BARCELONA — With Spain the only major European economy expected to remain in recession until next year (by conservative estimates) and a 19.3 percent jobless rate, the Spanish market continues to flounder, with soft traffic and diminished exhibitor presence plaguing fashion fairs here.

This story first appeared in the November 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In an effort to stimulate vendor participation and business, organizers are laying out bold strategies that include cutting the price of exhibition space, more compact floor plans and, in some cases, fair-within-fair consolidation for a stronger product mix.

For instance, Barcelona’s two main — and completely disparate — apparel shows, 080 Barcelona Fashion and The Brandery, will run back-to-back during the upcoming January editions.

“The collaboration will put Barcelona on the international fashion map, unthinkable with previous industry politics,” said Josep Huguet, director of the regional government’s Ministry of Innovation and Enterprise, which underwrites 080.

Heading into its fifth edition Jan. 25 to 27, 080 is a small but edgy fashion platform. With 18 runway shows and an accompanying “showroom” of 60 small-scale stands, the September expo highlighted fun and funky fashion by indie up-and-comers and a few local stalwarts such as Estrella Archs, recently appointed designer for Ungaro. The three-day event drew 6,500 visitors, an increase of 7 percent from March, and included retailers from the U.K., France, Russia and United Arab Emirates, organizers reported.

On the other hand, The Brandery hopes to take over where Bread & Butter left off, featuring contemporary apparel and sportswear that has taken a page from the high-vibe German show’s book. Bread & Butter severed its Barcelona ties this year. With 113 vendors, Brandery’s first edition, held July 5 to 7 in the Montjuïc fairgrounds, posted attendance of 9,715 — 22 percent of which were foreigners. Fira (or fair, in Catalan) de Barcelona organizers said the event had accomplished its objectives “and is on its way to becoming the major exchange center for brands and retailers in Southern Europe, where most of the Spanish industry’s commercial volume is concentrated,” noted Pere Camprubi, expansion director.

To run at the Barcelona fairgrounds Jan. 27 to 29, The Brandery will feature more brands in bigger space, said a source.

In Madrid, exhibitors at September’s Spanish shoe fair Modacalzado totaled 293, a drop of 134 over last year’s fall edition, but similar to the March 2009 show. They covered 171,792 square feet in three halls at the fairgrounds here. The new pared-down floor plan included a collective grouping of 20 major international brands like Beverly Feldman and Chie Mihara, with identical booths in a streamlined, open space called Espacio Glam. The concept will continue next year, organizers said.

Modacalzado and the Iberpiel leather goods fair, which traditionally run together, drew 10,815 trade visitors. That’s down more than 18 percent over September 2008, but above the March 2009 show by roughly 17 percent. Foreigners totaled 1,604 — mainly from France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Russia and Mexico.

The next edition, slated for March 11 to 13, will include an expanded Buyers Program, support measures such as a 20 percent discount on the price of stands and flexible payment options, said commercial director Félix Pérez-Fajardo.

Madrid’s SIMM show has been hammered since the July 2008 edition, when pushed-up summer dates and a sharp decline in consumer confidence were blamed for the fair’s poor showing, when exhibitor participation shrunk to 571 and attendance plummeted 60 percent to 6,598. Recovery has been difficult, with the biannual apparel fair in September registering 329 vendors and 8,000 visitors.

Promising freshened-up halls (down to just two in the Madrid fairgrounds) and the addition of a new fashion category, organizers have changed SIMM’s 2010 dates to Feb. 4 to 6 to coincide with Giftrends, the well-trafficked gift and jewelry shows.

Marking its 25th anniversary, the Madrid Cibeles Fashion Week’s catwalk presentations, which ran in September at the Madrid fairgrounds, featured 56 designers — 20 more than last year — including a batch of newcomers and the much anticipated return of such iconic names as Adolfo Dominguez and Roberto Verino. Fashion Week’s upcoming dates are Feb. 19 to 23 in the fairgrounds’ Hall 14. Dominguez and Verino will participate once again, and no major changes are expected, said a spokeswoman.


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