Julie Driscoll (ITE Group): “There’s too much noise online, in business, people want to look at each other’s eyes”
The managing director of the fair group’s fashion division claims that multibrand trade in the United Kingdom is going through a good time embraced by differentiation and experience.
The managing director of the fashion division of ITE Group, Julie Driscoll, is in charge of British fashion fairs such as Pure London, Moda or Scoop. Driscoll states that professional trade shows will carry on as people still want to meet in them. “Even if they are fast fashion or e-commerce players, at the time of doing business, everyone wants to know who are you dealing it with”, says the executive, who adds that “people want to be looked at, sense reliability, see the product, touch it and select it”.
MDS: In fast fashion and e-commerce’s era, what role do fairs play?
Julie Driscoll: Fairs are necessary. Take a look at cinema. There’s Netflix, which has all the movies. But there is still a lot of people who meet to go to the cinema. Why do they do that if it is more expensive? Because people like to hang out and go all together to the cinema. Something similar happens at fairs. People want to meet. And that is not going to change. Even if they are fast fashion or e-commerce players, when doing business, everyone wants to know who you are doing business with. At least at the beginning, when a company looks for suppliers or clients, they want to get to know them and get in touch with the product.
MDS: And in full digitalisation era, does an online fair fit in?
J. D.: Fashion is visual and collections are still necessary but of course, so are the people who sell it. Even an Asos buyer, for instance, will hardly carry out an order of one thousand units of a dress they have never seen. The risk is too high.
“Even an Asos buyer, for instance, will hardly carry out an order of one thousand units of a dress they have never seen”
MDS: Have you thought about creating your own online platform as other fashion fairs have done?
J. D.: Not for now. Currently, we are asking some clients about it and doing some tests in certain events. But in the specific case of fashion fairs, at least for now, where we will invest the most is in the attraction of more retailers to our shows.
MDS: Why are the dates still Prêt-à-Porter’s?
J. D.: Even though the whole industry knows that seasons do not exist anymore, most of the brands from the premium segment continue to work in base to them. Supply chains in the highest spheres have not changed that much.
MDS: Are fairs a good thermometer to tell how the sector is evolving?
J. D.: When people go to a fair, it is not only about shopping. Conferences are listened, retailers are spoken to, brands are noticed. Everything that goes on in the market is exposed.
“Even though the whole industry knows that seasons do not exist anymore, most of brands from the premium segment continue to work based in them”
MDS: Are fairs only marketing tools?
J. D.: At Pure London or Moda, there is still a lot of people writing purchasing orders.
MDS: Pure London has a 60% of international exhibitors. What impact will Brexit have on them?
J. D.: It depends on what happens. For now, fashion imports into the United Kingdom ascend to 10 billion pounds, and most of them come from Europe. London is the biggest purchasing area of the whole European continent. And now exchange rates are positive to us, especially regarding tourism. Right now, we also have the lowest unemployment rate in the country’s history. In short, now is a good time to export to the United Kingdom. And no matter what happens, we will not see it until 2020 or 2021.
MDS: Online fashion sales in the United Kingdom exceed 15% over the total amount of retail. How does multibrand commerce survive that?
J. D.: Those who open an independent business is because they want to get to know their clients because they want to do a selection of collections and items. The owner of a multibrand commerce acts as a curator. And does not only happen inside fashion. Tourism, for instance, has started to see experiential agencies who organise custom-made travels. In the end, there is everything on the internet, but sometimes it is hard to move around and seek what you specifically want. New multibrands are experiential, with spaces dedicated to listen to music, chill out or have a glass of champagne. Coffee shops are not scared of another Starbucks or Costa opening.
“There is everything on the internet, but sometimes it is hard to move around and seek what you specifically want”
MDS: So, is it then a sweet moment for multibrand?
J. D.: Completely. Some have even started to develop their own brands, very linked and close to their areas. The personalization of the offer, individualization, is more and more important every time. All researches about market trends are talking about it. People are starting not to want for them those things that everyone else are buying. New generations of consumers do not want to be part of a generational tribe nor a global tribe, they want a unique one.
MDS: The fair has been reshaping its offer for years. How are the brands that participate selected?
J. D.: The brands exposed at Pure London do not have to be expensive per se, but they do need to have their own history. They cannot be the same as a Zara or a Marks&Spencer but to have their own collection, with their own identity and their own history. That must be so because retailers want new, different and fresh brands.
MDS: Does the future of fairs go through bigger and more generalist events or through smaller and specialised ones?
J. D.: Both will co-exist. There will always be people who say that retail will disappear, but fairs, same as retail, will stay. As will the cinema. Because, ultimately, brands want to meet retailers. In the online channel, there is too much noise, it is too messy. When business is done, people want to look at the eyes of one another, sense reliability, see the product, touch it and select it.
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