Bread & Butter by Zalando in Berlin

BERLINZalando’s consumer festival Bread & Butter established itself as a product-driven “see-now-buy-now” platform during a three-day run at Arena Berlin from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

Dubbed “The Pop-up of Style and Culture,” the third edition of the business-to-business turned consumer event by the German e-tail giant saw a clear shift from the initially experimental approach to a defined outlook with a sharp edit in both the brand portfolio and event schedule, pleasing exhibitors and the young crowd of leisure visitors alike.

This year’s Bread & Butter by Zalando was a Coney Island, N.Y.-like shopping amusement parlour of sportswear and cosmetics brands with more than 100 event-exclusive product drops, pop-ups and brand-guided events. Targeted at what Carsten Hendrich, vice president of Creative Lab Zalando, calls “Generation Next,” a demographic between ages 20 and 30 that has grown up digitally and looks at the intersection between culture and commerce differently, sales were as much on the agenda as consumer communication. Sale points with more than 60 payment terminals and displays with more than 40,000 products were integrated throughout the venue.

Most of the 43 participating brands put a focus on customizing and storytelling in order to create an appealing brand experience. Adidas Originals opted for a journey around its Falcon archive; Nike organized Air Force 1 Jester customizing workshops and live performances by artists such as Yrsa and Eunique, and Vans set up a whole house with interactive workshops and sales points. Exhibitors reported good sales, with exclusive editions like Zalando’s collaboration with 032c and soccer player Jérôme Boateng selling out quickly.

“We had no expectations and are very happy with the outcome,” said Christina Gross, retail brand marketing manager at Converse, which launched its new “Triple White One Star” sneaker at the event with a customizing and beauty package for 90 euros. “We sold very well and consumers were very open for new experiences. They immediately understood what we were offering. And it was very helpful to get a feeling for the target group and get direct feedback, which we usually wouldn’t hear,” she said, emphasizing how much brands are profiting from the platform in terms of consumer interaction.

“This event highlights how important business-to-consumer communication is. We’ve always provided experiences such as customizing in our stores and this is a great platform to give new consumers a sense of the brand. And we also sold here. In fact, we sold so well that we had to briefly pause at one point. We would definitely come again,” said Tomi Bosanac, brand environment specialist for the Germany, Austria, Switzerland region at Levi’s.

The more defined concept seemed to have attracted consumers as well: “I visited Bread & Butter last year and liked it. This year was much smoother, though. Things were much better organized, there were less queues and it’s much clearer,” said Oskar, 17, who came with a group of friends and bought tickets for all three days of the event.

“We came for the live acts, but we definitely also want to shop here. There are a lot of things that we like, especially because everything is more about the whole outfit than a single brand,” added his friend Niklas, 19.

Another group of young visitors echoed the sentiment: “We heard good things about the fair and bought tickets for today. The atmosphere is nice and relaxed and we definitely want to buy some of the limited editions,” said Oliver, a 16-year-old student, on the last day of the festival.

“It’s a progress compared to last year. We first came because we heard of the fair from friends, but we liked it so much that we bought tickets to come back this year. The booths are very well designed and it’s interesting and inspiring to watch the visitors and see all the different looks,” said Maria, 32, who came with a group of friends.

According to the organizers, tickets for all three days were sold out and attendance hit a record with 35,000 visitors, compared to last year’s 30,000.

“We’ve learned a lot from last year and adjusted the media to the experience,” Hendrich said. The company reportedly invited more than 350 international influencers like Caro Daur and Ugly International, but also artists like Lauryn Hill, Kitty Cash, Yung Hurn and Jaden Smith, who will likely boost user-generated content beyond last year’s 1.45 billion images.

Three years after Zalando bought the former trade show and turned it into a consumer-facing event, the e-tailer aimed to further integrate the online and offline experience by launching on the Zalando web site on Sept. 1 as a year-round online shopping “destination for style and culture” for exclusive product drops and a curated sportswear portfolio.

“We are at the foreground of consumer experience shift,” Zalando’s cofounder and board member David Schneider emphasized at the opening of the event.

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