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HONG KONG — As regional retail sectors gain POWER and competition increases as a result of January’s quota abolition, trade show organizers in China and Hong Kong seem to be a step beyond their normal optimistic selves.

“We’ve seen the light,” said Michael Duck, senior vice president of CMP Asia. The business environment “is pretty good at the moment,” he continued. “There’s a healthy atmosphere.”

A lot of that light is coming from China, and as a result, “the whole region is somewhat more buoyant,” he said.

With that buoyancy comes the uncertainty of how other countries will react as China becomes an increasingly powerful player in the textile market. “People just do not know what is going to happen post-quota,” Duck said.

Annie Ma, group manager of trade fairs for Messe Frankfurt, agreed. “The quotas were only abolished [in January], which is not enough time for a clear and precise analysis and to justify any measures.”

Katherine Chan, spokeswoman at Hong Kong’s Trade Development Council, agreed. “Even though both the U.S. and the EU are looking into safeguard measures,” it will take time to see how the market will be affected, she said. For now, “It’s hard to make a judgment.”

In the meantime, the quota-free era seems to be helping trade show numbers when it comes to visitors and exhibitors.

“It stimulates the need for textile companies to join trade shows, because competition is intense and they need firsthand market information,” Chan said. She added that it’s “very important to add value to our fairs.”

The TDC organizes Hong Kong Fashion Week, which is held July 12-15 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. In 2004, the fair had 770 exhibitors and 15,093 visitors. Overseas visitors grew by 46 percent, compared with 2003, the low point caused by the SARS outbreak.

In the apparel and accessories sector, the TDC also organizes the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair, Sept. 7-11. This show also has enjoyed improvements in numbers: In 2003, there were 720 exhibitors and 15,137 visitors, compared with 768 exhibitors and 16,584 visitors in 2004.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We see that the number of exhibitors is rising generally,” Chan said, adding that in addition to increased competition, the rise can also be attributed to the reputation of the TDC’s shows, the strong euro and overall improvements in the business environment. “It’s a little bit of everything,” she said, adding that she expects only a “moderate increase” in attendance this year.

Messe Frankfurt’s Ma sees it slightly differently: “Countries with a strong currency always see their level of export diminishing, and the textile industry exports unfortunately follow the same rules,” she said. “The European textile industry is facing substantial challenges. This is one of the reasons why we have many European exhibitors at our shows in China — they are looking to promote their products and expand sales in emerging markets.”

Duck also lists the overall improvement in the retail sector across the region as a boost for trade shows. Contributing factors include increased levels of shoppers from mainland China, as well as the average disposable income rising to levels not seen since before the Asian financial crisis in 1977.

CMP Asia organizes Moda Shanghai, China International Footwear Fair and the All China Leather Exhibition, scheduled for Sept. 7-9 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. In 2004, the shows saw a 20 percent jump in visitors over the previous year, to 14,980. And Duck anticipates further increases in 2005.

However, not all trade show numbers are on the rise, a trend that organizers attribute to a tighter, more specialized focus at the shows.

“In essence, you probably have much better business, but with fewer people conducting it,” Duck said.

Numbers for the fall edition of CMP’s Asia Pacific Leather Fair and Fashion Access, for instance, have dropped. In 2003, there were 574 exhibitors and 10,613 visitors, compared with 418 exhibitors and 7,959 visitors in 2004.

Duck said he expects attendance at the Oct. 6-8 show, to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, to hold steady.

Messe Frankfurt also has seen fewer attendees at its Interstoff Asia Autumn and Intertextile Shanghai fabric shows, something the organization attributes to fewer browsers and more buyers. “We realize there are fewer visitors, but we also realize the quality of visitor is higher,” said spokeswoman Elisabeth Grisoni.

The selection at Interstoff, scheduled for Oct. 5-7 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, has been narrowed to functional fabrics and a higher standard of fabric suited to the mass market, Grisoni said. This means there are physically fewer buyers for those products, but the buyers who do attend are looking for that emphasis, she added.

In 2004, Interstoff Asia Autumn attracted 322 exhibitors and 10,743 visitors. Katy Lam, director of trade fairs for Messe Frankfurt, expects the numbers for the October show to be “more or less the same.”

Meanwhile, Intertextile Shanghai, to be held Oct. 26-29 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, is more suited for the mass market. The 2004 edition saw 42,904 buyers, an increase over the previous year that Lam attributes to more exhibitors. After attracting 1,200 exhibitors in 2004, with a waiting list of more than 500, Messe Frankfurt expanded to a larger hall with a 1,400-booth capacity. Lam said there is already a waiting list for those additional spots.

The group is also targeting professional buyers with two new specialized shows. China Fur is a joint venture with Dalian International Garment Exhibition and will be held at the Dalian World Expo Centre in China, Sept. 10-13. Messe Frankfurt is expecting 200 exhibitors and more than 15,000 visitors to the new show.

“The show is happening at a time when this sector is growing fast in China,” Ma said. “Real or fake, fur is back on the catwalks and on the streets.”

Messe Frankfurt also will launch a new yarn and fiber event similar to Yarn Expo Beijing. The new event will be held concurrently with Intertextile Shanghai.

“Nowadays, China produces a massive volume of textiles and garments to satisfy both export and domestic markets, but the demand surpasses by far the domestic supply,” Ma said. “For that reason, Chinese textile manufacturers are looking abroad for quality textile products.”

In addition to its leather and footwear shows, CMP Asia runs the Hong Kong Jewellery and Watch Fair, the largest of its kind in Asia, which will be held concurrently with Asia’s Fashion Jewellery and Accessories Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Sept. 21-25. The China International Gold, Jewellery and Gem Fair-Shanghai will be held Nov. 24-27 at Shanghaimart.

Looking further ahead, CMP Asia is deep into planning Prime Source, a new show to be held in March 2006 at AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong. A shuttle will be available to ferry visitors to the concurrent Asia Pacific Leather Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event will include forums for foreign retailers and brand owners to interact with government officials in China and Hong Kong, Duck said.

A mix of manufacturers, logistics, financing and technology companies will reflect the one-shop model that is taking shape for sourcing companies and manufacturers.

Prime Source isn’t “a traditional apparel or traditional textile show,” Duck said, adding, “That’s a thing of the past.”

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