European Shows Bank on Stronger Dollar

LONDON — Facing a rocky 2009, European trade show organizers are hoping a rebound in the U.S. dollar can fuel renewed interest among American buyers.

“We expect that the improving dollar-euro exchange rate will help attract more U.S. retailers to GDS,” said show director Kirstin Deutelmoser. “During these economically challenging times, it will give them the opportunity to pass on lower prices to their customers while keeping their margins intact.”

Premiere Classe Sales Manager Sylvie Pourrat, who replaced former show organizer Patricia Lerat, also said a strong dollar could help increase American attendance. “It will probably help American buyers in their decision to come to Paris,” Pourrat noted. “The dollar-euro exchange has always been and will always be an important topic of consideration in the business world.”

Micam Director Fabrizio Poletti said he also was upbeat that more favorable exchange rates would help lure U.S. buyers — and he noted that the effect would be even more noticeable if the dollar strengthens further in the coming months.

Outside of the currency situation, organizers said the weak global economy continues to be a big issue — which is why they are ramping up more buyer-oriented initiatives. “We are really conscious about the economic situation. We know buyers everywhere in the world are speaking about recession and economic troubles,” Pourrat said. “[Retailers] need products and information, energy and advice — all of this is our job.”

For Modacalzado, enticing foreign buyers has always been a challenge because the show falls at the end of the season and caters mostly to domestic attendees with its heavy mix of Spanish- and Portuguese-made product. But Felix Pérez Fajardo, commercial director of the Madrid-based shoe fair, is hoping that a buyers’ program — launched in 2006 with a focus on the U.S. market — will entice new attendees. “We hope to profi t from this now as the dollar-euro price [situation] is changing,” Fajardo said.

GDS has also created a “Very Important Buyers” category, which offers special perks for retailers, such as reserved seats at fashion shows and special services.

And despite any near-term challenges, Bread & Butter organizer Karl-Heinz Müller is optimistic about his show’s prospects, thanks to its eclectic product mix. He added that economic challenges are nothing new.

“There are always ups and downs in the markets — such is the nature of the economy,” Müller said.

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