Who's Next: less French, more foreigners
A decline in the number of French buyers but higher numbers from abroad — that was the take-away for WSN Développement, the organizers of the most recent Who's Next, which took place July 6 to 9 in Paris. In a certain sense, they must be satisfied with the results. It maybe already be a forgotten story, but following their acquisition of the Prêt-à-Porter Paris show, WSN Développement decided to move the dates of the Paris fair from September to July in order to be on the calendar of international buyers. A year ago, Who's Next was held in late June, a huge disadvantage for French retailers, since it took place the first weekend of the summer sales. The result was a sharp drop in French attendance to the Paris trade show by 8.7%. And that came without a real offset of foreign visitors.
For the July 2013 session, the decline continued among the French, namely 7.5%, with 27,872 visitors. The organizer attributes those numbers to poor summer sales, good weather having been a rare event. “Retailers obviously preferred to stay in their shops to be there during the sales events," said WSN in a statement. All the more, one might say, as Who's Next was held under a bright sunny sky auguring good sales!
The organizer also noted that buyers from Paris and the surrounding region accounted for the biggest regional group with 14,124 visitors. However, WSN announced 15,558 attendees from Paris and the Paris region a year ago.
Some exhibitors expressed a desire to return the show to early September for French customers, or at least create a suitable event, such as the Riviera by Mode City, the beachwear fair being organized in Cannes at the end of the summer to get retailers from the South who are a lost cause for the big Paris show in July!
Overall, the Who’s Next’s number of visitors fell by 5.4% compared to a year ago. As a comparison, Pitti Uomo announced a 1.7% increase in attendance, with stability among Italian buyers and an 4% increase of foreigners. The Premium in Berlin does not publish figures, but rumor has it the show experienced a slight decline. As for Bread & Butter, there was some talk of possibly a double-digit drop. That show's organizer Karl-Heinz Muller also does not publish figures.
This year, the breakdown of Who's Next attendees is more interesting than the overall numbers, especially given the fact that the show was held a week later than last year to avoid the first weekend of summer sales.
Obviously, that did not do anything to improve French attendance, to the point that some exhibitors mentioned moving the date even earlier independently of the French summer sales to welcome more foreign visitors already in Paris during men’s fashion week and then Couture!
The question is, which foreigners are they talking about? The figures published by WSN showed a 1.8% increase among European buyers, excluding French visitors. With 11,676 tickets, the group accounted for more than 70% of foreign visitors. In first place was Italy with 2,672 visitors, up 10% from last year. It is true the number of Italian buyers had dropped by nearly 20% in late June 2012. The second country is Spain with 1,710 visitors, an increase of 7.7%. A year ago, the number of Spanish buyers had dropped by the same amount, or 7.7%. Belgium totaled 1,690 visitors (+5.8%), Great Britain 916 (+9.8%) and Germany 682 visitors (+10%).
In contrast, there was a drop among Asian buyers (2,548) by 7.7%. Still, Asia accounted for 15.3% of foreign attendees overall. The Japanese numbered 1,532, versus 1,682 in July 2012. Chinese customers decreased by 4.9%, with 538 buyers.
North and South America made up for 6.9% of foreign visitors with 1,146 attendees. U.S. buyers were down by 3.9% with 446 visitors.
WSN stressed that the Middle East showed the strongest growth of the season with an increase of 18.1% to 678 visitors.
Clearly, the international influence of Who's Next is primarily European, even southern Europe. This is no doubt the reason behind the partnership established between the Copenhagen and Paris trade shows with a single ticket for admission to both as a way to yield a better mix of European customers.
One thing is sure, Who's Next has shown itself to be resistant in face of the economic crisis. Also noteworthy is the fact the show's main aisle entertainment and events received praised from all sides.
However, the organizer still has to find a way to become a must-attend trade show. The press release from WSN also mentions future developments, such as the show's Private section, “the results of which have been fluctuating, depending on the brands and their positioning.”
Overall, whether in the Private or Fame sections, the brands offering basics at good prices or really diverse fashion products for an international clientele were at the top of their game.
More worrying is the Mr & Mrs Brown section. WSN says so themselves: “The return [of exhibitors] is lackluster.” According to the organizer, the brands regret the dearth of French visitors and lack of curiosity of buyers for new products.
Talking with a few of them makes clear that a real men’s offering is sorely lacking representation. What menswear retailer would find what they need with such a reduced selection? The organizer of Who's Next is clearly aware of this fact, but the solution has yet to be found.
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