During the first day of Kingpins24 New York held via webinar on June 23-24, 2020, the roundtable discussion “The Future of Trade Shows” took place. The event organized and moderated by Tricia Carey, director global business development, Lenzing Fibers, involved the executives of the global denim trade shows:
Andrew Olah, Kingpins; Guglielmo Olearo, Première Vision; Mostafiz Uddin, Bangladesh Denim Expo; Olaf Schmidt, Messe Frankfurt/Texworld and Intertextile Shanghai; and Sebastian Klinder, Munich Fabric Start/Bluezone.
The conversation touched some of the most crucial topics trade shows have to face these days, among others, how the pandemic is changing the industry and shows, virtual trade shows, busy calendars, opening to consumers and sustainability.
Here's our summary quoting questions and answers:
"The apparel and fashion business and the trade show business have been severely affected by this pandemic. With shows taking place in New York, Amsterdam, London, Milan, Paris, Dhaka, Hangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai, denim alone occupies a total of 51 calendar days with two and a half months of working days per year. Within the past weeks the buzzword has been virtual trade shows, relocations of shows and exhibitors. As social individuals and human beings can digital experiences without real life interaction be satisfying? Are we looking at an industry reset for trade shows considering travel obstacles, shortening of budgets and staff cuts? What does all this mean today to trade show organization?
In pre-pandemic we registered a robust attendance to trade shows. Do you think that buyers and exhibitors need that many shows? In post-Covid are we looking at a tipping point?"
"The most important aspects for a show are the location and the timing. That’s one thing which is very important for us as we regard it. Whether we have reached the tipping point or not–I think we have reached it, for sure–and I think it’s gonna be very difficult in the future because of the present situation."
"We have reached great results in the past ten years, before the Covid-19 crisis. For sure what we experience today is that the world is changing, the consumption is changing and probably also trade shows are going to change."
"The most important part is that we all can discuss and find a new way how we can move forward and do something together."
"We as Messe Frankfurt organize more than 55 trade shows internationally completely focused on the textile value chain. After the crisis there is a high request to have physical trade shows again perhaps more than before because people would like to meet each other again and for people it is very important to have meeting platforms like shows where they can meet together. This is our expectation."
"The fact that the three main denim shows must be happening in a three month slot in a distance of no more than 600 miles is crazy in a way. I think that trade shows are most important business and marketing tools which are driven by the industry and beloved by everyone. As a trade show organizer I am missing the fact that shows cannot happen. I’m sad about it and I’m happy to work every day with my team in order to make shows happen. I’m super happy to support the industry by running a trade show. Trade shows will change and how people travel will change. The fact that we need physical trade shows are happening is no doubt for me."
"I think that in organizing a show what counts is welcoming international visitors and allowing travels and flight operations. Physically is possible to organize a show according to regulations but also exhibitors and visitors have to come. It’s easier to organize a local event with local visitors and buyers than internationally. Here in Germany, for instance, we see a change of regulations especially for the trade show business. Authorities recognized that it’s different to have a music festival, a sport event or a trade show."
"Shows are allowed to take place in Germany from the beginning of September but also the opening of borders in Europe is an important chance for starting our show in that month. Even if I heard that the mayor of Amsterdam is not willing to allow public gatherings until 2021, I think public gatherings or concerts have noting to do with trade shows. A trade show can be organized without any doubt if we are opening shopping malls and other public places."
"In Dhaka we have no problems. We are waiting to welcome you all and visit our show in November. For me without trade shows as an exhibitor or visitor it’s not possible to work."
"In Amsterdam they haven’t made a decision yet, even if they say that the mayor doesn’t want to let events happen for the whole of 2020. Let’s rather speak of the New York show. Will we have a New York show? Will people travel from different states to come to New York? Do they want to come to New York? You can say intellectually we are gonna run the show but do people want to go the show? Or will there be a second quarantine or more new waves? We don’t know all of these things. I know that American Express closed their offices until 2021. So if American Express is not willing to go to their own offices why will anyone want to go to trade shows?"
"I think we will have a better picture in September when we know how it will all evolve in the US and Europe. We don’t even get any clear information from different governments. In different states of Europe not everyone is allowed to do the same things like, for instance, going to a shop."
"Things are changing so quickly and we cannot foresee what is happening in two weeks. Trade shows need to be organized so precisely. I think the best thing is that my team and I try to think positive, make things happen and try to organize a show under these new circumstances. It might be regional, it might be smaller but we need a restart and this cannot be done–in my eyes–in a digital way."
"As a trade show organizer we have to be positive and optimistic as we are bringing people together. We need a starting point. Is it the 1st of September? I understand that every country has its own rules, but this is totally new as no one had to face such an extraordinary event like this one before."
"We decided to run our shows on one single floor and create one-way corridors which are three meters wide."
