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e've all read the doom and gloom reports on UK retail and consumer spending in recent years. High street shops are closing and sales clerks are joining the unemployment queue as consumers and businesses rein in spending to get in line with the dour economic climate. Yet fashion trade exhibitions such as Moda, Pure London and new offering Scoop International are reporting growth in exhibitor numbers and visitor interest. So why is this sector seemingly solid against such retail turbulence?ITE Moda's biannual fashion trade show Moda held its 21st edition at The NEC in February, attracting more than 13,000 visitors and 1,450 brands. ITE Moda commercial director Nick Cook puts its stability down to reading the market and understand the changing needs of exhibitors and visitors. The 10-year-old event has grown up from one hall offering womenswear and accessories to fi ve specialist shows within one umbrella brand also encompassing footwear, lingerie and swimwear, and menswear. Each has been driven by demands from exhibitors and buyers and has a unique stand build to serve the progression of brands, he said. "Fashion is the best example of where the most successful shows are refl ective of the industry they serve both in terms of presentation, plus the way they are put together and the content included," Cook claimed. "If you don't get established brands and the right names for the audience, you won't be successful." A signifi cant investment in recent years has been in inspirational content. For ITE Moda, this has included a business-led seminar programme to keep visitors coming in the door. The organiser is also developing more networking aspects and investing in stand-build concepts, a plaza, catwalk shows, VIP services, an Internet lounge and iPads on the show fl oor this year."While exhibiting needs remain largely the same, buyers have slightly different aims around what they want to get out of the event," Cook said. "The seminars have become a major incentive alongside seeing the brands at the show."SHOW CASE18 www.exhibitionnews.co.ukA FLAIR FOR FASHIONNadia Cameron looks at the health of the UK's leading fashion trade shows against the backdrop of a turbulent retail climate and asks how they dress for successEvent director for Emap Connect's Pure London at Olympia Sarah Lawrence also views content as critical and said the brand's USP is its alignment with industry intelligence and trends analysis from Drapers and the WGSN research service."There's more consensus now that because of the economic climate, we have to go the extra mile," Lawrence said. "When times are good, people can put on glamorous shows; it's more important than ever to have content in the tougher times."Pure has found particular success with its increasingly business-oriented seminar programme. "It's tangible stuff and practical advice, rather than the bigger picture trends because that's what visitors want," Lawrence said. EXHIBITOR TRENDSFashion trade shows are not immune however and both Moda and Pure have had to cope with exhibitors opting for smaller or shell-based stands. "Our overall mix is still ok because there are big brands at the show who have to represent their creativity and individuality through their stands," Lawrence explained. "Brands have to be trend-led, and the impact they make has to be refl ected in their stand." In addition, Cook and Lawrence claim to be increasingly attracting new brands. "Fashion trade shows are about ideas and orders," Cook said. "There has been a degree of consolidation in recent years, and there is a smaller pool of retailers than there used to be."The types of retailers we attract are not only under pressure from the economy, but also changing conditions on the High Street. For example, many big retailers are eating up sections of womenswear and lingerie previously the domain of independents. The smaller brands and retailers need to deliver and access products that haven't been seen elsewhere and Moda gives them ways to differentiate against the competition."Lawrence said occasion and evening wear were directly affected by the economic downturn, but other sectors have in fact fl ourished. "When times are tough, the likelihood of you spending £1,000 on an evening gown is not a priority, but you will still buy accessories, new shoes and jewellery and our show refl ects that," she said. Another area of growth, and one that is helping Pure expand its exhibitor base, is international brands, which now take up 40 per cent of the fl oorplan. "Visitors are not travelling as much to other shows, so they have to fi nd it at home and international brands are recognising that," Lawrence claimed. "Then there's also more international visitors coming here; partly because of the economy and partly because it's good value to come to the UK." WRITING ORDERSLawrence admitted demonstrating ROI is always a challenge for shows such as Pure London and emphasised the importance of fashion trade shows remaining transactional. At the same time, fashion trade show organisers recognise the need to better engage with visitors outside show time. "It's not just about PR, it's also about exhibitors writing orders," Lawrence said. "The value might be slightly less today, but our exhibitors are still writing orders and that ensures our show remains important in the buying cycle."This focus remains even as the fashion trade show landscape attracts new exhibition organisers. Among these are boutique fashion trade show, Scoop International, which launched at the Saatchi Gallery in 2011 as a more personalised showcase for high-end fashion designers. The show is co-owned by ITE Moda.Whatever the show, Scoop founder Karen Radley agreed knowing your target audience personally is key to achieving long-term success - even if retail forecasts are ominous."In actual fact the economic conditions have been the strength of Scoop and I continue to be very focused in bringing on-board designer labels of all price points that are suitable for the current climate," Radley said. "At the end of the day it is all about product, product, product, which is what I was taught as a buyer and a manufacturer." WModaPureScoop