If major trade fairs such as Playtime Paris or Pitti Bimbo in the summer of 2020, due to the economic impact of the Corona pandemic, cancel their staging, the industry will lack the stages for the half-yearly and decade-long order activity.

Organisers who have already invested in new digital trade fair venues in recent years could benefit from providing exhibitors and trade visitors with an electronic alternative. However, to date, hardly any trade fair organisers – at least in the kids’ area – can produce reliable usage figures. Those who are familiar with the practice of numerous organizers of communicating the visitor numbers of their shows in dimensions that do not stand up to their own impressions on site will be all the less able to trust the data circulated for the online platforms.

Digital offers, which up to now have had to compete with the order events traditionally anchored in the industry, can show in summer 2020 whether they are able to convince manufacturers and buyers in the KOB segment of the advantages of an electronic marketplace.

The trade fair organisers must now also jump over their own shadow. So far, they have created the offers themselves, but at the same time they have coordinated them with their traditional business model. None of the trade fairs wants to exchange the square metres, which are billed at a high price twice a year, and the additional services, which are just as lavish, for a digital online trade fair site, which is still considerably cheaper.

Even if traditional players such as trade fair organisers may be too hesitant not to channel themselves, in recent years it has become apparent in numerous sectors that third parties are intervening in order to boldly put pressure on an established and lucrative setting. Detached from inherited burdens and focused on digital processes, tools and with the concentration on the essentials of a business, many industries have already been strongly remixed.

In September 2015, Pernille Geneser and Fashiontrade.com started to digitize the ordering process of the fashion industry. The kids’ segment was even specifically addressed, thought the management at the time, you could practice with the “small fashion” and conquer the big the better.

At least investors like Bestseller andZalando became aware of the platform and invested heavily. Still, all that money did not help. The model could not convince and so Fashiontrade.com is now already discontinued and therefore history.

The success of platforms with digital showrooms is not only controlled by the supplier side. Rather, in the end it comes down to the acceptance of the buyers. And for very different reasons, they have difficulties with digital services. Here, cherished traditions, the advantage of personal exchange, the desire to be able to touch goods and also the somewhat non-technical attitude of many buyers, most of whom have many years of experience, compete with the challenge of being able to offer clear advantages – for the buyer – through digital offers.

It will therefore be interesting to see how the offerings of the fair will perform this summer. Platforms offer the following events:

  • Pitti with Pitti Connect (infos here)
  • Playtime with Playtime Online (registration here)
  • CBM Children’s Club (registration here)
  • Harrogate International Nursery Fair(moved from March to October, offers a digital preview)

All offers have one thing in common: Beyond the announcements, the offers of the different trade fairs cannot yet be – editorially – tested. While events are public places, the digital platform lacks the basic understanding that an electronic trade fair should not only be open to buyers and sellers.

Anyone who withdraws his offer from the sighting and assessment of third parties can expect neither criticism nor support from this side. One of the advantages of participating in a trade fair is to be discovered as a manufacturer by multipliers. To be robbed of this advantage, fashion becomes a pure commodity. All platforms have to be reworked here.