This story first appeared in the June 24, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Fair companies offer extra features to drive traffic.
NEW YORK — Whether it means offering VIP services or working with hotels to offer better rates, when it comes to the New York trade show scene, organizers will do just about anything to make sure their shows are worth the trip. For ENK International, which is currently in planning mode for the upcoming Intermezzo (Aug. 2 to 4) and Fashion Coterie (Sept. 22 to 24) shows, founder and chairwoman Elyse Kroll said they have pulled out all the stops. Naturally, she said, traffic has been down at recent shows because of store closures and other retailers scaling back on the number of buyers they send to the shows, but that only means that ENK is working extra hard to satisfy attendees. “We are really gearing up for holiday, so we are expecting the August show to be very robust,” Kroll said. “People have a real reason to buy for holiday so we have really ramped up our services.” One of the value-added offerings that ENK has planned is to extend VIP concierge services to exhibitors and retailers, whereby an ENK employee works to take care of their needs, whether that means calling for a car service, making restaurant reservations or finding Broadway show tickets.
In addition, the Hudson Hotel in Manhattan has been working with ENK to offer reduced rates, with rooms as low as $126 per night. Currently, Kroll said they are in talks with JetBlue Airways to offer lower fares to New York during show time. The company has also extended its retailer outreach program, calling thousands of retailers to see how they can improve their experiences at the shows. “We are really working to take care of everyone who comes to the shows,” Kroll said. Looking forward to the Coterie, Kroll said they plan to move the entire assortment of contemporary brands over to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where there is more space, along with the Sole Commerce shoe show. Everything else will be located at the Show Piers. Business Journals Inc., which produces the Fame and Moda Manhattan shows, has been working to constantly evolve the shows, and several changes are on tap. The next Moda and Fame shows, which run side-by-side at the Javits Center, will run from Aug. 2 to 4. One of the major changes is to upgrade the booth packages, which offer exhibitors new, sleek and clean racks, shelves and frames for their booths. “We are trying to get our floors to look more like a showroom, rather than a typical trade show floor,” said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer. “The emphasis is on the clothes, rather than on the booth and the new system offers exhibitors a lot of flexibility.” To add to the modern feel of the show, the company has also invested in covering the floors of the Javits in bright, white carpeting, which helps the clothing stand out.
The organizers have also been working with a retailer advisory board, which has helped them to improve the shows over the years. Jones said they are also sharing the information they receive from the retailers with exhibitors, to help them reach the goals they have for themselves. In addition, Sharon Enright, vice president of Business Journals’ trade show division, said they have been promoting their show dates extra early, so that retailers can take advantage of travel deals earlier than they have in the past. “Our team made over 11,000 phone calls prior to market last time,” she said. “These people are developing relationships with the retailers. We want to make sure its going to be worth while for them and hope to help them wherever we can. Just being able to tell them when the show is and who is on the floor as early as we possibly can, that will give them the chance to plan.” Organizers of some of the smaller shows in New York are also working hard to make sure exhibitors and retailers are counting their shows in their travel plans. Susan Summa, director of the Atelier Designers trade show, which will n ext be held at The Doubletree Hotel in Times Square from Sept. 20 to 22, has been working through applications from new designers looking to bring their lines to the show. Overall, Summa said that many designers are working to bring more items for immediate deliveries to the next show and many more of them have stepped it up on a creative level. “We look at this recession as an opportunity to go in a new direction,” she said. “For many designers this is the time for them to make a decision. If their orders aren’t what they need to be, they really need to be super creative when designing.
It’s something that’s actually very positive in the long run.” Summa said that Atelier Designers will add a late night shopping night on Sept. 21, allowing retailers to shop until 8 p.m. “We don’t expect huge crowds later at night, but this does give them the option,” she said. Nouveau Collective, which will be heading back to the newly renovated New Yorker Hotel for the Aug. 2 to 4 edition, is also planning some changes. “People thought we were crazy for showing at the New Yorker before,” said show director Joanne Feinstein. “But it is completely renovated now and every single room is beautiful, the lobby is great, it’s like a brand new place.” Feinstein said she has also been working to make the Web site, nouveaucollectivetradeshows.com, a go-to site between shows, where retailers can do easy reorders and find out who will be at the next show. In addition, she said they have worked to make booth setup easier by hiring students from the Fashion Institute of Technology to help do the work. The students not only set up the fixtures, but also work to merchandise the samples to make buying easier.
