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London Forecast Sees Clouds Lifting

Trade shows are constantly upgrading their offer and focusing on inventive ways to boost numbers.

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LONDON — The best is yet to come for U.K. trade show organizers who, like their European counterparts, have been struggling with sluggish economies and tepid consumer sentiment for the past few years.

During those difficult times, organizers shifted their efforts into high gear, introduced new initiatives, held runway shows, pop-up events and expanded and diversified their spaces all in a bid to stimulate interest among buyers.

While the future may be all rosy, complacency is not an option and shows are constantly upgrading their offer and focusing on inventive ways to boost numbers.

“Pure London is in a great position going into the second half of 2014 and projections are looking strong,” said Julie Driscoll, portfolio director for Pure London, a trade show that specializes in the contemporary market. “Response to the changes we made earlier this year to our February edition of the show were resoundingly positive, with brands and retailers feeding back that the show is moving in the right direction, and approving of the new re-edited ready-to-wear sections Allure, Aspire and Agenda.”

Lindsay Hoyes, event director at Bubble London, a children’s wear trade fair, noted that some brands are flourishing due to the “Prince George effect.”

“While we are optimistic that reports from recent shows indicate that there has been a recent upward trend, we are still very aware that economic recovery is still slow for some areas of Britain and Europe,” said Hoyes. “We are doing as much as possible to support both retailers and brands through these difficult times. We are very lucky to work with a number of brands who are benefiting from the Prince George effect with collections from Early Days, Rachel Riley and Aiden + Anais, as well as a growing interest in championing U.K. design and manufacturing talent worldwide.”

Carole Hunter, director of marketing for LondonEdge Original and LondonEdge Fashion, which focuses on the alternative and streetwear market, believes the upcoming season will be “busy and fruitful.”

“With our new satellite show happening in Berlin during July, and LondonEdge London projected to maintain or slightly increase its February 2014 revenue, we are satisfied that the second half of the year will be good,” Hunter said.

Michelle Prah, fashion account manager at Top Drawer, a fashion and lifestyle trade show, is also upbeat. Prah said, “From talking to exhibitors and retailers, the general consensus is that the market is taking a turn for the better. Many new companies are booking into Top Drawer. There is obviously still an appetite for designing products and bringing them to market. Buyers are open to testing new designs, cautiously perhaps, but still interested in anything new.”

Prah noted that buyers and exhibitors remain wary, but she also believes the dust has finally settled.

“Some feel that when the market is cautious it is not the time to be exhibiting,” she said. “However, from seeing how our shows perform, I believe the opposite. It is essential for businesses to still be actively trading and meeting their existing clients’ expectations. I think it is important to remember that rather than analyzing the market as a whole, it is better to analyze how you are dealing with it.”

Linda Laderman, cofounder and organizer of Textile Forum, said, “There is a real positive air about 2014 among fabric companies selling to the designer market. A poll of companies that attended the March Textile Forum [shows they are] very upbeat about the autumn. Neither the competitiveness of the fashion industry, nor the economic climate seems to be deterring designers setting up in business.”

Laderman added that there are a large number of buyers returning to the show, and that suppliers recognize the importance of introducing something fresh each season.

“Innovation continues to be key both from the fabric and design perspectives,” she said. “The demand for U.K.-produced fabric continues, as does that for sustainable fabric and we hope to have more that meet these criteria at the October show.”

Alice Elliott, event director at Jacket Required, a men’s wear trade show, said, “We are confident that we are genuinely seeing the economy turn a corner.”

Nick Cook, portfolio director at Moda, which showcases contemporary and classic apparel and accessories, said, “We are looking forward to the buzz of the halls, which was really starting to grow at last season’s event. Despite our optimism, we are still very realistic about where fashion retail is and how far the industry still has to go in terms of a full and sustained economic recovery. We recognize that any progress to date hangs in a delicate balance and everything from the weather to government policy will influence steps forward. This is why it is just as important as ever for us to provide added value for all of our visitors. In addition to opportunities to buying and seeing the latest collections and trends, we are listening to the key topics retailers are saying will make a difference to their business in practical terms and offering as many free seminars as possible to help address any knowledge and skills gaps which may also be barriers to recovery.”

Exhibitors are also turning to various strategies to help boost sales. Karen Radley, founder of Scoop International, a boutique trade fair, anticipates a busier show. She plans to showcase more international labels, as well as some new homegrown talent. Scoop will also be showcasing an installation of artisan scents and artwork at its upcoming show.

“New to the show this year will be an installation of artisan scents presented by Intertrade,” said Radley. “A showcase where fashion, art and scent are linked in more ways than one. Intertrade Europe are leaders in the world of Art Perfume and will be creating a dynamic experience showcasing the creative identity of each brand. This fits perfectly into the vision for Scoop, which showcases hard-to-find brands within an artistic context. It’s a hell of a challenge, but also a joy to curate. Also new is Scoop Picks, where we curate chosen artists to adorn the walls of Phillips to complement the ever-transient works at the Saatchi Gallery.”

Pure London has also redesigned some of its sections.

“Building on the success of last season’s show and the re-edited ready-to-wear section, the [spring 2015] show in August will offer buyers a redefined footwear and accessories area, designed to enhance the identity of both areas,” said Driscoll. “As a result, brands will enjoy a brighter space and it is hoped that the changes will improve visitor experience, bringing more buyers to those sections.”

Moda is adding to its product offering.

“In addition to a refreshed look for our stand builds this season, we are also continuing to develop some key product areas within the show,” said Nick Cook, portfolio director at Moda. “We will be launching Mini Moda, a standout area within the show that’s dedicated to kids’ footwear brands and product. We are also looking to build a specific seminar program around the theme of e-commerce, addressing the growing importance of the topic and the gaps in resources it presents for retailers.”

LondonEdge is turning to new cities to showcase its offerings.

“The new show in Berlin will be exciting, as will the new venue for the London show,” said Hunter. “The Berlin exhibition will offer LondonEdge exhibitors the opportunity to be involved with Berlin’s significant fashion week in a quirky, off-the-wall venue for a two-day show, and meanwhile will provide buyers in Berlin with a brand new selection of edgy, left-of-center collections for the first time. Additionally, for those buyers in Germany and adjacent countries who do not have the budget to travel to London, this is their opportunity to enjoy the LondonEdge experience. Meanwhile, the Business Design Center is a fantastic venue in a gorgeous part of London and will contribute to the fresh new approach that we are forging for the show and future concepts.”

Bubble London has teamed up with Boxpark, a pop-up-themed shopping area, to offer brands a free space to showcase their lines.

“This is in recognition and support of a growing number of brands who are seeking direct consumer experience, as well as independent and department store stockists in both the U.K. and overseas,” said Lindsay Hoyes, event director at Bubble London.

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