Italian trade show organizers are set on staying the course, despite a rocky economy.

This story first appeared in the November 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Because of the uncertain future, most associations are working on upgrading and expanding their locations and improving service and facilities, with a chin-up attitude. A number of organizers are even upbeat and optimistic about the upcoming events. “Trade shows always work well in troubled times — they are anticyclical,” said Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine.

Napoleone conceded that fewer people per company will attend the shows in order to contain costs, but said there is no significant change in the number of exhibitors. Also, Napoleone was particularly pleased with the choice of launching Pitti W Women’s Precollection in January. “This exhibition has given us a lot of satisfaction, and it’s balanced and well-aimed,” said Napoleone, adding that designer Giambattista Valli will show at the upcoming Pitti W, slated for Jan. 13 to 16, at the same time as men’s exhibition Pitti Uomo.

Napoleone said Pitti Immagine also “continues to believe” in women’s ready-to-wear and accessories shows Touch, Neozone and Cloudnine and pointed to their “strong identity and careful brand selection,” as keys to their success. “They should become even stronger and more important,” said Napoleone. Running Feb. 27 to March 2, these shows will take place at Milan’s trendy NHow Hotel, among other venues.

Dino Menarin, chairman of Fiera di Vicenza, was also confident about the future. “We must respond in a positive way to this difficult moment and work toward maintaining our position as a leading exhibition, at the same level as the Las Vegas, Basel or Hong Kong shows,” said Menarin. “Otherwise, it would be a huge damage for the system. It is essential to invest and put our maximum effort into the project, so that it becomes an event you simply can’t miss.”

Fiera di Vicenza organizes fine jewelry shows Vicenzaoro First, running Jan. 11 to 18, and Vicenzaoro Charm, scheduled for May 16 to 20. The organization is working on refining services, including parking and transportation and improving the shows’ layout. Visibility will increase for many stands, as additional space has been recovered from a nearby former hotel that was torn down. Fiera di Vicenza also organizes annual high-end jewelry exhibition About J, running Feb. 22 to 24.

Mauro Muzzolon, general secretary of AIMPES, the Italian leather goods association that organizes Mipel, the industry’s exhibition, echoed Menarin’s efforts to create key, leading events and to uniquely impact the industry. In 2009, Mipel, footwear show Micam, fur and leather exhibition Mifur and eyewear show Mido will join forces and show together in early March at Milan’s Rho-Pero fairgrounds. Micam and Mipel will run March 4 to 7, Mifur and Mido are scheduled for March 4 to 8 and March 6 to 9, respectively. They follow Milan Fashion Week, running Feb. 25 to March 4, and rtw show Milanovendemoda, Feb. 27 to March 2.

“Travel is more difficcult for retailers at the moment, but, [with this schedule], they can have a global vision of products,” said Muzzolon, adding that Mipel is expecting the same number of exhibitors, despite the economy. A new area will be dedicated to Russian retailers, as the association already relies heavily on this market, and Mifur is expected to draw a signifi cant number of Russians to the fairgrounds. The association is also working on a “shop-sharing project” in the Corso Como shopping area to present spring collections by members of AIMPES and to bring added visibility to Mipel.

Massimo Mosiello, general director of giant textile show Milano Unica, running Feb. 3 to 6, also pointed to emerging markets as tipping the scale — Eastern European ones in particular. Mosiello, however, said he expects “a slight” drop in exhibitors compared with previous editions because organizers are set on a highend positioning of Unica. The executive said Milano Unica will continue to bank on the “innovative layout” with a larger women’s sector that was conceived for the last edition and was particularly successful.

Given its new timing, Mido will be relocated and allotted the western part of the Rho-Pero fairgrounds, over six pavilions. After showing in May for 38 years, the shift to March marks a signifi cant alignment with the rtw and accessories industries and reflects the fact that eyewear is now seen as a veritable fashion accessory.

A handful of new shows are lined up for the first half of next year, to balance the canceling of Exit and W Lo Spazio. A new rtw show called Bologna will take place in that Italian city, running Jan. 15 to 18. is organized by M. Seventy, which also produces Milan-based women’s rtw exhibition White, slated to run Feb. 27 to March 2 and White Homme, Jan. 18 to 20.

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