Paris takes stock of subdued March trade show session
After a reasonably satisfactory October session, the trend was unfortunately not repeated for the March editions of the Parisian B2B trade shows staged during the womenswear fashion week. Visitor numbers at Tranoï, Première Classe and Woman, held from March 1 to 4, did not in fact bounce back compared to the figures for March 2018, themselves quite bleak.
One element in particular was clear: the shows’ slot at the end of the commercial calendar works better for accessories than for ready-to-wear exhibitors, as the latter especially have been penalised by the generalised weakness of visitor traffic during the Fashion Week.
This probably explains why the most positive results were recorded by Première Classe, which put a very clear focus on accessories and asserted its leadership in the segment among the March shows with its long-established umbrella brand. Première Classe’s organiser, WSN Développement, claimed a stable attendance compared to the previous year, but emphasised that the new direction the event is taking was positively received. Exhibitors in fact hailed the event's new sectioning and how each of the show's three marquees featured different eco-systems, as well as the more impactful new setting for the stands.
“The art direction work was fine, we’re on the right track,” said the show’s director Frédéric Maus. “The rebranding effort we carried out has a real coherence to it, after we firmly established the Who's Next show at the Porte de Versailles [exhibition centre] and Première Classe here at the Tuileries [gardens]. We are keen to work further on making circulation around the show even smoother, our goal is to make it a venue where buyers want to come and take a breather, and possibly come back to it several times during the week-end."
At Première Classe, after declining for several seasons, French visitor attendance was finally on the rise again, accounting for nearly 44% of total visitor numbers.
The same occurred at Tranoï, where French visitors were a little more numerous this season, an increase of a few percentage points which was a long time coming, in what has become a more international show session. However, at Tranoï’s Carrousel du Louvre and Palais de la Bourse venues, the show’s overall attendance was down. Exhibitors themselves observed that the event was rather flat, noting a decrease in the number of international visitors which was confirmed by the organisers.
As for the Woman show, held in place Vendôme, its more condensed format, targeted to a specific buyer category, seemed to afford greater protection against fashion week setbacks. The show's attendance figure was stable, and once again there was evidence that accessories take the lion's share of business in events slotted at the end of the commercial season.
“These days, the exhibitors which are most successful in March are those presenting accessories. Ready-to-wear labels are increasingly inclined to exhibit earlier, in January, at our Man/Woman show featuring both menswear and womenswear. The Woman show in March therefore needs to become complementary to this calendar,” said organiser Antoine Floch, who also pushed back the show’s Tokyo edition, initially scheduled at the end of March, to the next season, in October.
Show organisers indeed face many challenges, from calendar slots to market positioning and unforeseen risks like the ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations in Paris, with their effects both direct - the show district was off-limits on Saturday - and indirect, as international visitors were less inclined to travel to the French capital.
“Of course, there were the ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations, but we can’t keep harping on about it, we aren’t burying our head in the sand,” said David Hadida, director of Tranoï. “We are well aware of what is happening on the market, and we know the shows need to evolve. We’re working on it, and in the coming months we will take radical, even drastic decisions to give new impulse to the format as we know it,” added Hadida, who is also working on a first B2B show in Shanghai.
According to Hadida, the question hinges on the appeal of Paris as a destination: “We must stand shoulder to shoulder, find new synergies and especially inject fresh energy. During this edition, it was clear the mood in Paris was bleaker than before. We do fashion, not aeronautics! The Fashion Week must be a party. We need to find a way to give new lustre to Paris,” concluded Hadida.
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