Trade shows are entering a new era as we go into 2020 and a new decade.
There’s no arguing that the traditional trade show model has changed,
especially in the face of e-commerce and a declining number of physical
retail stores. However, brands still value the trade show experience and
see it as beneficial to growing their business.
Kyomie Rogers, assistant to fashion designer Bobby Day, was a first time
trade show attendee at Liberty Fairs, and she says that one thing she hopes
to see from trade shows and fashion in the next decade is more inclusion.
“It’s possible for trade shows to help with inclusion because I see so many
different designers and so many different styles, it’s very inclusive,”
Rogers said to FashionUnited. “When I say inclusion I mean every nook and
cranny of the word ranging from ethnicity, race, and sizes. These are
things that already exist and they need a chance to shine. I’m seeing that
here at Liberty Fairs, and I’ve met so many different kinds of brands and
people, so trade shows have the power to do that.”
Trade shows will need to rethink their strategy for 2020 and beyond
Andrew Graham, director of wholesale at Marine Layer, counts Liberty Fairs
as his second ever trade show, as the brand just launched wholesale for the
first time this year. He believes that trade shows are still beneficial to
brands because, “This was a way for us to meet people whether they knew our
brand or not. This is great for new leads and quickly meet a customer.”
One of the most essential things Graham feels trade shows need are buyers
from stores that are more experiential. “We’re finding that stores that
offer more of an experience in their shops are the ones we want to be
partnered with,” Graham said to FashionUnited. “We want stores that are not
just about moving volume, but are able to tell a story and our story, and
advance our brand in meaningful ways.”
While some longtime vendors, like Bridge & Burn, acknowledge that the trade
shows seem to be shrinking and are a lot smaller, they still consider them
key components of their business and see a growth in number of accounts
obtained season over season. The brand does believe that the show
organizers need to take more incentive to get more vendors and buyers.
“There should be more incentive for vendor give back,” said Ash Hester,
account manager at Bridge & Burn, to FashionUnited. “The shows could be
more supportive for vendors who are attending by giving accommodations or
engagement with buyers, or doing a meet and greet where it’s more
interacting, and it’s less about the buyers bringing the appointment. Now
you see vendors dropping out because they aren’t seeing the traffic or
doing the business.”
Vendors at trade shows spend considerable amounts of money to display their
collections and attract buyers at trade shows, but will quickly drop out if
they don’t see a return on investment. Brands are also switching more to
showing in showrooms or going directly to buyers, rather than showcasing at
trade shows, making brand turn over high. This season, trade shows had many
first time vendors, who may or may not come back.
“We’re here because we have appointments,” said Erik Prowell, founder of
Bridge & Burn, to FashionUnited. “If these new brands don’t get the
appointments and aren’t getting the exposure they want, then they probably
won’t come back.”
Prowell is in a lucky position where 80 percent of his business is trade
shows, and he meets his goal of opening a few new accounts at each one. For
him, it’s the most efficient way for him to see his accounts.
While trade shows are still imperative to the fashion industry,
particularly for independent brands looking to get into retail doors, they
will need to adapt going into the next decade of the twenty-first century.
Trade shows will need to give buyers more incentive to attend and find ways
to better connect buyers and vendors. Having a diverse portfolio of brands
will also be essential for bringing new buyers into the mix. There’s a
future for trade shows, but they will have to rethink how they do things.
photo: via Liberty Fairs