Presentations of the most important pieces of the spring-summer collection 2022, try-ons and discussions about the number of pieces ordered – since Friday and until this Monday evening there has been more activity at the exhibition center at the Porte de Versailles than it has been for over a year and a half. The Who’s Next trade fair celebrated its physical return in Paris and presented the range of around 700 brands in two halls. This was the first physical event of this magnitude for the fashion industry, which is why the atmosphere and the event have been scrutinized by many in the industry and beyond.
Indeed, after months of digitization, travel restrictions and changed business practices, many observers wondered whether a return to business meetings was still a good idea. As part of the event, the trade fairs Impact (which is dedicated to sustainable offerings), Bijhorca (which is dedicated to jewelry and has been organized by the organizer WSN Developpement since the beginning of the year) and Traffic (which offers service solutions for fashion companies), and Exposed and Riviera (lingerie and swimwear), but the event had to forego some international exhibitors and struggled to convince some of the key players in the sector. Despite the 250 new additions, the number of brands exhibited was significantly lower than the pre-Covid editions.
But despite this reduced format, the issue met with great interest. Proof of this: While the sector has not necessarily been the focus of political interest in recent years, Alain Griset, Minister for Micro Enterprises and SMEs, strolled through the aisles on the opening day and spoke to the entrepreneurs.
“It is a great pleasure to be able to participate in physical events again. I was here a year ago [zur Messe Première Classe in den Tuilerien, Anm. d. Red.] and no one could imagine that such a meeting could take place in the fall. A year ago I was concerned. Today we are in a situation where entrepreneurs are talking about projects and the future. “
Pierre-François Le Louet, President of the Fédération Française du Prêt-à-Porter Féminin, praised the brands present during the presentation conference of the fair: “I would like to thank the brands who have decided to exhibit in order to meet their customers. This is a strong signal to the market,” he said.
After three days, this edition of Who’s Next seems to have proven the relevance of the offer. First positive point: the fair attracted international visitors. “The buyers from the most important export countries are unfortunately not present, but on Friday we welcomed visitors from Spain, Greece, Italy and Belgium,” said Sandrine Amadoux, Head of Image, Marketing and Communication for the Grace & Mila brand in Hall 6 is represented.
“We were pleasantly surprised that we had a large number of international visitors. The proportion of foreign visitors was 18% and on Friday 27%,” explains Fréderic Maus, Managing Director of WSN Développement, the organizer. Overall, the number of visitors was 20% lower than at the last edition in September 2019. “But we have 30% fewer exhibitors. This gives the brands present more opportunities to get in touch with these visitors.”
Even if some regretted that the fair was more modest compared to the years before the pandemic, this ratio met the expectations of many exhibitors.
“This event was an opportunity to analyze the market and find out what action the players have taken after months of being on their own and unable to travel,” explains Kostas Papadopoulos, head of the Greek brand Access Fashion. “This edition is missing our international customers, whom we usually meet at Who’s Next. That is why we opted for a smaller stand. On the other hand, the French are there and we have many new prospects. Digitization has made it possible for us to meet customers who have met us in the past, but returning to the fairs is important to meet new customers and show them our quality. “
However, the event’s comeback was not entirely without difficulties. The queues at the entrance, especially in connection with the control of the health passports, but above all the lack of air conditioning in Hall 5, in which the Fashion Scène brands as well as the accessories and beauty brands were exhibiting, caused dissatisfaction on the first day the exhibitors.
For the specialists in cashmere sweaters and outerwear, trying on their products was difficult in the scorching temperatures. On the following days, when the system had not yet been repaired, the organization teams covered the large windows of the hall in order to lower the temperatures. Despite this setback, most of the exhibitors were satisfied with the number of visitors. They reported a good Friday, a decent Saturday despite the quiet morning and good activity on Sunday. Especially at many stands, the signatures of new customers motivated the sales teams present.
“We called each other among the brands and told each other that, even if some of them were missing, we had to attend the fair as a whole to show that we were there,” explains Olivier Cris, managing director of the Parisian cashmere brand Notshy won new multi-brand customers in the region, especially in Lille, Tours and La Roche sur Yon, in one morning.
Whether in Hall 5 or Hall 6, Sunday was productive too, with Karma Koma at the Fashion Scene or 1083 and Olly Lingerie at Impact. “There is a lot of traffic, even if it is less than expected. There were many more buyers on Sunday,” said Ying Wang, managing director of Ekyog.
The same applies to Les Tropéziennes, which was represented with a stand in Hall 6. “We came with low expectations and it was a great show for us. We brought shoes and ready-to-wear clothing together in one stand where we worked very hard in terms of design and visibility. And it was worth it,” explains Lionel Gamondes, who coordinates wholesaling for the brand, which has around 1,500 shoe stores in France. “We also wanted to introduce the ready-to-wear collection that we launched four seasons ago. And that worked well on Friday. Saturday was quiet, but Sunday was very good for us, with 16 new customers alone this day.”
“We really hesitated to attend the fair because we didn’t know if customers would come. We came as a historical exhibitor,” explains Sarah Koulla, manager of the women’s fashion brand Orféo. “But we met customers from all over France and even from the French overseas territories. It was a good fair, both in terms of contacts and sales. Even if we are still far from the level of three or four years ago. “
“For us, this edition was the best way to convince those who didn’t come to this edition. Some didn’t have stands and came to look. And many of them told us they wouldn’t miss the next edition. What worked well and confirms our idea of a ‘concept staging’ of the fair is the fact that there are mixed sectors in certain areas. Having accessories alongside ready-to-wear brands whose universes correspond to one another was very important. which was a joint project for us, has grown and found its place. And then there is the topic of omnichannel. As consumers, we have all been experiencing this for years. But now it is also becoming a reality in the B2B sector, and our CMPX- Platform will allow us to shift up a gear, with the official launch on November 15th, but we already have 250 fashion, soccer and sports brands that are a n have connected and are starting to integrate their catalogs. That gives us time at the trade fair and then the opportunity to use the advantages of the digital tool “.
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