Chic as a local and international barometer of the Chinese fashion industry
How is the Chinese economy doing? Pretty good, considering its 8% growth in 2012. Such a figure certainly makes Europeans jealous and is prompting the Chinese to think twice, given their growth was 15% five years ago. But at the Chic trade show in Beijing, which took place March 26 to 29, exhibitors also noticed a change in the behavior of Chinese consumers. For Bin Xu of Shangtex, the era of informed consumption has arrived. But no need to worry — it will take time for such consumer behavior to dominate in China.
“China is becoming a difficult market. Compared to Europe, yes, obviously, we’re doing well but it is not the situation it was five years ago.” Such was the sentiment expressed by several Chinese exhibitors. And for good reason. Competition is tougher between European brands currently expanding in China and Chinese companies skilled in export or outsourcing that are now focusing on the domestic market. “We cannot forget that our economy depends on the United States and Europe. But, there is also a need for manufacturers to develop their own brands,” said Cathy Kong, assistant general manager of Tiantan, a traditional Chinese shirt brand.
And the official figures confirm this situation. The organizers tallied about 100,000 visitors, 10% less than a year ago. At the event’s usual third-day press conference, Chen Dapeng, vice president of China National Garment Association, Chic’s co-organizer, mentioned a drop attendance. “Economic growth is weaker. Growth for our industry, namely fashion, continues to be in the double-digits,” he said.
“The overall decline in attendance was noticed somewhat in the French pavilion. But the quality of attendees was much better. Buyers took the time to look through the collections and many exhibitors wrote orders. We are feeling the beginnings of the multibrands,” said Patricia Brafmann, in charge of exports for the French Federation of Women’s Ready-to-wear. “This is our third time participating. The public and the trade show are also more professional. However, store buyers are in the minority here. It is more oriented toward retail than wholesale,” said Sabine Kreft from Gerry Weber.
But distribution is slowly changing in China. The Chinese are noticing the emergence of “buyers shops” in major cities, the equivalent of our multibrands, just as malls and department stores are on the rise. “It is starting, but don’t forget that Chinese men are still very traditional and have little or no confidence in putting together outfits themselves,” said a Chinese menswear manufacturer. Chic’s efforts to create special sections, such as Bespoke for made-to-measure menswear or the denim hall, were praised by exhibitors from these areas. The organizers are eagerly looking forward to the next edition.
That session is on track to offer a fully functional e-chic virtual showroom, for which a beta-version was rolled out at this fair. In the online trade show, an avatar will be able to walk the aisles, visit the booths and zoom in on the collections.
The organizers also seem eager to launch a second session. Chic Young Blood for young fashion was debuted in fall 2011 but is still struggling to find its direction for the next edition in October. In any event, China abounds in regional trade fairs and Shanghai is also a strong source of competition.
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