Who's Next : A 4.6% decline in attendance, but for who exactly?
How would the Parisian trade shows have gone if they had run unscathed by the transportation strikes that occurred throughout January? Without the aid of a crystal ball, FashionNetwork.com turns to a report, entangled with the event's unfavorable industrial context, released after Who’s Next’s last event from January 17-20. Whether they were pleasantly surprised by unexpected visitors or disappointed by the continuing decrease in attendance, it was difficult for brands to come to a unanimous assessment in these conditions.
As was the case in January 2019, attendance decreased at this year’s Who’s Next show, with a total of 42,565 visits across four days. This represented a 4.6% decrease compared to last year’s numbers. Was this a minor setback considering that the transport strikes were still underway, and that the situation was only reconciled on Monday, the very last day of the show? It’s extremely likely, especially when compared to the attendance of the Parc Expo’s (Porte de Versailles) neighboring shows: the International Salon of Lingerie and Bijohrca saw decreases of 5 to 6% and 10% respectively.
It must be said that the three organizers had preemptively put in place a shuttle service that, according to Who’s Next, got 2,000 people from the airports and train stations to the shows.
An interrupted Saturday
The organizer claims that Saturday, the day of Paris’s disruptive strike, was when the show was most affected by external activity. Friday and Sunday were still able to draw big crowds. The number of buyers, however, is said to have been increased by 0.77%, even though the visitors all arrive together, without much to differentiate them. This is best way to explain the conflicting opinions among the brands, who have done well but within a mostly calm atmosphere. This was notably the case for the Fame Hall (Hall 4), dedicated to women’s ready-to-wear, which remained well frequented during the four days.
“I think that everyone noticed a slower pace at the show… Friday and Sunday were nevertheless good days for us. They gave us the chance to meet new buyers and agents, making contacts across the European and Asian markets,” said Patrick Zenou, the director of the brand La Petite Française. A little further along, a fellow exhibitor of the Fame Hall agreed that it was “a good show, despite the lack of attendance...”
Several of the participants commented on the diversity of the visitors, which was fairly international this year. The French retailers suffered from this decline and were the most affected by the nationwide strikes, (which included back and forth trips to Paris) at the show. On the other hand, the foreign exhibitors did very well at this event, reaching 35% of the show’s total.
Who’s Next has listed Italy, Spain, Belgium and Japan as the main countries of origin of their international visitors. Britain and Germany were also named, due to a stronger presence this year.
The Fame Hall performed well at the January show, whereas the other halls were not necessarily able to say the same. Hall 5, dedicated to accessories, was criticized for being too far away from the other halls. However, it also received praise for its presentation which was said to be extremely concise and accessible, according to exhibitors.
Hall 6, situated between Hall 5 and the Fame Hall, combined ready-to-wear and Impact, the eco-friendly fashion space which was present at Porte de Versailles once prior. It is particularly difficult to understand this space since it is far more complex than the others. Known for its specificity, Impact has perhaps lost part of what made it stand out by expanding and fully integrating the Who’s Next show. As for ready-to-wear, buyers may have been diverted by the spread of retailers across two halls (Fame and its annex), ultimately creating confusion and earning weak attendance numbers for Hall 6. The brand Ekyog serves as a perfect example, located in the Impact area and disappointed by the second round, describing it as “less dynamic than the first” and poorly placed “with shoes and ready-to-wear side by side, confusing the clients.”
“We were nervous before the show, of course. We were running around during the preparations, overrun with information requests. A lot of people had questions about how to get there,” said Who's Next director Frédéric Maus. “It turns out we were pleasantly surprised in the end. Of course, not everything was perfect. There were, in fact, accessibility issues for Hall 6 along with low attendance on Saturday. But there were also a lot of upsides, such as the crowds on the other days, which is important for us and this event because it confirms the need for this physical gathering.”
It also underscored the trade show's vision for the future: “What truly matters is Who’s Next’s ability to attract others. This was done with Impact, which still needs to be reinforced, but also with the dynamic addition of Traffic, who is joining us in September and will bring a qualitative relationship to our buyers and exhibitors,” concluded Maus.
As a matter of fact, several new projects have been announced for next September, including the integration of the Traffic show, created by the French Federation of Women’s Ready-to-Wear four years ago and dedicated to creative services and solutions for fashion businesses. A new, revised version of Impact has been proposed as well. The organizers have taken advantage of the show’s momentum to announce a new outdoor exposition at La Foire de Paris in April, which is in addition to their Première Classe project, only a month from now at the Tuileries. This expansion may serve as a strategy to reunite brands while introducing them to an even greater public. The hope is that they will be far better acquainted, from the months of working alongside each other, at the next Porte de Versailles event.
As such, creating a sense of dynamism is on the agenda at WSN, within a sector that has oftentimes been subjected to the changing nature of the fashion industry. However, Paris transport strikes slowed the pace for its January 2020 show. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” reaffirmed the show’s organizers. And to put this year’s Who’s Next event into two words, they would be: work and perseverance.
The next Who's Next show runs at Porte de Versailles from September 4-7.
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