"To us a trade show has to have a digital support that can accelerate the contact and the business as it will be in PV for next September but this has not to be exclusive. We took the decision to invest and launch a digital marketplace two years ago as these tools try to create matchmaking ...but this platform is meant to bring people together for some months and not a digital event that will only last just three days."
"From July Texworld will run its own digital platform. I think digital platforms complete global communication but not more. It’s an extra tool but personal meetings are very important especially when we speak about fabrics and the fashion industry as we need to create a connection with people who have to see the fabric.
In the last three weeks we saw so many digital solutions–but also a lot of horrible ones. That’s how so many people in the industry understood why it’s so important for them meeting each other in physical shows for their business."
"We have run a digital show for Kingpins last April. Also for me it is a complementary tool we can use to make our communities meet together and continue to use it as such. Our physical trade shows are never going away."
"Physical shows can work as a catalyst for these platforms. It’s just an additional tool everyone is using as long as we don’t have digital tweets of real fabrics. A picture is not enough to sell fabrics.
Speaking about calendars, we as Munich Fabric Start have always had the goal to schedule the calendar without any overlaps. We always try to inform and exchange with other shows to organize a schedule within the industry that is realistic for all. But do we really need three shows in three months in Europe in 600 miles away for one sector?
People will think about which show they will exhibit, for which show they will invest their money and marketing budgets. But budgets may change and costs could be cut in the future."
"We are all involved in trade shows because we want to do something good for the trade, not for ourselves. What we do is all for the buyers. And that’s why we are all here on the same table together. We all came here as we have a vision and we have intention but we are willing and ready to cooperate."
"We are connecting people together–it’s our major mission. We have to be extremely careful about the calendar we are going to follow as the market is going to do it. Three shows could exist up to now, but for sure there could be an impact from the crisis. Budgets could be cut by exhibitors and visitors–plus we don’t know if people will be allowed to travel or not.
In coming years there could be some concentrations, there could also be acquisitions and mergers among trade shows. These are usual rules of the market. We have to be very careful to be always in line with what the market needs and to serve the calendar."
"Perhaps we need other dates for our shows, but independently from Corona. We always tell our customers: “First of all you should ask yourself on which market you are focusing and what image you want to focus on.” We are in close contact with our customers to find out exactly what is the reason–and perhaps not because of Corona and your possibilities–to be part of the show."
"Exhibitors are the ones that we serve. And they are in touch with their visitors. So, for example, we communicate with them about which dates are good and which dates are not.
Speaking about the competition between trade shows–but unfortunately is not the solution–they might all happen in the same city at the same time. It would be like in a shopping mall where customers are going to decide what shops they want to go in."
"I would never open our professional show for the public. I can’t see any reason for it. Consumers are not our core business. Karl-Heinz Müller had the idea to open on the third or fourth day of his show, but I see it difficult for the exhibitors and for presenting fabrics."
"Going to the consumer? We’d like to unlock that. We have done some experiments with Denim Days and some education around denim to the consumer. We have no problem in case that is going to fail. We are going to keep that as we believe there’s an integration between the industry and denim geeks...we should be open to anyone who loves denim and how to make it attractive for them and we have to find out how the exhibitors can enjoy benefits from it."
"Consumers have nothing to do with our exhibition because it is part of the industry. I think the growth of online and all these aspects have not an impact on what we do. For this we are going to continue making it happen like it has always been."
"Recalling the consumer is a fascinating option but we are far away from organizing that because we are a professional show and our target is to be efficient. It may happen in other sectors like, for instance, food. You might have a B2B show and at the same time some events where consumers are involved too, but for all of the Premiere Vision shows I don’t see any interest for direct consumers. I have no message to tell them and no added value to bring them."
"We have been looking for sustainable goals for our trade show. Our job as a show is to physically be more sustainable, to contribute and report on that–which we have yet to start. We are going to implement more and more standards for our exhibitors. We already started with social compliance and we are going to have environmental requirements."
"Sustainability has been one of the major criteria of our shows. We are still communicating and working on smart creation for them. In 2022 we are going to speak about ethics as well. Also–and especially after this crisis–we are going to speak about solidarity and human contacts."
"For 2022 we don’t see huge consequences for our trade shows even if their size might be different especially at the beginning, though we think that people would like to meet again and talk to each other. Some very important issues for our shows will be seeing fabrics physically and–of course–doing networking and speaking about sustainability. Because of the crisis people remember the values and the connections that have to be kept between brands, producers, and the industry, but also supporting this industry together with our visitors and cooperation for sustainable development are among our targets."
"We are working on social sustainability and we are investing on this part only. That’s our mission."
"I think sustainability is the new normal for everyone, also for trade shows and exhibitors, but unfortunately I fear that the world in recession is an obstacle to sustainable consumption. This is my biggest concern but we have to afford it and people have to afford this as this could be a difficult scenario in the future."