors need to try even harder to get together and attract buyers,” said Jita, adding that the success of large-scale retailers such as Gap and Zara makes it difficult for smaller brands to survive.

 

“We are working to get more international press coverage and we have also increased the number of international buyers we invite,” said Jita, adding that in some cases, the fair organizers pay for Asian buyers’ trips.

 

Plug In is also switching venues for its next event, but it is expanding rather than cutting back. It will move from a hall in the young, fashionable neighborhood of Ebisu to a bigger space in the business district of Shimbashi for its April 12 to 14 edition. Organizers expect around 2,000 visitors, slightly more than the 1,892 attendees in October, and roughly 80 participating brands, compared with an average of 60 brands for previous editions.

 

“The new venue is an art space,” said a Plug In spokeswoman. “We have always tried to incorporate both fashion and art [into the fair], and this will strengthen those ties.”

 

Popular fashion and accessories fair Rooms estimates it will have about 400 brands participating in its next edition, slated for Feb. 15 to 17 at Yoyogi Stadium. Organizers aim to attract between 14,000 and 15,000 visitors over the three days, which is in line with the show that took place in August.

 

For the third time, Rooms will host a second event called Rooms Link, held in conjunction with Japan Fashion Week. Rooms Link, which will take place March 22 to 24 at Roppongi Academy Hills, serves as a hybrid trade event, runway show venue and presentation space for designers.

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