Can Trade Shows Still Survive in 2021?
Author: Jasmine Waters
Something we’ve discussed in detail is the life expectancy of trade shows, particularly internationally. The course of the pandemic has thrown another curve ball on top of a business strategy that was arguably already struggling, with industry professionals typically travelling far and wide across the circuit. As we head into our third consecutive season of virtual alternatives, is the trade show as we know it still in troubled waters – and what do we have better knowledge of now?
What do we know now?
After holding out for as long as possible, shows such as Pitti Uomo have made the decision to run solely with their virtual counterparts. When platforms such as Pitti Connect launched, the potential success rate and ease of use were called into question. With a longer access time, previews and communication tools, there’s no doubt that the best route a show can currently take is a digital one. But as vaccine rollouts continue to sweep Europe, there’s hope that there will be a greater confidence to travel over the next year. Any type of trade show prides its value in its ability to get new customers through the door to profile a brand. Although we cannot underestimate the importance of face-to-face contact, there is a high chance that the trade show as we know it will need to prove themselves in a landscape that has been so vastly changed by COVID-19. There have already been a lot to choose from, so shows with a good focus remain at a vantage point.
What needs to change?
Shows have already been facing issues such as cost, service and value for money. In order to win those back, organisers will need to readjust cost – or the entire formula itself. Trade shows such as Jacket Required running on a two-day schedule showed that the traditional 3-5 doesn’t always need to be the standard mould. The big question to answer is how can shows deliver the value we now need, in order to do the brands that exhibit justice. There have already been a few tremors of change, mostly in response to the fallout of the pandemic. Many shows have come together to form as one presence, such as the Fashion Together Hub, a digital forum of showcases and presentations. Others have co-located to other spaces, to condense time and travel for potential consumers. With this come potential cross-over opportunities, the starting steps of presenting a new kind of trade show experience.
Now that many have overcome the challenge of establishing relationships, the next few years look likely to facilitate a hybrid of the digital and physical. We know that the digital half can provide a financial ease and accessibility, but the physical side will need to match up to this. Putting the emphasis on being cost-friendly, streamlining to be more segmented and defined are priorities, with financial models recommended to be changed – charging a fixed fee for a space to get brands to reinvest. While we wait for physical shows to go ahead at their full scale, pop-up showrooms and the ability to collect samples may be ways to bridge the gap of human interaction. The industry will still crave physical interaction and the appetite for trade shows will remain. However, changing factors like duration and cost will be essential to keep the true interest – and value – afloat.
Image source: https://www.theindustry.fashion/