As trends and social movements dictated by consumers escalate, retailers and brands have been hustling to meet their demands by expediting manufacturing and testing the “see-now-buy-now” approach. Digital convenience and work processes are flooding the market, posing the question of the need for in-person trade shows. But that would be a misplaced query.
Here, Tom Nastos, president of women’s fashion at UBM Americas, discusses the role of trade events and the evolution of the firm’s Coterie show as well as how changes in the consumer landscape is influencing business.
WWD: How has Coterie evolved over the last ten years?
Tom Nastos: New brands will always be launching and the existing collections we have had loyally over the past 10 years continue to evolve and reinvent themselves as well. Over the last few years, the Coterie show has continued to transform as new areas of the apparel market emerge and grow in popularity. A recent example includes the rise of activewear. The Coterie show will continue to reflect the changes in the way the modern woman lives and dresses.
WWD: Though the mobile experience for shopping is excelling, the need for a trade show such as Coterie remains a necessity. Why do you think this is?
T.N.: The need to gather and share information in a face-to-face forum as well as touch and feel the product will always exist. The more we go digital as a society, the more events such as Coterie can take a road of activating all the senses that digital doesn’t yet touch.
We also should remember that the end customer whose behavior is changing rapidly has the insurance policy of ordering things sight unseen and returning to the wholesaler. Wholesalers do not have this same luxury and therefore, the opportunity to be able to see, touch, and make more calculated choices is the way to ensure successful sell-throughs and margins.
WWD: As the consumer landscape shifts what are new business drivers for show attendees?
T.N.: During a time when the consumer landscape in fashion is shifting dramatically, several of the most important areas for retailers to bear in mind include price-point awareness and accessibility, shelf life and production efficiency. These three drivers are becoming more and more indicative of how retailers are prioritizing their buying process. At the end of the day, it’s all about consumer demand — what these customers want are popular, on-trend, accessible products that they can get right at their fingertips.
WWD: How is the show experience evolving? What are the main factors?
T.N.: What’s exciting about Coterie is that every season the trade show experience is different. Of course, this is due in part to new product being revealed by our loyal exhibitors, but it is also attributable to the newness on a brand level that we have sought to bring in this season to show curated current, popular, forward-thinking brands in the industry. It is our goal to successfully connect new and exciting brands with retailers from all over the globe to generate mutually beneficial relationships poised for future success.
WWD: How are show attendees, vendors and organizers utilizing technology and apps in preparation and during attendance of the show?
T.N.: Attendees have use of a free app and web site called Map Your Show, which enables them to search for new and existing brands by category and specialty. This app also helps stores to browse look books, or contact brands to book appointments. The month leading up to Coterie and during the shows, users utilized MYS to plan the easiest route around the venue once attendees have determined the brands they are interested in exploring further.
WWD: How is the see-now-shop-now phenomenon affecting the Coterie experience for attendees and vendors?
T.N.: Several of our clients are doing consumer-facing events or runway shows that coincide with their wholesale shipping dates, enabling press opportunities that immediately result in higher sell-through rates. While this helps drives sales, we see that those same clients are still selling these collections in advance of these events through showroom appointments or a trade show like Coterie. It is the promotion of the actual product that is shifting to coincide with the drops appearing on the retail floor.
We have also seen that many of our brands have been focusing on making their collections truly transitional. Collections have become seasonless in a sense and as a result, they can ship the right weight and product mix at exactly the right time for the end consumer to be able to wear the product appropriately across seasons.
WWD: What can attendees expect at this year’s Coterie show?
T.N.: The Coterie show has some never-seen-before components. We have several shoppable activations. For example, in the lobby we have two philanthropic brands, Apolis and Donna Karan’s Urban Zen; on the show floor we are introducing a Pryma listening lounge. In addition we have an experiential shopping presentation at Hudson including Muralists and unspoken word performances on the concourse.
In addition, the “TMRW” section of the show has been transformed with a partnership between Coterie and Tomorrow London who is bringing a long list of brands exclusively available for purchase in the U.S.