J ( örg Wichmann Panorama): "Trade shows have been regionalized in Europe."
With the support of Messe Berlin, Jörg Wichmann founded the trade show Panorama in January 2013. Primarily dedicated to established brands, the show has expanded from one season to the next. In January, it will welcome more than 550 exhibitors, including Digel, Marc Cain, Imperial, Nümph, Alberto...as well as a new space: "Urban Up". The area will host forty brands that formerly exhibited at Bread & Butter, which has been cancelled. Wichmann, who has been active for years on the Berlin fashion scene, shared his thoughts with us regarding Berlin fashion shows and explained the changes that should be expected at Panorama, which begins on January 19.
FashionMag: What does the cancellation of Bread & Butter in Berlin mean? What conclusions can you draw as a trade show organizer?
Jörg Wichmann: I believe that in Germany, even across the German-speaking board, the cancellation of Bread & Butter isn’t that significant in itself. Over the past two seasons, you could notice its decline. Moreover, the announcements concerning Bread & Butter came one after another—from its opening up to the general public to the move to Barcelona—creating a climate of insecurity. Karl-Heinz Müller (the show’s founder ed.) didn’t seem to take the opinions of exhibitors and buyers into account. Bread & Butter got so far away from its original jeans-based concept. There’s also the story of all the brands that were refused... Premium, Bright, Show and Order, and we, of course, we have become pertinent for the fashion industry. With us, there’s a level of safety with our schedule, and so we’re taken seriously.
FM: And internationally?
JW: Internationally, clearly we have to make sure we do enough in terms of communications. Before, foreigners came to Berlin for Bread & Butter; it was an international brand. Sometimes it was even confused with Berlin Fashion Week. A real communications effort needs to be made in terms of the international audience. And that’s in a context where European shows are regionalized. International participation in trade shows has declined in recent years. German trade fairs have become more German, Italian, more Italian, French, more French... This is the case for every, or almost every, show. For the last Who's Next, the number of Asian visitors dropped. With its offer, Berlin has to up the marketing. The city is neither anymore nor any less rich in fashion events than before, with Premium, Bright, Seek, Panorama...
FM: So for you, it’s primarily a question of communications…
JW: For international buyers, yes. So that they forget about Bread & Butter, and Fashion Week, etc... If you look at the online registration numbers, there’s a positive trend... those who want to see the brands will come.
FM: A positive message?
JW: Yes. We aren’t only a trade show. We’re a true marketplace. We’re not the same event with all these parties and big bashes like Bread & Butter. We want to push topics and ideas that are relevant to businesses. What are the needs of exhibitors? Where do they want to meet new retail customers? In Germany, what do international brands need to win over retailers? Conversely, how can we as trade show organizers help German brands win over Russian or American retailers? We’re not only a landlord with square feet to rent. Our concern is how brands react to our concept. How can this person and that person meet?
FM: With that in mind, what's new for January?
JW: Our big news for this year is the establishment of a BtoB data system. Let me explain. With a badge, visitors can download, via an RFID chip at each stand, data about brands, representatives, collections, price ranges... Each stand will be provided with an information point. Visitors will be able to receive an email with the information or links to download what they saw. Retailers will be able to filter by targeting the brands that they saw. This also makes it so that they don’t have to carry huge shopping bags of paper and lookbooks. We’ve invested a lot in this system, which we’ve called BtoB Panorama Berlin Checkpoint.
FM: Is this a step towards a virtual salon?
JW: No. For us, these are tools for active on-site communication. The formats of virtual trade shows haven’t yet convinced me. However, today we have to maximize the time budget. Before going to the airport, Panorama’s visitors can thus be sure they are bringing back a maximum of information useful for their businesses. But this isn’t a virtual trade show. Fashion should be lived. The presentation of collections is still important.
FM: So you think that physical trade shows will continue to exist?
FM: What's new beyond the Urban Up area?
JW: We have more brands as compared to the July edition (35 to 40 for Urban Up, and 40 or so for the other segments ed.). We’ll have about 550. The total exhibition space has gone in six months from 360,000 to 400,000 square feet. Urban Up is a new segment featuring brands that formerly took part in Bread. But we’ve refined the offer of each of our segments. The Now area (for immediate deliveries in spring 2015) has been expanded and will occupy two halls. Hotel, dedicated to small brands, is now higher-end.
FM: So what is now Panorama’s positioning, having started out as a space advocating for more well established, commercial brands?
JW: The foundations of the show are commercial brands, with which we make money. But this is the fifth edition, and the offer extends from entry level to commercial premium. We don't address designers, who already have Premium, for example.
FM: Is Panorama becoming like a department store?
JW: Maybe like a well-managed Galeries Lafayette, yes (smiling).
FM: What about a single ticket for Premium, Seek, Bright and Show and Order?
JW: We haven’t been contacted as regards something like that although we would’ve agreed. But we have organized a Fast Lane, like at the airport, for buyers who already hold a ticket for another Berlin show. What counts is that the visitors are professional buyers. Then, between the shows, there’ll always be movement of exhibitors and visitors. Nothing is set in stone!
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