It's show time in Berlin next week. We talked to the show organizers about novelties and challenges in todays's trade show circus. Today: Jörg Wichmann, Panorama Berlin, & Shane Brandenburg, Selvedge Run.
The Selvedge Run trade show was acquired by Panorama Berlin in September. What changes are coming up?
Shane Brandenburg (SB): The core focus will stay the way it was. We are planning to expand in a new area that we call Zeitgeist Area. It’s like it was with the traditional selvedge jeans. They can also be worn with different looks: in the heritage look with Red Wing boots and a flannel shirt or with sneakers and a button-down shirt. Both ways work and you can see many more variants in stores and on the street. The new Selvedge Run & Zeitgeist covers exactly this crossover. If I had stayed with the traditional niche, then I wouldn’t have been able to present this crossover. It was important to me to take Selvedge Run out of its niche and to present the great brands to a wider audience. That’s why I decided on the motto #ReachNextLevel for the upcoming show.
Jörg Wichmann, what motivated this buyout?
Jörg Wichmann (JW): We have worked closely on two events, so we knew each other quite well. And we have seen that many visitors to Panorama Berlin are looking for new products with a story–niche products like those exhibited at the Selvedge Run trade show. On the other hand, many of these brands have considerable growth potential. So we put our heads together on how to tap into and mobilize that potential. In the end, the sale of Selvedge Run to Panorama Berlin emerged as the best way to achieve joint growth. Now we can raise the level and build topics around the trade fair. We can make the assortment even more exciting and implement a zeitgeist that is currently very popular with retailers. Combining this with topics at Panorama Berlin holds a lot of promise.
JW: Today, your competitor is no longer the neighbor at the next stand, but the verticals and the online retailers. And the brand portfolio of a Selvedge Run, which does not offer products with perfectly worked out algorithms, offers a competitive advantage. With them, retailers can really break out and focus on new themes and brands that are predestined because they can’t be seen anywhere else in Europe. Consumers’ wardrobes have so much more variety now than they did a few years ago. They mix segments and styles, as well as niche products and commerce. That means retailers have to introduce new topics and generate suspense.
So, how will the two trade fair concepts merge in January?
JW: On the one hand we have this cosmos of the Selvedge Run, which we are keeping set apart, and on the other the Panorama Berlin with its various segments, halls and themes. Now we’ll strike an intelligent balance and create new offers for retailers. We want to use the brands to develop new themes, such as outdoor or other lifestyle themes very popular with the consumer. We will restructure and reshape the retail space. But I consider it an important task to develop and tell the stories behind the brands. We will kick off this season by moving the Selvedge Run platform from its niche and integrating it as a whole into the new exhibition hall Selvedge Run & Zeitgeist at the entrance area of Messe Süd. Now we are looking forward to carrying on dialogue with visitors and brands to develop this further.
How is the Selvedge Run community responding to these changes?
SB: We won’t be able to answer that precisely for six months. It’s true that a lively community has developed around Selvedge Run, both on the visitor side and with exhibitors. That this will now be broken up is clear. And it’s also clear that something new will now emerge. I believe that a community always needs a strong core of identification, a self-contained structure where people gather and enjoy spending time. Then it comes together again and again. There are, of course, sensitive issues, and I am in close touch and exchanging with brands that are uncertain. Overall, they are looking forward to being able to expect more traffic with this symbiosis. My goal is to get everyone on board, the Panorama Berlin customers as well as the specialized retailers who come to Berlin just because of Selvedge Run, because here they find brands found nowhere else in Europe.
JW: There is currently enough anxiety in our industry. And, above all, I see a win-win situation for everyone involved. My task as organizer is to offer new solutions and dispel fears. For example, on the part of those brands that, until now, have offered their products in a niche, but have high fan potential among consumer groups. To make this offer more accessible, you have to be very careful, because we are a commercial platform. And as part of our self-imposed DNA we strive to showcase brands that promise to be a business success. This achieves the maximum attraction and appeal possible and over the past seven years we’ve helped several brands make their start and are always looking out for new ones.
You mentioned market change. What does that look like?
JW: Development and new things always emerge from a positive gut feeling. From emotions. But looking at the last decade in our industry, many retail and brand decisions have been made while focusing on optimization and sales figures achieved the season before. That has nipped many ideas and developments in the bud. And the brands that were hailed as a universal panacea in the retail sector ten years ago are gone today. Shop-in-store concepts that were set up and produced a consistent image at the POS all over the country have led to consumer fatigue over the medium term. Of course, online sellers also take advantage of the opportunity to present a wide variety of goods in the colorful world of e-tailing. But there is a lack of emotionality and exchange at the virtual meeting point. This moment offers quite an opportunity. For example, when you have the courage to try out new things to develop closer ties with the customer. When you consciously seek ways of distinguishing yourself from your neighbor instead of just copying things all the time. Successful retailing turns itself into a destination, a point of experience. What goods do I need for doing that, and what customer will the approach work with? And where can I experiment more and where is it better to explore less? It’s no longer just a question of sales per square meter but to a greater and greater extent also about emotion per square meter.
SB: I take a similar view. The independent retailer has to prevail against the price wars going on online. This requires individual concepts and must offer added value, staying flexible, and being open when exchanging with brands and other retailers. Collaborations and events are planned together, and close attention is paid to detail, whether it is the coffee for the customer in the store, or that special product range. The more active you are, the stronger you are as a retailer. And the trade fair visit is an important venue for all these activities.
How do you ensure there is this special lineup of brands at Selvedge Run?
SB: Take the example of Asian exhibitors at Selvedge Run. In Asia, especially in Japan, a lot is happening and many brands have enormous potential for success in the European market. These are diamonds in the rough. But you have to take these brands by the hand, simply because of cultural and market differences. There is quite a lot of demand for this that we can cater to well. We are currently considering which services we can offer in terms of sales and marketing.
Often the brands consider the retailers too cautious and retailers complain about the products they see. What’s the solution?
JW: Blaming other people is no solution. I think that consumers need to be more strongly involved in the process again. If the online retailer looks at customers through the lens of algorithms and offers only what they supposedly like, physical retail has to offer the complete opposite, an offer the customer will get up from the sofa for. The name of the game now is diversity, because the consumer is far more flexible than industry often assumes. So, there is also a need for new forms of dialogue between industry and retail. And I understand both sides: industry needs production guarantees and retailing can’t commit to investments too early before it can assess how the season will turn out. It won’t get easier in the future. In fact it will get more complicated. These issues can only be solved through dialogue, and change is very definitely the solution.
What is your role as trade fair organizers?
JW: The role we play is highly complex. We see that in times of stress the role of a physical marketplace takes on even more importance. Because this provides an opportunity for an intensive exchange and you can build trust. As an event, to a certain degree we are a reflection of the industry. In addition, we have the opportunity not only to mirror the market but to develop this image further. We try to winnow things down to needs that both sides have. We act as a moderator and are evolving into an intelligent platform that creates offers with holistic appeal to our visitors, for example by including retail solutions as exhibits. We are moving away from being a pure trade show and becoming more of a matchmaking platform. To support this, we will be offering a digital platform this year. Through our app, we will give brands and retailers the opportunity to meet and interact throughout the year.
Why is such a digital extension necessary?
JW: I can’t ask retailers to take in everything we offer within just three days. There are also many topics that come up seasonally or between trade shows. Every day, we get to know what’s going on in the industry because we interact daily with it. So, it was only natural to initiate this interaction. At the basic physical level, that’s our main task, and now it’s going to be carried out digitally as well.
Editor's note: You can find a shortened version of this interview in our current issue, #287.