As Market Shifts, Trade Events Pivot by Becoming Venues for Inspiration

Show organizers aim to help brands and retailers navigate a challenging market.

By Lisa Lockwood with contributions from Jean E. PalmieriSharon Edelson on June 22, 2017


A view of the UBM Fashion Coterie trade show, September 2016. Don Stahl 


This story first appeared in the June 22, 2017 issue of WWD. See More.

Amid a transformation of the industry fueled by changes in consumer shopping habits, tastes and preferences, fashion retailers and brands are eyeing trade shows and related events to help them re-imagine their business to adapt to the changing landscape — and beyond.

“Obviously it’s a challenging marketplace, and people are looking to get ahead by doing interesting things, collaborations and buying in a lifestyle capacity,” said Danielle Licata, vice president, general manager of Coterie, which takes place Sept. 17 to 19 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York.

Licata said there are several initiatives under way to add excitement to the trade show. “We aim to have more destination neighborhoods,” she said. For starters, Edit, which features 70 to 100 brands, including international designers, ready-to-wear and accessories collections, will move from the first level to the third level to give it more of a premiere neighborhood. Previously a separate show in the February and September markets, Edit features brands such as Binetti, Sachin and Babi, Seventy, Hilton Hollis and Aspen True.

New this time is a Wellness area on Coterie’s third floor that features treatment and products. There will be a guest curator, and 20 to 25 beauty brands will be highlighted. A shoppers’ lounge curated by retailer Random Acts of Creativity, which includes shoppable furniture, art and objects, will also be on the third floor.

Another area of Coterie will highlight personalization, where eight artisans will do monogramming, hand-painting and tattoos. These are ideas that retailers can incorporate into their own stores, said Licata. Finally, there will be a new resort area to spotlight resort and travel brands, which will have 50 to 60 labels that are all new to the show.

“We’re making an effort to bring in as much ‘new’ as possible,” said Peter Berta, show director of Intermezzo, noting that’s what showgoers have been asking for. Intermezzo takes place Aug. 6 to 8 at Javits.

For the August show, the Vintage @ Intermezzo area, which was introduced in May and was well received, will be expanded. It will feature 50 to 70 dealers and once again be curated by Morphew Concept. Intermezzo will also be open to individual customers who want to shop vintage and will be charged a $20 entry fee (they can only visit the vintage area). “We’re curating the section with an emphasis on designer and luxury and the higher end,” said Berta.

Another aspect they’re expanding is Blue @ Intermezzo, which includes everything a denim store would need to round out the assortment. There will be an emphasis on newer denim brands, as well as new T-shirts and belts, for example. Whereas Coterie has custom booths for denim vendors, Intermezzo will have an open floor plan for them, offering a turnkey booth package that is easy to set up and break down. Some 15 to 20 vendors will be included.

The August show will also have a Canvas area that’s similar to a pop-up shop for the resort season. It features beach totes, sunglasses, water bottles and towels. “Buyers are really reacting to these neighborhoods,” said Berta. “The consumer is no longer spending her money on things, but experiences. We’re dressing them for their experiences,” he added.

Jane Siskin, founder and chief executive officer of Cinq à Sept, said she was looking forward to showing at Coterie in September. “As always, it marks the end of a long, hot summer and we hope everyone comes in with a level of excitement for the new season,” she said. She said Cinq à Sept is doing “incredibly well” in a rough environment.

“We keep imaging what it would be like if the environment was better,” she said. “Everyone needs to be joined in their optimism. There’s so much negative press and we need to work together to make sure it stays a vibrant industry.”

While traffic was down the last time the brand showed at Coterie, she said the company has a big booth, which is the right size for her business. “We can work with eight specialty stores at a time,” said Siskin. “We’ve been very successful at Coterie. It’s always good for us.” She said she looks forward to seeing her regular customers and developing clients they’ve been prospecting.

Always an active booth at Coterie, Minnie Rose will have a 40-foot stand at the trade show in September. Lisa Shaller-Goldberg, president and creative director of Minnie Rose, said, “We’re showing our holiday line, and it’s even bigger than fall.” One of the main themes is college basketball and college football, and the cashmere sweaters, scarves and hats feature team colors. “It’s geared to our customer whose kid is going to SMU or LSU, or is a huge Rangers or Knicks fan. “Coterie is like my stage and we make our debut,” she said.

Ramy Brook is gearing up for Coterie, as well. “We recently significantly increased the size of our booth to accommodate the continued expansion of our core ready-to-wear line, with many new elevated silhouettes and fabrications in our wovens category; we also expanded our sweater and knit offerings,” said Ramy Brook Sharp, founder, owner and creative director. She also has added colorful cover-ups. The growth of its customer base required more space. They plan to add more racks and tables and a separate couch area for their customers to relax.

“The trade shows are a great opportunity to spend more time with our existing accounts, and that personal connection is so important. Additionally, we are continuing to open up many new accounts at the shows that fit with our existing distribution,” said Sharp.

She said the company sees international accounts at the show, but that will be more of a focus in 2018. “As everyone knows, market conditions in the industry are challenging, but we are fortunate to be growing very fast despite this. This year, we will grow 50 percent and we expect the same next year,” said Sharp.

Tommy Fazio, fashion director of the UBM Fashion Group, which owns the Project, MAGIC, Coterie and FN Platform shows, among others, believes the challenges facing the fashion industry actually represent an opportunity for trade shows.

“The response to our shows has been really positive because of the market conditions,” he said. “We’ve gotten an especially positive response from European brands wanting to come to the States to reach specialty stores — and we get a lot of specialty stores at our shows.”

He said most of the international brands are exploring jumping into the company’s New York trade shows.

At the same time, Fazio said UBM has begun to rethink its place in the industry. “Retailers want to buy more often so we’re going to be having smaller shows more often,” he said. He said this will include pre-collection-skewed editions as well as more-regional offerings starting in 2018. “It’s a more complicated process, but in the long term, it’s more efficient.”

Fazio believes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and once inventories are rebalanced, the industry will experience a rebound in 2018. And UBM is doing its part to help.

“It’s just about being smart, educating retailers and giving brands the right platform,” he said.

Looking ahead at the retail events set for next year, content and exhibitions are expected to be focused on solutions and strategies to help retailers navigate a market that is rapidly evolving due to the growth of e-commerce and a transformation of the industry driven by shifts in consumer behavior.

The National Retail Federation’s Big Show will be held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City from Jan. 14 to 18. The conference features 600 exhibitors, including a hall filled with technologies and solutions from exhibitors of automation software, IT, mobile point of sale, robotics, RFID and virtual reality. A robust speaker program has featured in the past the likes of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Macy’s Terry J. Lundgren and Donna Karan. Last year’s conference drew more than 33,000 attendees.

And the International Council of Shopping Centers is holding its RECon event May 20 to 23 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. RECon is the global convention for the shopping center and retail industries and offers opportunities for networking, deal-making and educational speakers. The most recent RECon, held May 21 to 24, attracted 37,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors.