Can UK Trade Shows Thrive Post-COVID?
9 July 2021
Author: Jasmine Waters
We’re almost 7 months into 2021 and live events are still yet to make their triumphant return into frequent social circulation. UK trade shows fall under this umbrella, with the postponing of ‘freedom day’ to 19 July meaning further uncertainty for how shows may work this season – or whether they can either go ahead at all. With popular opinion still divided, can UK trade shows thrive in a post-covid environment?
How are trade shows going ahead?
With a number of nationwide shows still scheduled to go ahead over the next few months, organisers have been reassuring potential exhibitors and attendees of increased safety protocols despite concerns. Scoop and Pure have melded into one showcase at the Truman Brewery, while Birmingham’s Moda and Autumn Fair run at overlapping days in early September. New events like Harrogate Fashion Week look to take place in early August, while Just Around The Corner battles sensitive timing on 19th July. Coventry’s Sole Fashion has already announced that its event has been postponed, possibly hinting at a hesitancy to attend events further up North in the country.
What do attendees want?
As of now, it’s reported that 73% of retailers are looking to maintain a mix of physical and digital buying, with 16% planning digital only and 11% hoping for physical only (statistics from Joor). It’s understandable that there’s continued uncertainty thanks to the rise of the Delta variant, but attendee opinion seems to be split. Some retailers have found it difficult to buy solely through their laptops or social media platforms, missing the feeling of connectivity that trade shows bring, as well as the ease of discovering something new. Those who have had both vaccinations may be feeling more confident in getting back to a pre-pandemic normal, acknowledging that many are ready to get back to meeting new people. Exhibitors have seen a rise in new brands that haven’t showcased before, While the use of indoor and outdoor space can provide from reassurance when it comes to effectively controlling visitor flow.
Despite this, some are still on the fence. Potential crowding will still be at the forefront of visitor’s minds, while others cite that current events are too late in the buying calendar to be worthwhile. As buying and browsing online is both limitless and free from time constraints, there is a continued feeling of relevancy that seeps into social media and online research. Having strong existing relationships with agents also throws the capability of a trade show’s return into question. There is also a concern about footfall, despite a trade show continuing to be an environment that buyers like. It’s clear that people are looking for new points of inspiration, while still wishing to be naturally mindful. Even though trade shows are mostly back – and have a substantial demand – its lockdown hybrid version may well be staying put for seasons to come.
Image source: https://fashion-angel.co.uk