Bookings and Hopes Rise in Australia

Show organizers report an uptick in confidence for the first half of next year.

SYDNEY — Australian show organizers report an uptick in confidence for the first half of next year.

This story first appeared in the November 18, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Among the good news for importers: the yo-yo Australian dollar, which at press time hit a near 15-month high of 93.5 U.S. cents after falling to a five-year low in October 2008. Although not so good for exporters, many companies have nevertheless concentrated on shoring up their domestic businesses while waiting for the international market to recover.

The spring edition of Australia’s biggest fashion trade show, Fashion Exposed, will run Feb. 14 to 16 at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour. That’s a month earlier than the previous year’s show — moved forward because organizer Australian Exhibitions and Conferences found March was too late for many companies.

For the first time in Sydney, Fashion Exposed and its high-end Preview component will be located with AEC’s Australian Shoe Fair and Leather Bags and Accessories, providing a comprehensive buying event. All four are together at the smaller Melbourne show each August.

The event will occupy 242,188 square feet, the same space as last March, with 530 exhibitors — up 2 percent from last year.

At the Melbourne show in August, 88 percent of exhibitors reported “good to excellent” results, up from 73 percent in 2008, with more companies writing larger orders this year.

“Fashion Exposed held steady in 2009 in difficult market conditions,” said AEC managing director Marie Kinsella. “Consistent levels of participation from suppliers and retailers at the fair were seen for both the Melbourne and Sydney installments. We anticipate growth in attendance in Sydney as economic conditions continue to improve for 2010.”

She added, “While most companies remain cautious with spending, there is an underlying sense of optimism in the industry. The bookings for our Fashion Fairs have exceeded expectations for the first half of 2010. Most of our clients are importers, so the high Australian dollar works in their favor. Our other events over many industries also are showing signs of significant growth, in particular bookings for the new fiscal year starting in July 2010.”

Reed Exhibitions reports that exhibitor and visitor numbers for its five Reed Gift Fairs were stable in 2009, with a slight decline in overall visitors, but an increase in the quality of buyers. Over 2,879 exhibitors spread over 568,571 square feet, drawing a total of 91,333 visitors. Up to 25 percent of attendance at Reed Gift Fairs is fashion, jewelry and accessories retailers.

The Melbourne Reed Gift Fair in August proved in fact to be the biggest and most successful event staged in its 40-year history, with 36,146 visitors and 838 exhibitors spread over 178,369 square feet of space in the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and Melbourne Showgrounds. More than 90 percent of visitors had purchasing authority.

Reed reports a “strong” pickup in confidence for next year, with 56,161 square feet of space already sold for the next Melbourne fair, which runs Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at the MCEC. In February, Reed sold 54,000 square feet in Melbourne.

The Sydney Reed Gift Fair, Feb. 27 to March 3 at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, is once again expected to fill the venue of 156,626 square feet.

Initiatives launched this year to assist exhibitors included the launch of “Gift” box stands of about 40 square feet each aimed at new companies; cost-effective solutions for exhibitors, and a new program of educational seminars called “Retail 2010: Revolution of Evolution.” Topics include “Online Drives Offline for Retailers” and “Economic Stimulus: How to Pry It Out of Customers’ Wallets.”

In spite of the economic climate, IMG Fashion Asia Pacific forged ahead with a brand-new Australian show in the first half of 2009: Swim Fashion Week, Australia’s first swimwear-dedicated trade showcase.

The sophomore edition will run Feb. 23 to 26 at the same venue, the five-star Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove resort on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Although the lineup has yet to be finalized, according to IMG, interest already has doubled the allocated show slots.

The inaugural event saw 17 swimwear brands, including Zimmermann, Hotel Bondi Swim, Anna & Boy, Ed Hardy and Christian Audigier, participate in 11 runway shows in one main on-site tent, in addition to static displays in poolside “lagoon pavilions” and hotel suite showrooms. More than 300 delegates attended, including 86 buyers.

With the 15th anniversary of the company’s flagship Rosemount Australian Fashion Week running May 3 to 7 at the Overseas Passenger Terminal down on Circular Quay, the spring edition of this event also looks to improve on this year. In May, the show was cut to two runway venues from three for the first time, after a 25 percent drop in attendance from 2008.

“We think 2010 should be a good year for the industry,” said Daniel Hill, general manager of (Australia) IMG Fashion Asia Pacific. “There’s a lot of buzz about our industry celebrating 15 years next season, and if it’s anything like what the event experienced in its 10th year, we’re confident many brands will want to show on schedule with unity and pride. Early inquiries about show options also lead us to believe there is a demand for three collection showroom options. Having said that, we are crucially mindful that these are still uncertain times for many businesses, especially those exporting abroad, so we have every intention to offer a range of economical participation solutions.

“We also believe that the effects of the global financial crisis will see a 12- to 18-month recovery time for designers all over the world. Focusing on getting their domestic business back in shape by showing at RAFW or Swim Fashion Week, for example, should translate into getting themselves ready for an international market that cooled in 2009.”