TOKYO — As Japan inches its way out of a recession, trade show organizers are seeking strategies to entice retailers and give the market here a boost.

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

“Neither buyers nor exhibitors can figure out what suits the market,” said Takashi Yoshioka, who represents the casual apparel show Frontier. “[Buyers’] budgets are smaller than before, and they don’t know what to sell and buy.”

Naoya Jita of JFW International Fashion Fair, Japan’s biggest fashion trade event, also recognized the challenges in the current market.

“Buyers are interested in the goods that sell well now, but more than that, they are looking for something that creates [future] excitement on the retail scene,” Jita said.

JFW IFF drew 26,000 visitors in the last three-day show in July, down from nearly 30,000 in July 2008. The fair will kick off next year’s trade event calendar in Japan, running Jan. 13 to 15 at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center. The show will collaborate with home shopping network Jupiter Shop Channel to broadcast live from the trading floor.

Jita said the fair hopes the collaboration will help “create new fashion excitement with consumers at home.”

JFW IFF is also attempting to broaden its international scope. A group of exhibitors from Bangladesh will join the next edition of the show. About 150 of the show’s 800 exhibitors come from outside Japan, Jita said, including a contingent from the U.S.

The fair also hosts a “Creator’s Village” section dedicated to new, emerging brands. Jita said the number of exhibitors should hold steady at about 150. Organizers are still accepting applications for the Creator’s Village section.

JFW IFF holds another fashion apparel trade show, Plug In, in April and October, and its October show saw about a 10 percent increase in visitors while the number of exhibitors remained flat. The next show will be held April 13 to 15 at Ebis 303 in Tokyo.

For its part, Frontier is reaching out to exhibitors and advising them to display the “right mix” of merchandise, such as styles that can accommodate headphones or iPods. Frontier will be held Feb. 2 to 5 at Tokyo Big Sight, coinciding with the Tokyo International Gift Show.

Rooms, one of Japan’s most cutting-edge shows, has incorporated presentations by artists and interactive displays to engage attendees. At the last edition of the show in September, visitors could take home certain items on display at the fair. The venue housed special booths where attendees could make impulse purchases.

At the entrance of the last show, all visitors received a recyclable, eco-conscious bag made of limestone — that is, calcium carbonate from powdered limestone is used to make paper, which makes the bag. No wood or water is used in the process.

The September edition of Rooms drew 410 exhibitors and 14,000 visitors, roughly the same as the September 2008 show, which listed 404 exhibitors.

The next Rooms will be held Feb. 8 to 10, at Roppongi Hills shopping mall. It had been held at Yoyogi Stadium, but that is being renovated.

“The theme is ‘start.’ Our 20th show is a kind of retrospective,” said Mika Sato, producer of Rooms, which is organized by H.P. France, a Japanese firm. “We are reconfirming our original purpose: To provide fashion excitement and move forward.”

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