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Jul 12, 2014
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Who's Next: sharper decline in attendance

Jul 12, 2014

How can the decline be stopped? That’s the most important question to be asked following the latest edition of Who's Next, which was marred by a huge decline in attendance. The Parisian show, held from July 4 - 7, saw French turnout (accounting for 62% of total) fall by 18%, with only 22,730 visits, as opposed to 27,872 recorded in July 2013.

Unfortunately, there was also a sharp decline for the international contingent, with 14,080 visits and about a 15% drop. One positive sign, however: a significant increase in Asian visitors, at 2,554 - a record for a summer edition.

The Fame exhibition area in July 2014. Photo: Who's Next.

But overall, it has been an poor performance that has confirmed negative trends for the summer edition since Prêt-à-Porter Paris and Who's Next merged, and since its dates were pushed forward from September to July. In July 2012, Who's Next announced a total of 47,067 visits, as opposed to 36,810 in July 2014. The sharp decline has naturally been felt by exhibitors who, beyond the economic environment, wonder about the show’s overall model or dates. Xavier Clergerie himself, founder of Who's Next, admits that the figures are both disturbing and challenging.

In pushing the show forward from July 2012, against the advice of some French retailers who were concerned about a conflict with the French summer sales period, Who's Next counted on becoming more international. Unfortunately, two years later it’s clear that the growth in international attendance has not panned out (17,000 visits in summer 2012 and 14,080 in summer 2014), which has thus not been able to compensate for the decline in French visitors. Of course, European shows in general are facing a difficult situation, although to varying degrees, depending on their target markets and positioning.

Neither the summer nor winter editions of Who's Next have been fortunate. While the decline for the show in January has been less than that in summer, it has nonetheless seen its attendance drop by 11% compared to January 2012. This edition has been of particular concern to the exhibiting brands, some of whom have expressed a desire for change that would breathe new life into the show.

One might imagine something like what Bread & Butter has done in returning to Barcelona - a change of venue or maybe a change in format? Perhaps one could consider a new model that would better address the various issues facing different sectors instead of a more general approach?

During the last edition, the more upscale exhibition hall, which brought together the Fame and Première Class areas, for example, seems to have been better arranged than others, perhaps better catering to foreign customers looking for these types of products when visiting Paris.

It’s an observation also made by Xavier Clergerie: “Creative sectors have done better,” he said, “with visitors who are determined to commit to purchases."

The Who's Next Ready-to-Wear and Who’s Next Accessories exhibition halls, no longer the “market core”, have faced the worst been declines in attendance.

Accessories, which was relocated to hall 5 at the entrance of the exhibition center, will also now have a small, "complementary" trade show put on by WSN Développement. Dubbed "Maro & Go", it will be held from September 14 to 16, also at Porte de Versailles, and according to a Who’s Next press release, will serve as an opportunity for exhibitors from the sector to “reach their sales targets" later in the season.

It’s an example of how the show might be broken up into smaller shows, or how the problem might be solved on a “case by case” basis. After all, if a smaller show is organized for accessories, why not for ready-to-wear as well?

Xavier Clergerie doesn’t intend to make a decision quickly. He has announced that a survey will be conducted before any new strategy is implemented.

The 2015 edition of Who's Next that will held from January 23 - 26 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the show. In the current context, it will be observed closely from a business perspective.

Anaïs Lerévérend (with Jean-Paul Leroy)

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