Read on to learn more of what happens at fashion trade shows. Whether you are a retailer looking to buy new clothing and accessories for your store, a wholesaler or showroom looking to sell and connect with your buyers or a designer also looking to sell, Fashion Trade Shows or Fashion Market Week can be the most critical moment in your brand’s history.
Many brands are made or sadly sometimes lost during market week.
So exactly WHAT happens at these shows? What will you do when you get there?
I represented emerging designers at trade shows and pretty much saw, heard or experienced all the emotional moments that happen during a trade show. I’ve also attended trade shows as a buyer. Both when I had my own clothing store, and also when I was sourcing new manufacturers in Thailand and Nepal for large-scale importing.
You are a brand new Emerging Fashion Brand/Designer. Should you exhibit at a fashion market week?
Oh boy. I may get into a lot of trouble for this. But I honestly, truly believe NO is the right answer when you are launching your collection. The odds are not in your favor. Hear me out. . .
- The trade show will put you in the far back corner. They have to fill that booth spot so they WILL give it to a newcomer, guaranteed. Visibility is everything and even who you are positioned next to can make or break you.
- Retailers want to buy what their customers know and what they know will sell. They are looking for sure-bets and a guarantee for the majority of inventory in their store(s). You may find a retailer willing to take a risk on new collections, but depending on the type of show you may not meet these buyers.
- Do not choose a giant show. You may know some of the bigger show names, just because you’ve been doing your research and they are more popular. But just because Red Lobster gets a lot of traffic on a Friday night for dinner, doesn’t mean their food is good quality or unique and different. Same goes for the trade shows. Look at your brand and your intended customer. If you are going mass market and non-designer that’s fine! Maybe the big show is for you. But I’m telling you, without any track record, the buyers are NOT willing to take a risk. Meaning, they want to see you at these shows 3 or 4 seasons in a row. And you do not have the money to keep showing up and NOT SELLING.
- If you are an emerging designer, you should first GO TO the shows. Walk the floors, feel out where you think your merchandise will fit. But honestly just because you have a booth does not guarantee anyone will walk buy and purchase it. I just hate to hear from another emerging designer the show was terrible, they spent a ton of money on travel, exhibition design, booth space and a hotel and they sold nothing. Yep, no orders written. It happens. Please don’t let it be you.
Pro-Tip: Be sure to CLICK TO grab our Global Fashion Trade Show calendar which included the more independent shows. When you travel this year go during market weeks. Visit the shows and feel them out. Are they right for your collection to expand globally?
You are a retail boutique, or a pop-up concept shop, and want to buy new merchandise. What happens at the shows?
This is one instance where it makes no sense following the rules I’ve spelled out above, but I do suggest you attend and bring your buyer paperwork with you. You will find emerging brands, smaller designers, and those who have proven themselves over a couple of seasons. That is what you want to find. That they have been selling, DELIVERING ON TIME and in quality that matches or surpasses their samples to other retailers. And that they have a small opening minimum order, for your shop. You are taking a risk but if you like what you see for your customer then buy it.
You are a wholesale rep, or small showroom. Should you exhibit your collections? Hmm. I’m going to really defer to the emerging designer checklist above on this one.
If the brands you are representing can support your attendance to exhibit their samples at the shows then YES. Your costs are mostly covered so that’s good. If the brands are new, and no one has heard of them you are going to have to work double-time to get people to come to your booth and take notice. How will you do this? You have to be an award winning sales person. And if you’re going into wholesale then you certainly are up for the task.
But I would sometimes work the Chicago trade shows and have a bad show due to cold weather (January in Chicago is exactly as it seems-- January in Chicago). Plus, the collections I sold were being represented in NYC and that is where the better stores attend trade shows. Because I repped emerging brands I knew who my stores were even though they never found my designers in NYC at the shows. They NEVER met my designers or NYC showrooms because the shows are just too darn big. They took appointments with me in person in their stores which I made sure to do before they exhausted their open to buy.
I was an excellent showroom and a superb sales rep for my designers. But I had to try and fail a bunch of times. And if I had to do it all over again, I would NEVER EVER do so many of those trade shows. I would instead go direct to the top stores in Denver, Minneapolis, versus sitting pretty waiting in the Chicago Apparel Mart.
But until we can all fix the industry, this is how mostly goods are bought and sold. The boutique shows we feature in our Global Trade Show calendar many emphasize emerging brands. After all we want to see this thing work, supporting new collections and designers entering the marketplace but when dollars are at risk many retailers are conservative. So it is a Catch 22. But not impossible. You have to work to find just the right buyer who will take a chance or just the right designer who you can tell is going places.
Good luck! Don't forget to grab your trade show calendar today -->>Grab it here.
Let us know how your Market Weeks are going by leaving a note in the comments below. And share with a friend. See you at the shows!