LONDON — Trade shows in the U.K. are expanding to accommodate more exhibitors as sales are holding up and the future appears promising.
“There’s a sense of optimism returning,” said Samantha Bleasby, marketing manager at Pure London.
Pure London, a premium high street fashion show, increased its exhibitor numbers by 15 percent this year and its visitors by 23 percent. The company also plans to expand with the launch of a younger upscale show called Pure Spirit, which will take over almost 43,000 square feet in West London’s Earls Court exhibition center in February, in collaboration with men’s show Stitch Menswear.
Pure isn’t the only show in expansion mode. This year, the British Bridal Exhibition Harrogate added 19,923 square feet of space and said many exhibitors reported a “record-breaking” year in sales.
“We can’t say that the bridal industry has not been affected by the recession, but we do feel lucky,” said Wendy Adams, an organizer at BBEH. “Girls are still spending for that dream dress, even if it means their guests have less Champagne.”
Top Drawer, a fashion and gifting show, saw a 15 percent increase in exhibitors and a 23 percent increase in attendance. Bubble London, a boutique children’s show, said footfall was up 21 percent from last year.
Most shows reported an increased international presence, particularly from European buyers lured by the favorable pound-to-euro exchange rate.
While organizers said buyers remain cautious, sales are climbing.
“This is partly because the brands have become more adaptable,” said Bleasby. “They’ve moved quickly to introduce faster turnaround and more frequent drops, so buyers are taking less of a risk. They don’t have to buy so far ahead.”
Carole Hunter, managing director at Londonedge, which showcases alternative, club and streetwear brands, said, “Short order is ideal for retail right now, as is commercial pricing and the flexibility to work with retailers as closely as possible. Gone are the days when forward order exclusively was the safest route. Constant reviewing of the trends and dripping new product into the offer throughout the season is essential.”
Show organizers also attributed their success to maintaining a strong selection of exhibitors, and to creating added value for customers with extra services, seminars and entertainment, and they expect to continue such programs.
Several shows introduced guest speakers and business workshops and embraced social media to generate buzz. Pure collaborated with British Cosmopolitan to blog live about its event. London Fashion Week had a “bloggers’ bar” in the main reception area stocked with complimentary laptops. Bubble, the children’s show, hired a blogger to interview guests and document its event live.
In September, London Fashion Week partnered with Sony to offer live performances on the terrace of the official Somerset House venue. The British Fashion Council also hosted a cocktail during the event for designers and exhibitors to network.
Several shows introduced dedicated projects to showcase new labels, emerging talent or fashion students. London Fashion Week provided a space for NewGen designers to conduct sales appointments. NewGen is a British Fashion Council-supported initiative that gives financial grants to emerging talent. LFW also brought the London-based agents Rainbow Wave, Valery Demure and Eastern Block on site to show their designers.
Stitch London launched an exhibition space sponsored by Première Vision. Called The Future of Menswear, it showcased designers selected from a Central Saint Martins BA men’s wear competition.
Similarly, Pure London hosted fashion shows of graduate talent. In February, the show plans to launch Next Gen, an area designed for emerging labels, in collaboration with Drapers, a British trade title.