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Mode City’s New Timing Causes Concern

Eurovet is creating a stir in the lingerie world. The trade fair giant said last month that it would move its 24-year-old Lyon, Mode City show to Paris from Lyon, France.

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The Mode City Fair is taking the express...

WWD Staff

Eurovet is creating a stir in the lingerie world.

The trade fair giant said last month that it would move its 24-year-old Lyon, Mode City show to Paris from Lyon, France. The show, scheduled for Sept. 6 to 8 at the Porte de Versailles, will be called Mode City. It will be staged in Halls 2, 3 and 4, and will coincide with three fashion and accessories fairs: Prêt à Porter, Who’s Next and Premiere Classe, which run Sept. 4 to 7.

Most vendors were pleased with the move to Paris but some questioned the early September timing of the show.

Many agreed with Gwen Widell, executive vice president of merchandising at Wacoal America, the U.S. unit of Wacoal Japan, who said: “The dates are a problem. That’s why French suppliers were doing their own thing in June. I think the Paris venue is correct, but now they have to look at the timing. It’s still in limbo. If you look at newness in September, you get the samplings by the end of September, so it’s too late to do something for the November line. It’s reasonable for February, but we are then seeing newer things in January at the Paris salon.”

Lyon, the silk capital of Europe in the Middle Ages and known for textile museums and four-star restaurants, attracted retailers and vendors to preview directional trends in the lingerie, beachwear and Interfilière (textile) sectors. Larger than its sister show, the Salon International de la Lingerie, which is staged in Paris in January, Lyon, Mode City was the launchpad for innovative ideas and concepts from major companies such as Invista Inc. that introduced products such as Black Lycra. Paris was known more as an order-taking event where retailers committed to trends and new product that had been unveiled in Lyon.

Eurovet chief executive officer Marie-Laure Bellon-Homps said in September that show dates for Lyon in 2008 had been set. But in an interview last week, she said that the decision to relocate was a strategic move to accommodate the demands of retailers and major brands. A platform in Paris will also provide an opportunity to bolster global attendance, which was evaporating in Lyon, and expand categories, such as beachwear, activewear, loungewear and specialty apparel for yoga and Pilates.

“We conducted a series of surveys after the Lyon show with retailers, major brands, exhibitors, distributors and sales representatives, and asked them what they wanted: a change of dates, location or more offerings,” Bellon-Homps said. “Seventy percent said the problem was not with the dates but with the offerings at the Lyon salon.

“The buyers of brands said they liked September, but at the same time pointed out that Lyon was more expensive and Paris was less expensive,” she explained. “It started in 2006, and in 2007 a number of big brands did not want to exhibit in Lyon. It was not an easy decision to make. We did everything we could to continue in Lyon, but it was a problem of offerings, not dates.”

The Lyon fair recorded 17,404 visitors in September, 1,600 fewer than the previous year.

In order to recapture the “spirit and vitality” of Lyon, Bellon-Homps said Eurovet will stage a huge party in Paris during the Mode City show.

“It will be a very large fete, fun and elegant, and will most likely have a summer beachwear theme,” said Bellon-Homps, noting the new show will focus on a roster of more luxury brands and designer names.

Bellon-Homps said waning attendance in Lyon in 2006 was spurred by two key factors: a difficult economy and the absence of major French brands, including Aubade, Chantelle, Simone Perele, Princesse Tam Tam, Barbara and Lejaby. Another influence on the show last year was a thinning out of top U.S. retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue and the loss of two big U.S. names that have traditionally shown in Lyon: Warnaco, with its Warner’s, Olga and Calvin Klein Underwear brands, and the former VF Intimates now owned by Fruit of the Loom, which has the Vanity Fair, Lou and Belcor labels. Key reasons for their decisions not to attend included the opening of offices in Asia as well as trade fairs in Hong Kong and Shanghai, where major brands source textiles, components and lace and manufacture goods.