Looking forward, Feinstein said they are working to bring in an accessories assortment for the September show. The accessories will be set up in a way that makes retailers feel like they are in a store, not so much a trade show. “We are working a lot harder to make sure the show is beyond expectations,” she said. “In the end, it will be great for us since people will see how we do business.”
Taking Stock of L.A. Trade Shows
Despite the economy, organizers are bullish on the market.
LOS ANGELES — Local trade show and market organizers are in rebuilding mode. They have confidence they have survived the depths of the economic downturn and are intensifying efforts to attract buyers, cultivate a healthy variety of exhibiting brands and capture any pent-up demand for new merchandise. The results from the rest of the year will be crucial in determining whether their initiatives prove fruitful or whether they should change course to adjust to recessionary realities. “Hopefully, we will see the market swing back,” said Joanne Lee, senior vice president of services at the California Market Center. “In the end, the stores have to keep their product fresh.” She added the CMC is continually reworking its trade shows and market weeks to ensure
it is “a one-stop shop for everyone in the industry.”
The L.A. International Textile Show and Material World & Technology Solutions will be located together for the first time at the CMC from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. The combined expo will have double the number of exhibitors — Lee estimated about 600 total — than either show on its own and will occur during semiannual fall and spring dates for 2010 and beyond. Lee reported that the CMC is also concentrating on bringing more “directional exhibitors” to Focus, the apparel and accessories show Oct. 17 to 19. Within Focus is a showcase called Thread Select highlighting 20 emerging fashion labels. “The whole concept behind Focus is that you can go visit that area for designers that you usually don’t see in stores,” said Lee. “They are mostly L.A.-based, but we are opening it up to international groups, as well.” The CMC is being proactive to tempt buyers to experience its latest offerings. For instance, Lee said the CMC is constantly putting up information on Facebook and Twitter to alert buyers and anyone else interested about show dates,brands and deals. And she stressed that aggressive outreach to buyers and meeting them in person is necessary to notify them about the reasons to patronize the CMC. “Attendance numbers have dropped from last year.
Even at the larger buying stores, the number of buyers that come out are less. The number of boutiques overall that exist have decreased,” said Lee. “The one-on-one attention is really what differentiates us now.” Jason Bates, organizer of the Class trade show, which is slated for Aug. 27 to 28 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, believes Class’ brand assortment is what will make the growing trade show unique. He said the number of booths at the show is climbing from 140 at its last edition to 250 in August. Among the brands signed up to exhibit are G-Star, Kill City, Ted Baker, WESC and Modern Amusement. Bates’ goal is to turn Class into an umbrella show that encompasses several categories, including apparel, gifts, shoes and beauty. “We hope to make it an overall lifestyle show where the Fred Segal store from every city can come and find a great curated product mix,” he said. “We want to have the best brand in each category represented.” Already, Bates enthused that buyers from notable retailers such as Barneys New York and Atrium have taken notice of Class. He said its timing prior to the slew of Las Vegas trade shows has been ideal to lure some buyers who would rather skip Las Vegas altogether and others who are heading west before stopping in Las Vegas. Bates estimates about 2,000 attendees will come to Class in August, around double its previous showing. “For the retailer, it is a great cost saver.
It is a two-day show, so it makes it easier on the reps and the brands to be here,” he said. “It is a nice easy working environment. They don’t have to run around like crazy like in Vegas.” Attendance at Designers & Agents, which was held at the New Mart from June 12 to 14 and will return to Los Angeles from Oct. 16 to 18, has taken a hit during the recession, causing the show organizers to reevaluate its programs. Ed Mandelbaum, who produces D&A with Barbara Kramer, said the number of exhibitors and buyers has been off by about 20 percent at recent shows. Typically, the shows draw between 1,500 and 2,500 buyers and 100 and 300 brands, depending on the season. “Things have been in a downward direction, but it is not major. It feels like business as usual,” he said. “We are very optimistic on L.A.”
Despite that optimism, Kramer and Mandelbaum have decided to suspend Green Market, a concept launched last year intended to bring green vendors under one roof, for the time being. “It was a great success and two weeks later, the floor fell out from under our feet,” said Kramer. “We still continue supporting sustainable.” D&A is moving forward with what it calls Green Room, a platform for new environmentally conscious brands, and distinguishes green brands throughout the show with merchandise constituted out of at least 25 percent sustainable materials with green leaf insignias.