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?