A picture is worth a thousand words: an exhibitor at the Tranoi trade show in Paris reads a book during the fair. Due to the current events surrounding the coronavirus COVID-19, the number of visitors at all Paris fashion fairs fell sharply. Buyers and journalists from several countries, above all China, Japan and Italy, stayed away. However, some Parisian department stores, such as Le Bon Marché, also forbade their buyers to attend the fair as a precautionary measure.
The exhibitors, however, were largely fully represented–even if they had previously shown in Milan. Sandeep Dua, managing director of the Indian brand Eka, noted: "We had done a very good job in Milan before the visitors had fled the fair, when the news came out. It was out of the question for us to cancel Paris. We paid for the stand. Small companies like ours can't afford the financial loss." Most manufacturers accept with a certain resignation that it was very quiet at the stands of the Paris trade fairs. "It will be a very difficult season. We have to prepare ourselves for that right now," summarized experienced sales manager Gabrielle Lily Darné, who represents several international brands in France and was at Première Classe for the South African scarf manufacturer BabyMoh.
Many salespeople are worried about how things are going to go from here. Geoffrey Gillon of the Belgian knitwear brand Tricot Pop, an exhibitor at Woman, is trying to stay positive. "We're already glad we're producing in India and not China. Our supplies are secure." At least for now. But in view of this situation, how can you win new customers and get the collection across to existing buyers who are absent at the fairs? The Chinese label Shiatzy Chen, which had to cancel its show in the run-up to Paris Fashion Week, sent the first video teasers of the collection to customers and journalists, followed by a comprehensive collection description and the lookbook. Smaller brands, however, are not able to deliver professional visual material so quickly. And: Can this really replace the live performance/presentation?
Designer Gabriele Frantzen from Germany, who traditionally exhibits at Tranoi with her accessories and jewelry, explained her strategy: "Since I already exhibited at the fair in January, I was able to do a little bit of preparation. But now I'll have to invest in samples to send them to customers who couldn't come to the fair. If you only send pictures, the risk of returns is too great. If I send samples, I can rule out the possibility that buyers will claim that they didn't assess the product correctly on the pictures.“ An expensive affair that not every label can afford.