Who’s Next-Première Classe stabilizes attendance but draws mixed reviews
At the end of the four-day Who’s Next-Première Classe held at the Porte de Versailles, exhibitors had several observations ranging from less enthusiastic to quite positive. First off, organizers did some number counting and reported that attendance figures were stable.
The drop in visitors has been contained, but a majority of exhibitors still felt the weekend crowd was too small. Admittedly the comparison base was very low, the January 2016 edition having suffered a 16% decline in attendance, which took place a few weeks after the terrorist attacks in November that had cast a pall over Paris.
All product sections did not fare the same this weekend but two neighboring sections were quite active: Fame for ready-to-wear and First Class for accessories. Here the atmosphere was quite energized, enjoying fairly constant traffic and considered to be the most forward-looking sections of the show. Exhibitors in both Fame and First Class were hard at work until the end of the show on Monday afternoon, following three days that were already quite busy.
Other sections saw less activity, such as Private and Studio, but also Trendy and Urban, which may have been too isolated in hall 7, separate from the other sections. After a cold start on Friday, due to a lack of heat, the temperature warmed up the following days, but according exhibitors, not necessarily the atmosphere. They thought the absence of a high-profile brand to drive traffic was a disadvantage.
Exhibitors in the ready-to-wear sections Studio and Private told a different story, saying either traffic was too weak or there was not enough energy, sometimes even a "gloomy atmosphere". But there was more to the overall picture. Some exhibitors also saw positives and potentially interesting signals for the coming seasons.
The organizers seemed happy with their efforts to draw a new type of buyer, namely businesses for whom fashion and accessories might be a complementary product. The number of paying badges (non-invited by the brands and thus, new visitors) was up about 30% for this edition.
Exhibitors were also pleased with the return of women's wear retailers who had been sitting out the trade show calendar because of the difficult economy. “It was a quality show: there was less international than usual, but this time we had more leads than in past seasons, French retailers who want to grow their range,” said an exhibitor from Mat de Misaine. Derhy shared a similar view: “It was not a big fair... but it was interesting! We saw more French, including many new visitors who want to go upmarket, differentiate their ranges with original brands, less focused on price points.”
This new attitude among some of the buyers was confirmed by the organizers, who said this show's program of round tables, conferences, professional workshops was a great success.
“It's an industry that needs solutions right now, sharing knowledge and benefits of the community," said Jean-Marc André, director of marketing and communication at WSN Développement. “All this is an echo of the theme we chose for the show, the generation Z. We are interested in Millennials because they are the generation of resilience. Generation Z has known only times of crisis, but it remains optimistic, determined and full of desire,” he said, wishing this same resilience for the industry.
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