Executives outlined several additional factors that affected the Lyon fair:

l The consolidation of the retail trade globally has reduced the number of attendees and, as a result, the number of exhibitors.

l A downsized supply chain created a shortage of raw materials and a smaller number of exhibiting companies specializing in components, textiles and lace.

l There is limited participation by Asian vendors as exhibitors because of supply chain consolidation.

l The decline of the dollar against the euro forced U.S. retailers and manufacturers to send fewer staff members to the shows.

l There is an absence of innovative new product. Years ago, lingerie, fabric and raw material vendors would use trade fairs to launch their latest innovations. Now significant innovations are privately developed with big brands such as Hanes, Triumph, Vanity Fair and Victoria’s Secret, and are not shown to the public until the product is shipped to stores.

Although Bellon-Homps said major brands were contacted in November about the change in venue, several exhibitors, retailers and industry executives said the move was a surprise, and some have had to scramble to reschedule airline tickets and hotel reservations. It has generated a mixed reaction, ranging from approval and relief to disagreement and uncertainty. But the general consensus was that Paris was logistically easier to navigate and is more time-efficient.

Tracy Lewis, managing director of Eveden Group, a British bra company with a U.S. division, said, “We were surprised with the move, as the expectation had been that if there was a change at all to this show it would be the timing of Lyon, such as bringing it forward, which would be beneficial to retailers. September is so late for spring-summer buying decisions. As a destination, Paris is obviously easier to get to, so this has to be an advantage. But in order to make this a truly international destination for all buyers and brands, the timing should be reviewed. We will, of course, have a large presence at the Paris show [in September], as it remains an important meeting opportunity for both our export and French customers.”

Ugo Campello, vice president of Miami-based Cosabella, which has exhibited at the Lyon and Paris shows for more than a decade, said, “In the end, the Lyon show had become more regional with more regional visitors. Moving to Paris and tieing in with the Prêt à Porter fair will give more viable options for the show and international exposure for the brands. We are actually looking forward to it because it will tie in with fashion week in Paris.”

Steve Chernoff, ceo of Rago, a shapewear firm in Queens, N.Y., which has exhibited at both fairs for a decade, said, “I assume they will transfer all of the fashion and trend credentials to Paris that Lyon is known for. I think because of the [high] euro, they’ll have difficulty with attendance overall. I think the biggest loss in attendance in Lyon was from Germany. Now, with the high-speed TGV train going deep into Germany, even Düsseldorf, I believe it will be easier for German visitors to make it a day trip and attend the show in Paris. Logistically, Lyon was too expensive to travel to from Germany.”

Gary Hughes, president of GH Lace, who has attended and exhibited at the Lyon show for 20 years and the Paris show for 33 years, said nobody informed him of the transfer of venues.

“The whole thing doesn’t make sense,” Hughes said. “And I know a lot of people who feel the same way I do. They should have dropped one of the French shows. From an Interfilière standpoint, why stage two shows in France when people need exposure in Asia? All of the major brands, the Vanity Fair’s, the Hanesbrands and Maidenforms, have offices in Asia. They’re not purchasing in the U.S. or France.”

Barry Ross, president of Barry Ross Intimate Connections, a sales agent for fabric and lace contractors, said, “I am very surprised. It’s unclear why they made the change. The expenses of exhibiting in Lyon and Paris are about the same. When my family firm, Sextet, would exhibit it would cost us between $10,000 and $15,000, including the hotel, for four or five of us. I always thought Lyon was the more vital of the two shows. It will be interesting to see if they get the attendance they want.”

One retailer who has attended both the Lyon and Paris fairs for 15 years, said: “I was extremely disappointed in last year’s Lyon show. This year, I am not going to the January show in Paris. My buying team will likely split up for the fall with some of us going to the Shanghai show instead of Paris, so I can visit some key Asian suppliers after the show.

“But Paris is a much better location for the show because of better transportation inside the city and to get there from the U.S. It’s also more convenient for shopping stores before and after the show, and it’s much more time-efficient, which is essential. However, I don’t think the change in venue will save the show, long term. It likely delays the eventual end by a year or two because of a number of irreversible macro trends in the global marketplace working against the show.”

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