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Facing The Challenge of COVID-19 in Retail Sector

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Facing The Challenge of COVID-19 in Retail Sector

TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace was originally created as a digital platform to smoothly connect new and established fashion brands with buyers from all over the world. As a business owner, you try to prepare for every eventuality, but I don’t think anyone could have seen the current crisis coming or the scale with which it would affect businesses globally. We had to move quickly to adapt to the situation, reassessing our processes, slowing things down and working closely with our suppliers and providers to make sure that no-one was left behind.

The community spirit within the industry has surprised me more than anything, as companies have really pulled together to overcome the difficulties we all face. Sales across the whole retail sector have obviously been affected, but traffic has been improving since June and we’re looking to the future with a positive outlook as we work together to succeed.

It is vital for businesses to keep implementing new ideas in “turbulent times” by planning for the future and building a strong foundation. The fashion industry, in particular, has changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s clear the fashion industry has changed completely, as has customer behavior, and we need to make sure we fully understand our customers’ changing priorities in order to give them what they want, how they want it. We’re listening closely to our audience to make sure we stay relevant and in tune with their needs, and we’re investing both time and resources into the latest technologies to improve our customer journey at every step of the way.

In these unprecedented times, entire sectors have fallen prey to the complexity left behind in the pandemic’s wake. Many retail companies have seized the opportunity to reinvent themselves in the digital space, harnessing the importance of free-flowing business as the world evolves to a new way of virtual living. TradeGala has smoothly adapted to the new normal, reassessing continuity plans and addressing valid concerns from partnering entrepreneurs and customers alike. In response to the shock to supply and logistics chains and the fall in customer demand, both Goddiva (our women’s occasionwear fashion brand) and TradeGala have implemented critical changes in strategy to ensure safety from disruption and inclusivity for all the business partners and entrepreneurs using our platforms.

As demand drops, the marketplace community must focus on back-to-basic points; optimizing choice, re-assessment of prices, and managing short term costs, while finding new, innovative, and inclusive methods to provide customers with an unwavering reason to keep shopping.

We know that after the COVID-19 pandemic, start-ups will need the support and experience of mentors and industry experts more than ever. Part of the TradeGala vision has always been to help young and emerging entrepreneurs make their mark in the fashion industry. This strategy will not change at all and the COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened our corporate vision to work even closer with industry entrepreneurs. We must understand that the post-pandemic retail world will be very different; it’s all about taking it with a grain of salt.

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Mina Melikova is the CEO of TradeGala

trade shows

The Future of Trade Shows in a Post-COVID-19 Fashion Industry

The fashion sector woke up recently to yet another trade show cancellation – the newly launched footwear show Sole, due to take place in August after its February success, announced that the decision had been taken to cancel for now, with 2021 dates to be announced soon. And today, Hyve Fashion has announced that their upcoming events Pure, Pure Origin, Scoop and Jacket Required will also be cancelled until next year. They’re just another in a long line of cancelled shows this Summer, including Premium Berlin, Modefabriek, Tranoï and Scoop International to name but a few.

There are some, perhaps more optimistic platforms, which have simply postponed their dates to later in the year, but there is a real sense in the industry that things might not go back to the way they were before. There is a universal feeling of uncertainty – lockdown restrictions are being eased, but with mixed messages from governments throughout the world, the idea of visiting exhibition centres packed with thousands of people from all corners of the globe is less than appealing for many.

TradeGala works with thousands of small boutique owners and, of those that we surveyed, 66% responded that they had no plans to attend a trade show for the rest of 2020. But if the very foundation of the industry is under threat, what will fashion buying and selling look like in a post-COVID-19 world?

In the short term, some of the major players are experimenting with technology and virtual reality to continue reaching their target audience. Shanghai Fashion Week was first to take the step into the unknown, holding their first fully digital event in April, while London’s famous Fashion Week followed suit with a virtual showcase in June.

Experimentation was the order of the day, with everything from live-streamed, green-screen catwalk shows to 3D virtual reality design galleries. Despite some detractors who found the new format somewhat lacking, and a few technological glitches throughout, both events were considered a success, and Paris is planning to host their first virtual events in July. Independent trade shows are also dipping into the digital world with Modefabriek launching an online B2B marketplace in July to showcase the collections from their cancelled event, while collaborations are emerging with Coterie, Magic and Project to launch “digital tradeshows” in August and September.

But won’t things all just go back to normal eventually? If we’re honest, do we really want to go back to the way things were before? Perhaps it’s about time we embrace the ways that technology can enhance our analogue experience. Why should brands and buyers be obliged to travel internationally (investing stretched budgets and increasing the fashion industry’s already heavy burden on our carbon footprint) when we have the option to reach out and connect via the web? London Fashion Week is already planning their next event in September as a virtual/real-life hybrid (lockdown restrictions permitting) and looks to continue this trend indefinitely – perhaps this is the future of trade shows as we know them?

At the end of the day, we’re tactile creatures, and there’s nothing quite like being able to see and feel a satin dress or leather handbag when considering our next season’s stock. But as bulk forward-ordering is no longer the only option (and a risk many buyers no longer wish to take), retailers will still have the option to attend one or two shows a year to source new brands or trends while supplementing their stock more regularly with suppliers online. This is where TradeGala can make a difference.

A year-round “virtual tradeshow,” TradeGala showcases brands throughout the world offering short-order stock for instant purchase. A user-friendly platform, it allows buyers to respond quickly to the changing trends and offer their customers what they really want to buy, rather than speculating months in advance.

One day soon, we hope, we will be able to attend our favorite trade shows as we did before – sourcing, networking, finding inspiration. Our Trade Show Calendar is regularly updated with upcoming shows throughout the world (both virtual and physical) and you can subscribe for the latest updates, so you won’t miss a date! But the future has come more quickly than we expected – is your fashion business ready to embrace the digital revolution?