The trade show business is about to get a new upstart entrant.
Industry veterans Arnold and Bruce Zimberg have teamed with Messe Frankfurt, Inc., the third largest trade-show organizers in the world and operators of Texworld USA, to create a new luxury off-price show.
Boulevard Pret-a-Sale will host its first edition in New York at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in March. It will be men’s only, but women’s is expected to be added by the time of the second show in October.
What makes Boulevard different from the other traditional apparel trade shows as well as the Offprice Show is its focus on high-end goods, the organizers said.
Two years ago, Arnold Zimberg said he and his brother took a hard look at the trade show landscape and “saw a total drop in ROI [return on investment]” for exhibitors. Large stores are challenged by sluggish sales and many specialty stores are saddled with “credit issues,” making retailers reluctant to place orders for full-price merchandise at the shows.
The only area that was growing, they said, was the off-price arena.
“So we said, why isn’t there a show that focuses on where the industry is growing: better, premium off-price.”
Although the Zimbergs were involved in the creation of shows such as NAMSB and the Designers Collective over the course of their 40-year career, they knew they needed a partner.
“We are manufacturers, not trade show operators,” he said. “So we’re partnering with a professional show organization.”
Dennis Smith, president of Messe Frankfurt USA Inc., said the Zimberg brothers “gave us insight into what is happening [in the apparel industry].”
Off-price shoppers account for 75 percent of apparel purchases across all retail channels, according to The NPD Group’s receipt mining service Checkout Tracking.
“Off-price retailers are resonating with fashion and cost-conscious consumers alike and are stealing department store business for good reason,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of NPD. “Off-price is second only to the online channel in terms of growth rate.”
With retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom expanding their off-price divisions at a much faster clip than their full-line stores, the time is right for a trade show dedicated to their buyers, they believe.
“You can’t sell off-price at a normal trade show,” Bruce Zimberg said. “You’re not free to talk comfortably and you can’t bring leftovers into the same booth where you’re showing your current line. So we need a platform where bigger retailers worldwide can meet comfortably.”
Boulevard will look as upscale as The Tents at Project, Capsule or Coterie, they said. The Zimbergs created a mood board for the show concept and it is centered around the cool, gritty tone of TriBeCa in New York. The booths will be prefabricated and designed by Zimberg and there will be trend areas.
Smith said Messe Frankfurt, which is 25 years old, operates eight events in North America and more than 130 worldwide. “This will provide a niche-oriented event that will enable off-price buyers to have their own platform,” he said.
The shows don’t need to be tied to a particular market period, they said, since their intent is to sell off excess merchandise. They will be invitation-only events, they said, and they’re expecting 150 exhibitors for the first edition in 14 categories of apparel, accessories and footwear. At this point, no brands have committed to showing, but the group is just now starting to have conversations with potential exhibitors.
Some industry heavyweights privy to the project believe it will be a success.
Burt Tansky, the former president and chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus Group, said: “The concept of the Boulevard trade show is an excellent idea bringing vendors and retailers together to present a wide range of value merchandise. It is exactly what the industry needs. It will create an efficient platform for the two parties to be able to do business efficiently and effectively.”
Elyse Kroll, founder of ENK International, agreed: “While fashion has always been about change, the business of fashion is now undergoing a massive change itself. With eyes wide open and a depth of experience behind them, Arnold and Bruce Zimberg have highlighted the burgeoning sector of value-minded retail and the brands that are now ready to embrace that business.”
Smith said Messe Frankfurt is committed to Boulevard beyond next year. “When we go into a project, we go in long-term,” he said. “We’re looking to create a sustainable event and partnership.”
In fact, he said that if Boulevard is a success, it could be expanded beyond apparel into home furnishings and textiles as well.