BERLIN — Bread & Butter is going public in July, when the giant urban and streetwear trade fair opens its doors to the end consumer for the last two days of what will be an expanded five-day run.
At a special meeting for press and members of Bread & Butter’s brand community at Soho House here Monday, founder and chief executive officer Karl-Heinz Müller outlined some of the changes envisioned for next summer’s show. The former three-day event will now be held from Tuesday, July 8, through Saturday, July 11, with the first day reserved solely for the press. Wednesday and Thursday will open to professional visitors, including registered press, and Friday and Saturday will be “public days.”
Tickets will remain free of charge for registered press and buyers; trade visitors such as fabric reps or real estate brokers will be charged 500 euros, or $688.30 at current exchange, as instituted last July, and day tickets for consumers will run 25 euros, or $34.42.
Müller cited examples of several other leading trade fairs, such as BaselWorld for watches, the IAA auto show in Frankfurt and the IFA international consumer electronics fair in Berlin, which have long and successfully featured days for the public.
However, Müller does not plan to turn Tempelhof Airport, Bread & Butter’s venue, into a temple of consumption. Other than a possible flea market, which Bread & Butter has staged during previous editions, “there will be nothing for sale to the end consumer” during the public days, he stressed. “We do not want to create competition for the retailers,” he said.
Nor is it precisely clear what manufacturers will have on their stands during the public viewing. “They could show next spring-summer  as they would be doing at the fair in July. Or show their fall-winter 2014-15 collections, which, in part, will already be on their way to the stores.” What won’t be on view are wholesale prices, and in the end, it will be up to the brands to decide “what can we do to promote our brand to the final consumer. I think there are lots of possibilities.”
And not just for larger brands, many of which have jumped ship in recent seasons. “This change has not been made to get the big guys back, though they they’re part of the industry picture. And I can imagine that though they may say no to participating in conventional fairs, they may say, ‘Wow, we have to reconsider,’” Müller reasoned. But he sees smaller brands, which don’t have the budgets for advertising, gaining a lot from the opportunity “to show and explain [to consumers] what they do. This is what consumers want.”
Brands, he explained, will get extra audiences with both the press and public days. “They’re getting more, not less.” Buyers, he went on, will naturally attend the professional days, “but as a buyer, it would also really interest me how are the consumers reacting. What are they saying?” he pointed out.
As for the financial ramifications of the show’s extended run, Bread & Butter will be rounding up its stand price from 380 euros ($523.11) per square meter for three days to 400 euros ($550.64) per square meter for five days. “That’s a 5 percent hike, and exhibitors will have two days more. But we know they’ll also have their extra costs for hotels, etc. And so will we, for electricity, heating or cooling, depending on the season, so we need to go up.”
As for what comes on top, Müller did some quick math. “If we draw 100,000 consumers at 25 euros a head, that could add up to 2.5 million euros [more than $3.4 million], and we can do a lot of stuff with that, like organize concerts, build a stage.” Müller is expecting this to be a “festival” and added that “all of us, not just the consumer, wants to have a better time.” For Bread & Butter, that has always included top music acts.
Few would challenge Müller’s assertion that the market has changed dramatically in the last few years given the rise of
e-commerce, vertical retailers and brands growing their own store business. Also, Berlin’s trade show scene has seriously splintered thanks to 12 fairs now running concurrently.
That said, the reactions were mixed. Jason Denham, ceo of Denham Jeans, told WWD, “I like this new setup because it is great to have one day to focus on press, two days to focus on selling, and it will be great to get consumer reaction. We can create events in our own space targeting press and then targeting our customers. For the public days, we need to think a little about what we will do to get the public excited about our brand.”
Similarly, Tony Tonnaer, ceo at Kings of Indigo, commented, “This [denim business] is an exciting business, and in order to stay exciting, it needs to change, and we are very happy with this change. We believe in it. We can tell the story of our brand at a more comfortable pace. It will also give us the chance to promote our retailers. When customers ask about our product we can give them our store lists.”
“It’s a bit complicated,” said Peter Raatz, country manager, Germany, for Fred Perry. “It’s a fact the world has changed, and that the trade-fair landscape of 15 years ago no longer works. We’ve seen the lights go out in Cologne and Düsseldorf, and given the volume of the show and his [Müller’s] stated commitment to Berlin, he’s obligated to make it more interesting.
“It’s now clear there will be no conflict with buyers and end consumers given the separate days, but it’s extra work and extra costs,” he went on. “And we certainly don’t want photos going out via bloggers of the new collection that will be in-store months and months later. We’ve already told retailers they can’t take photos. And it’s not just no wholesale prices — I’d say on consumer days, maybe no prices and no details, period. My thoughts are in a slight turmoil right now.”
Executives from Danish multibrand group DK Co. were not convinced that the public access would pay off for them. Jens Obel Jørgensen, chief sales officer, said DK Co. is in Berlin to take orders, “and only two days for professional visitors for 20 euros [$27.53] more, I can’t see it. It’s OK for him [Müller] to do something new, but whether it’s right for us, we don’t know. We reach out to the public in a different way. However, we’re there for the next two seasons, and will stay through summer to see if it works,” he said.