BERLIN — Bread & Butter might have shelved its Spanish relocation plans for January to stay put in Berlin, but the German trade show scene is still in flux.
This story first appeared in the November 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The next round of shows in Germany, starting with Berlin’s 12-fair lineup plus Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin Jan. 19 to 22, will see trade events coming, going, changing venues, doubling up, adding new features and fine-tuning their concepts to more effectively meet the needs of domestic and international retailers.
While the German market remains the euro zone’s strongest and brightest light, and the key reason why Bread & Butter’s exhibitors balked at heading south, negative data and forecasts have recently stockpiled. The latest key German indicator, the Ifo Business Climate Index for October, again posted an overall decline, with manufacturers especially downbeat, though the wholesale outlook rose.
Despite being unnerved by the world’s Ebola, ISIS, and Russia-Ukraine crises, the mood to buy is still strong among Germany’s consumers, according to GfK’s October consumer climate report. However, try telling that to the nation’s suffering retailers, who’ve had to more or less write off fall, consistently warm temperatures putting the kibosh on cold weather purchases. The German Apparel Retailers Association said September sales were down 8 percent, while the federal statistics office reported a 2.9 percent decline in total German retail sales, the largest decrease in seven years.
Jurgen Dax, director of the apparel retailers association, expects some restraint, but noted many large retailers think in programs that can’t be randomly reduced, while the collections favored by smaller stores also require minimums.
“Fewer pre-orders may be written in order to have funds available for last-minute purchases, but not on a massive scale,” he said.
“Bread & Butter is definitely taking place in Berlin Tempelhof in January,” stated founder and director Karl-Heinz Müller, who acknowledged the fair will be smaller, but still larger than other Berlin events. “The situation at retail is difficult and it’s reflected in the fair. Also, everything is concentrating itself on the national level, though I personally think we need to bring in more internationality. That was my intention with Barcelona, but it was not accepted.”
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Bread & Butter’s Korean plans for September 2015 are in full swing, however. The Seoul show will include at B2B section, as well as a B2C area, another Müller concept that failed to win approval in Berlin. “It’s fully expected and what people want there,”he added.
With Seek and Premium, Premium Exhibitions is in full expansion mode, though here, too, a plan to introduce luxury oriented pre-collections at Premium won’t materialize for next season due to calendar conflicts. What will take shape: Seek’s former four floors in the neighboring Kühlhaus will be given over to “fashionably relevant, entry level” international brands such as Fornarina, One Green Elephant or Custo Barcelona.
“Most agencies and stores have these entry level brands in their mix, so again we’re trying to match what retailers need,” said Premium founder Anita Tillmann.
Premium will have 17 percent more space at its disposal, presenting around 1,800 collections in more than 290,000 square feet.
Seek’s new digs in The Arena in Kreuzberg will see the show doubling in size to 65,000 square feet, housing its expanded portfolio of about 250 progressive contemporary fashion brands.
Panorama’s move to the Berlin fairgrounds last season was “very successful. It was the right step,” said Jörg Wichmann, chief executive officer of the more mid-market platform.
January will see the “Now” lounge for flash order collections enlarged, as well as the in-store shop and franchise concepts in Panorama’s Mall section, and the more niche offerings of the Hotel. A number of higher-end brands like Strenesse have also joined Panorama’s portfolio, Wichmann noted.
“It’s not about trading up or down, but trading,” he added. “There are stores in Germany that encompass lower to upper end brands and Panorama is trying to provide a structure like the stores themselves.”
The advanced contemporary trade show Capsule, which made its Berlin debut in July 2011, is giving the German capital a second miss this season, citing scheduling conflicts with New York men’s market week. This has allowed the Messe Frankfurt’s two green platforms, Greenshowroom and Ethical Fashion Show, to be held under one roof in the Postbahnhof, Capsule’s former site.
Both concepts will retain their separate characters, Greenshowroom’s salon atmosphere highlighting more upmarket collections, while Ethical Fashion will continue to focus on more casual looks.
“We’ve long considered bringing the two shows together, in order to make it easier for buyers to visit both,” said creative director Magdalena Schaffrin.
Also on the move in Berlin is the plus size fair Curvy is Sexy, which will again expand its floor space to about 43,000 square feet in its new hall venue on Event Island, with a direct shuttle service offered from Tegel Airport. As for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, after a temporary move to Wedding last summer due to World Cup festivities, the tent is presumably returning to the Brandenburg Gate, though nothing has yet been signed, sealed and delivered.
Staying small and intimate is the strategy of Show & Order for small fashion specialists, and the board sport, sneaker and street gear show Bright. “There are big fairs right and left, and we prefer to stay personal has we’ve been in the past. Big stands are not the direction of the building, idea or company,” said Show & Order founder Verena Malta.
Bright is intensifying its Member Care Program, working to lure Europe’s 150 top retailers in the genre to Berlin by assisting them with bookings and other services.
“We can only influence them so far, but most good retailers want to come (to Berlin). They need the information,” plus Berlin remains the best location to see street fashion on the street in Europe, said co-director Thomas Martini.
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The pace of change is also picking up beyond Berlin. The Gallery in Düsseldorf, running Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, is centralizing its setup to center on its main venue, the former embassy on Cecilienallee, and neighboring sites. Exhibitors in the “Golden Area,” housing labels such as Alpha, Duvetica and Laidback London, will be able to use the embassy as a temporary showroom for 10 days, going beyond the fair dates.
Project director Ulrike Kähler emphasized the importance of Düsseldorf as an order-writing location following the Berlin fairs, and noted agencies are now seeking temporary locations versus long lease agreements.
“As a fair organizer and given the difficult situation at retail, it’s especially important now to offer new concepts,” Kähler said.
Ispo, Munich’s high powered active sportswear fair that featured 2,500 exhibitors and drew 81,000 visitors from 110 countries last edition, expects to meet or surpass its record results in February. Exhibition group director Markus Hefter said “globally seen, there’s still a lot of potential.” He cited growth in the Outdoor segment, TexTrends for fiber and textile developments, and the Health & Sport sector.