Why should one participate in trade fairs & exhibitions, especially for the textile & apparel industry? How effective & helpful are these for business development, networking as well as sourcing?
Trade fairs are invaluable platforms to promote textiles and apparel for several reasons. There is no substitute for buyers being able to check products in terms of manufacturing standards color and finish, and merchandising application. Potential buyers can ask questions to the exhibitors regarding minimum order quantities, shipment packaging lead times and so on. Obviously, being able to interact directly is important for many industries but in a highly seasonal industry where timing is critical, it is important to understand exactly what you are buying and have a solid relationship with your supplier.
Trade fairs/exhibitions work well in terms of mobilizing clusters of exhibitors from particular industries and countries - and even regions - to cooperate together. I have seen many examples of companies having limited experience with export but learning best practices from other exhibitors in their delegation. In some instances, this can even lead to sharing buyers and forming a virtual alliance where products are not directly competitive.
Many people state that to really stake a claim in a new market, it is important to exhibit and 'be seen' in that market for 2 - 3 years to build awareness among your target market and reinforce to the market that you are serious about it. In my experience as a former export manager, having worked in several different industries, this seems to be accurate. With a highly competitive sector like fashion and apparel this is particularly true.
In the apparel and fashion sector, trade fairs offer the most effective communication and feedback opportunity with potential buyers. It really provides the fastest possible way to begin to know your market and operate effectively. It is difficult to discern consumer tastes and preferences without having your 'feet on the ground' and observing other products on offer at the fair. This will quickly help you identify any discernible gaps in the market, or in your product offering, and enable you to respond in a dynamic way. International sourcing is really enhanced in a trade fair setting. For a country such as Australia the perceived cost of travelling offshore to locate and vet potential suppliers can be a major impediment to international procurement and contracting. Bringing quality international suppliers to Australia, often under the auspices of a government or industry pavilion, encourages buyers to increase their global sourcing activity along the value chain, and often across aligned categories.
Published on: 03/09/2012
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.