Steady but scattered attendance at Berlin trade fairs

A few seasons ago, trade show organizers in Berlin agreed to a hush-hush policy of no longer publishing attendance numbers. Bread & Butter started the tradition in 2009 when it returned to Germany and likely attracted a smaller crowd than in Barcelona, where the last edition officially drew a reported 100,000 attendees.

A much quieter Bread & Butter than usual.

Fashion industry regulars in the German capital probably saw a steady level of visitors in Berlin for fashion week, but some places had more traffic than others and especially more dead and peak times.

This time around the story was not the same for everyone, especially for the three leading shows. Bread & Butter was quieter, much quieter, Premium was its usual self and Panorama drew more attendees, benefiting from its new, more central location.

"Berlin is more important than the Bread & Butter. Before, people talked about Bread to talk about Berlin. But many small fairs have taken some of Bread's share and now the offer is fragmented. But for us, Bread is the urban lifestyle show and there is no alternative," said Mariano Alonso from Timberland.

But most of the exhibitors found a much quieter fair than usual and evenings on the airport tarmac were really quiet, except for during the World cup semifinal between Germany and Brazil. "The show had to move, if not, it would die," said an event insider.

Bread & Butter has responded by alternating between Barcelona and Berlin starting in 2015. In any case, euphoria was out of place at this edition. "The show was not as bad as we feared. We felt a slowdown. I saw fewer international clients, and heard more German was being spoken at the fair than in the past," said Jerome Tordjmann, head of exports for Eleven Paris.


Premium has its following.

In fact, Premium is probably the most satisfied with its international attendance. According to official figures, 73% of visitors were foreigners. Buyers from Southern Europe and Benelux-France each accounted for 22% and 21% of attendees, versus 23% and 22% in July 2013. The organizer mentioned a high level of stability. Brands are no doubt looking to Premium for a more feminine and designer environment.

A French women's ready-to wear brand exhibiting for the first time in Hall 1 explained: "We have always been faithful to Bread & Butter, but it is now too focused on denim and attracts fewer buyers. At Premium, we are more in our brand universe, and attendance is stronger."

Among the three main shows, Panorama probably experienced the largest increase in attendance. The show is only in its fourth edition, but its move to a more central place added another 140 exhibitors to its roster. "The first day was very good. The second was definitely quieter. But the quality of retailers was good, including international visitors, with many Belgians, Dutch, Italian and Spanish," said Jorge Hernandez, sales and marketing director at Spanish shoe brand Art.

Besides the top three fairs, visitors could choose between a plethora of shows, more intimate events and parties, too. But ultimately, in a time of economic crisis, exhibitors and retailers prefer a business-like and calm atmosphere. "This is not a time where small brands pay for a booth just to make contacts. This is a true economic reality. And show organizers sometimes forget that," said Aurelyen, cofounder of Misericordia, who exhibited at Seek.

Bruno Joly (with Sarah Ahssen)

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