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This story first appeared in the November 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Japan’s trade show organizers are facing tough times in the current macroeconomic crisis, but they are hoping that high-quality products and unique presentations will continue to lure buyers.
Recent trade events in Japan have seen declining numbers of visitors. The last edition of the textile show JFW Japan Creation in October saw a 15 percent drop in visitors to 32,354, compared with a year ago, although the number of exhibitors increased to 394 from last year’s fi gure of 270. Another October show, apparel exhibition Plug In, saw its visitors drop to 1,568 from 1,900 in April.
But organizers and exhibitors aren’t fazed by this downward trend. JFW Japan Creation, for one, attributed much of the drop in visitor traffi c to fewer students and people from the general public attending its show — a factor that doesn’t affect business at the event.
While trade shows used to focus on attaining large numbers of visitors, it now appears they are favoring quality buyers over quantity. “Buyers are spending more time at the show than they did in the past,” said Daisuke Yamamoto, who works for Senken, the organizer behind JFW International Fashion Fair and niche trade event Plug In. “In a recession, buyers need something new. They are more serious about finding interesting goods.”
To that end, it’s important for organizers to focus, said Mika Sato, director of fashion and accessories trade show Rooms. “What is important now is whether it is easy for buyers to fi nd what they want, whether the venue and the whole presentation are exciting, and whether the quality of products is high,” Sato said.
Next year’s Japanese trade show calendar kicks off with JFW International Fashion Fair, Japan’s biggest integrated show of apparel and accessories, which runs Jan. 14 to 16 at Tokyo Big Sight. Other signifi cant events for the season include the creative fashion fair Rooms, which runs Feb. 17 to 19 at Yoyogi National Stadium and Japan Fashion Week, which runs from March 23 to 29, at different venues throughout the city.
At the last show in July, JFW IFF gathered 163 buyers from overseas, making up 12.4 percent of the total buyer numbers. More foreign buyers as well as domestic ones are expected to attend, said Yamamoto.
“The same number of exhibitors as last year is expected for Creator’s Village,” which is dedicated to fashion entrepreneurs, said Yamamoto. “Having young and challenging exhibitors in the fair is critical to vitalize the whole atmosphere.”
At the next Plug In, which focuses on high-end offerings from between 50 and 60 exhibitors, more deals are expected to be made at the show than in past editions. Buyers trust our lineup of the exhibitors and like the not-too-crowded atmosphere, where they can concentrate on negotiation,” Yamamoto added.
The number of visitors has grown steadily at Rooms. Only 800 visitors came to the first show in 2000, but 14,200 visitors attended the 17th edition of the show last September. For the next Rooms, organizers are going to reach out to general consumers with satellite exhibitions at Tokyo malls Omotesando Hills and Parco, where fashion companies can sell their products on the spot.
“Trade fairs are limited to people in the fashion industry, but to make a fashion statement in Japan, attendance of end consumers is critical. Having a project related to retail space is one of the solutions,” Sato said.