MONTREAL — Despite difficulties in the united states, all indications point to a stable trade show environment in Canada, with attendance remaining the same or increasing slightly, according to the Canadian Association of Exposition Management in Mississauga, Ontario.
“There have been no real significant changes in the show industry, which is good,” said Debbie Wilson, executive director. “I’ve heard that they’re struggling in the U.S. and sometimes Canada follows, but so far, that’s not the case.”
Almost half of exhibition managers surveyed by trade group Expo World Canada said attendance at their trade shows last year was up 10 percent from 2003, while 41 percent said attendance was the same and only 12 percent reported a decline.
“We haven’t felt anything out of the ordinary due to the lifting of quotas from China or the weaker dollar,” said Alice Chee, organizer of the twice-yearly Mode Accessories Show at the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel in Toronto. “That’s probably because most of our exhibitors import from the Far East as there’s not a lot of manufacturing of accessories in Canada.”
Last January, Mode Accessories saw a 29 percent increase in attendance over the previous year, to 4,373 retailers and industry personnel. Chee expressed hope that the momentum will carry through to her next show, scheduled for Aug. 7-9.
With 230 exhibitors spread across 58,000 square feet, the show is at capacity. Chee, who has a two-year waiting list for new exhibitors, is looking to expand, but said every large venue around Toronto is booked throughout the summer.
Immediately following Mode, Montreal plays host to the 12th edition of the International Shoe and Accessories Fair at Place Bonaventure, Aug. 14-16.
“We’re sold out, with 200 exhibitors, and we expect to draw over 2,500 participants again this year,” said show organizer Helene Brosseau. “And for the first time, we’ll be organizing some fashion shows.”
The second edition of Fashion North Menswear Show is also taking place Aug. 14-16 at the International Center in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. The first show, in February, attracted 101 exhibitors who occupied 173 booths and drew 1,100 participants, including an estimated 600 buyers.
Joseph Nutzati, co-owner of the show, expects to sell close to 270 booths for August and anticipates roughly a 50 percent increase in attendance.
Based on the success of the first show in February, Nutzati and his partners have decided to launch a women’s trade show next March called Fashion North — the Ladies’ Show.
Nutzati said he is hoping to combine his show with Toronto’s L’Oreal Fashion Week, which he feels would attract many more buyers to both events.
Robin Kay, head of the Fashion Design Council of Canada, which organizes L’Oreal Fashion Week, said she is open to the idea of combining her show and Fashion North’s show as long as they both take place during her week’s time slot. She’s also open to the idea of working with Montreal Fashion Week to create an even bigger event for Canadian designers.
The next fashion week takes place Sept. 6-12 at the Liberty Grand in downtown Toronto. Kay is expecting the usual 8,000 visitors and up to 450 media, including Fashion Television, seen in some 28 countries worldwide. She’s also hoping to attract at least 30 designers, the same number as the March show.
“We had a buyers’ lounge at the last show where four or five designers brought in their racks for certain retailers, like Saks Fifth Avenue, and a number of trade commissioners from around the world. We hope to expand that concept by adding more designers,” said Kay.
With L’Oreal as its title sponsor, Toronto appears to have joined Milan, Paris, New York and London as a major stop on the fashion week circuit. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Montreal, which is still struggling for credibility.
To add insult to injury, several Montreal designers opted to show in Toronto instead of Montreal, while only one Toronto designer, Arthur Mendonça, showed in Montreal as a guest of the Fur Council of Canada. Montreal also had several no-shows and last-minute cancellations from designers in March.
“Our main objective for this edition, as we only had eight weeks to produce it, was to execute all shows very well on a technical level,” explained Marie-Josee Allaire, media liaison officer for MFW.
“Now that this has been achieved, the next step for the September shows will be to attract more buyers and international media. We will also try to set a date that is more buyer-friendly to facilitate this process.”
Allaire said each fashion show was “very well attended,” ranging from 425 people for the smaller shows up to 575 for the bigger ones. All told, 2,250 people registered for MFW, including 140 journalists representing 60 different media outlets, including a small international contingent from Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Fashion Television of Paris.
September dates for MFW have not been determined.
Not all Montreal shows are struggling. One of Canada’s largest and oldest trade shows, the Montreal Gift Show, has added a style section to showcase fashion apparel and accessories. The show, which occupies 120,000 square feet over six levels, is taking place Aug. 28-31 at Place Bonaventure. It attracts 350 to 450 exhibitors and about 15,000 buyers, according to show organizer Anita Schachter.
A new show, Vancouver Fashion Fair, makes its debut Sept. 17-18 at the Pacific National Exhibition there. It bills itself as the first show of its kind in western Canada, featuring fashion for men, women and children, in addition to fur, leather, activewear and accessories.
The fair has booked 10,000 square feet of space and hopes to have close to 100 exhibitors, according to show organizer Raman Sharma.
The Ontario Fashion Exhibitors Market continues to thrive, with more than 155 exhibitors taking 600 booths at last March’s show at the Toronto Congress Center. The event attracted about 2,000 visitors, and show organizer Serge Macheli is expecting a similar turnout at the next show, scheduled for Sept. 24-27.
“We celebrated our 50th anniversary with a fashion show of the last five decades,” said Macheli. “In September, we will be celebrating phase two of our anniversary with a regular fashion show, and we’re hoping to line up a motivational speaker as well.”
Macheli said the 140,000-square-foot show is sold out and has a waiting list of about 30 exhibitors. He said he wants to grow the waiting list to about 100 before booking a larger space in the same building.