China’s trade show organizers are confident about the sector’s prospects in 2016, citing greater international cooperation and rising fashion hubs as drivers of growth.
China’s economy expanded 6.9 percent in the third quarter, surpassing expectations, as government stimulus appeared to support consumer spending. Yet China’s gross domestic product growth will continue to decelerate, as policymakers tussle with the country’s debt-fueled property market.
China’s president, Xi Jinping, and Premier Li Keqiang have both said China’s GDP growth target will be revised from its current level of 7 percent to 6.5 percent over the next five years. But this economic slowdown is not adversely impacting the trade show sector, according to organizers in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
“We have seen no impact of the ‘slowdown’ in our sector,” said Karine Van Tassel, director of Spin Expo. “All the companies we meet in China and Hong Kong are doing well and do not seem to be affected.”
Wendy Wen, senior general manager at Messe Frankfurt Ltd., agreed that the sector has been buffered against rising manufacturing costs in China.
“For the March and October Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics fairs, we didn’t feel there was any adverse impact from the economic slowdown,” Wen said. “The exhibitor number was up nearly 80 percent, while the buyer figure increased 56 percent. This was partly due to the relocation to a new venue and an extra concurrent fair, but it shows that the industry hasn’t been deterred by the economic situation.”
She said what could be sheltering the fairs from the slower economy is their scale, wide product coverage and internationalism, and that they target more on the midrange and high-end segments of the market.
Organizers noted a technological transformation within the manufacturing sector, as companies search for new solutions to minimize assembly-line work and reduce waste amid rising wages and environmental concerns.
Meanwhile, the region’s fashion focus is shifting away from Hong Kong, the traditional financial hub and gateway to Western markets, and toward Shanghai, the Chinese government ’s designated Mainland fashion center.
“The momentum has shifted to Shanghai as vigorous independents and targeted government planning compare favorably with the deck-chair shuffling of government and trade entities in Hong Kong,” said Peter Caplowe, cofounder of The Hub, which relocated from Hong Kong to Shanghai in October.
In the long term, Caplowe believes strong retail headwinds will help the multibrand channel as mall operators are forced to respond to new consumer choices and adjust their rent prices.
Fashion trade fairs in Japan carried on with few major changes from previous seasons, but as of October, Fashion World Tokyo overtook JFW International Fashion Fair as the country’s largest fashion exhibition.
Fashion World Tokyo’s latest installment drew 20,270 visitors and 674 exhibitors, including 254 from abroad. This was up from 16,023 visitors and 381 exhibitors, including 126 from abroad, in April.
“It will definitely continue growing,” a spokeswoman said. “I think in April we can expect it to be almost the same or maybe even bigger [than the October show].”
She said for next spring, organizers are considering adding an area dedicated to U.S. and European brands.
“Japanese buyers want to see brands from the U.S. and Europe, but usually they have to travel abroad to do so,” she said. “We want to make it possible for people to see attractive [international] brands in Japan.”