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U.K. Trade Shows: Not Standing Pat

New offerings have organizers feeling hopeful for 2009.

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New offerings have organizers feeling hopeful for 2009.

Seismic shifts are taking place at U.K. trade shows in response to the economic crisis, which has already claimed one casualty and forced other events to downsize.

Web site overhauls and new areas devoted to future trends, such as eco-friendly apparel, are just a few of the measures that show organizers are introducing in order to beat the credit crunch.

Despite the turmoil, trade show organizers said they are optimistic about the 2009 shows. “For all the doom and gloom in the media, touch wood it should be a great show and I’ve been approached by lots of new designers who want to launch their collections,” said Odysseas Constantine, director of the directional streetwear show Margin.

Margin’s Feb. 8 to 9 show plans to tempt buyers with an increased ethical offering. “Ethical lines don’t all look like knitted muesli — lumpy and brown — as one might expect, and they fi t in well with other streetwear labels,” said Constantine. The trade show’s Selvage area will feature denim labels such as Trousers London, Chance and Nu, all of which sport green credentials. “With French brand Nu everything is ethically sourced down to the rivets, which are antinickel,” added Constantine.

Margin will be changing venue due to building work at the Vinyl Factory — its usual site — to The Music Rooms in London’s West End. “The new venue offers a clean gallery space. We’ll only be able to house 70 labels instead of 90, so we are having to edit more tightly,” he said.

Pure, the women’s fashion and accessory show, plans to launch Ethical Pure at its Feb. 8 to 10 show, after learning that 10 percent of visitors who attended their last show plan to stock more ethical brands in the future and that retailers already stocking ethical brands had risen, from 11 to 15 percent year-on-year. Organizers are expanding the exhibition space by 8 percent to accommodate the new concept. Ethical Pure will showcase ontrend labels in a dedicated area, with clothing on the ground floor, and footwear and accessories on the upper level.

“Ethical Pure is launching in response to demand from buyers for more fashion with a conscience,” said organizer Kate Stafford. Joining forces with the Ethical Fashion Forum, all labels exhibiting in Ethical Pure must adhere to recognized criteria without compromising on style.

Furthermore, Pure’s Spirit section, featuring denim, urban and streetwear labels is set to expand this season. The increased floor space will house more premium labels such as Hudson Jeans, as buyers recognize that consumers are increasingly trading up and making investment purchases as the credit crunch bites. The show’s organizers are also planning to grow the main accessories and footwear sections for spring.

In the past year, Pure has attracted more than 20,000 buyers.“We are confident that even in a downturn Pure London will still deliver our exhibitors this important audience,” said Stafford.

For Textile Forum, the U.K.’s only fabric trade show, organizer Linda Laderman’s fight not flight approach to the financial downturn appears to be paying off. “At the last show we were up on the two previous shows in terms of numbers,” said Laderman, who added, “We held lots of events like an afternoon champagne tea party at times when it usually slips off.”

Laderman has given the Textile Forum Web site a major overhaul, turning it into a functional resource for buyers rather than merely a marketing tool. “It’s now a fabric resource center and not just something to promote the show,” said Laderman.

In the face of the harsh economic climate, trade show organizers realize they need to offer more than simply the brands they exhibit. Stafford claims that Pure “is not just a sourcing ground.” Trend presentations, catwalk shows offering fashion forecasts and buy advice are just some of the extras buyers can expect.

The London Fashion Week exhibition will return to the Natural History Museum on Feb. 21 to 24 with a facelift. A reformatted venue will result in just one tented structure instead of two like in previous seasons. The decision for a change was partly “driven by the economy,” said Simon Ward, head of operations for the British Fashion Council, adding, “The space will become slightly smaller.” Despite this Ward remains optimistic: “Next year we are celebrating 25 years of British Fashion. We see this as an opportunity to create an even stronger platform for growth. The positive change of reformatting is that it will make the exhibition space more accessible for those attending the catwalk shows.”

TBC, London’s casualwear show, which took on a new organizer last year in IDEX Media, canceled the last show only months prior to opening its doors. TBC’s organizer did not return phone calls, but it is likely the financial downturn played a hand in the proceedings.

On another down note, in previous seasons organizers looked to emerging markets to buoy visitor numbers, but such points were moot this season.

“Over the past two years China as a market for the U.K. has grown,” said Ward. “This growth now seems to have leveled.” In terms of increased attendance from emerging markets, Carole Hunter, managing director of alternative clubwear show LondonEdge, said, “I have not noticed a significant change either up or down.”

 

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