Parisian textile industry trade shows hit by coronavirus impact
It went without saying that the coronavirus epidemic was expected to have an impact, and so it did. The presence of Chinese exhibitors at the recent Première Vision Paris and Fairyland for Fashion shows (among them Texworld and Apparel Sourcing) in the French capital was severely curtailed, and visitor attendance fell by between 20% and 49%. An extensive impact which, despite the differences between the two events, underscored how dependent the textile industry is on Chinese manufacturing.
Première Vision Paris, whose exhibitors mostly come from Europe, was less affected. The absence of 45 of the 111 Chinese exhibitors expected was made less obvious to visitors by the closing down of Hall 2 in the Villepinte exhibition centre. Exhibitors in the Première Vision Manufacturing Overseas section, home to the most distant apparel sourcing destinations, were rehoused in Hall 6, slotting in between the Manufacturing Knitwear and Manufacturing Proximity sections.
Attendance-wise, the impact of the Chinese crisis was much more palpable, with nearly one in five visitors failing to turn up. In February 2019, PV Paris welcomed in total 53,156 visitors, and the number fell to 44,414 for the latest edition.
There was much more concern around Texworld and Apparel Sourcing, since Chinese textile and apparel exhibitors are in a majority at these shows, and at the other Fairyland for Fashion events. Eventually, of some 500 Chinese companies expected, nearly half were not represented at the shows, just under 30% of the total number of exhibitors. Their absence was all the more evident as the organiser, Messe Frankfurt France, decided not to rearrange the event's stand lay-out, in the eventuality that exhibitors who were struggling to obtain plane tickets would be able to reach the show once it was under way.
The mass absence of Chinese industry professionals of course affected visitor numbers, which fell by almost half, down to 7,109. The slump was even more marked if compared to the record number of 13,929 visitors attending the February 2019 edition. CCPIT-Tex, the textile industry’s sub-council within China’s Council for the Promotion of International Trade, co-organiser of the Apparel Sourcing show, is waiting for the epidemic to end. “In my opinion, it will take at least six months before the situation will more or less normalise,” CCPIT-Tex’s general secretary Zhang Tao told FashionNetwork.com at the show(read the exclusive interview here).
A number of Chinese exhibitors were able to participate by resorting to agents from other parts of Asia or from Europe, as replacements for their Chinese commercial staff. Some of them instead managed to receive permission to leave China for a few days. “Some had permission, but were nevertheless stopped in front of us at customs, and others were ordered to turn back while driving on the motorway,” an exhibitor told FashionNetwork.com. And while some flights were leaving for Europe half empty, for some exhibitors the main problem was actually finding seats on Europe-bound flights, many of them having to choose routes with multiple stop-overs.
The exhibitors actually present at the shows tried to see the silver lining, happy to be more accessible since competition was scarcer, but their enthusiasm was dampened by the fact that many regular clients had simply cancelled their trips to Paris, due to the number of exhibitor drop-outs expected.
Besides being staged against the backdrop of the coronavirus epidemic, the Parisian shows were scheduled at the heart of an increasingly revolutionised trade show calendar. The previous week, the Magic Las Vegas show welcomed only 100 or so of the 300 Chinese professionals expected at the event, owing to the travel ban decided by Washington on the eve of the show. At the same time, the Chinese shows scheduled in March are being officially postponed. Starting from Shanghai’s big textile trade shows, Intertextile (organised by Messe Frankfurt) and apparel show Chic, which were meant to be held together at the beginning of March. Among Chinese industry professionals, the rumour is they are being postponed to May. Wendy Wen, general manager of Messe Frankfurt Hong Kong, attended the Parisian shows but for the time being refused to confirm this.
This highly peculiar Parisian textile trade show session is undoubtedly set to stay for a long time in the minds of industry professionals. Most them are now wondering what future editions will look like, considering the difficulty in predicting both the epidemic’s economic impact and when the Chinese industry will be able to resume normal operations.
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