The retail buying experience this season is unprecedented, to say the least.
Continuing health concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic has caused the cancellation of a number of major trade events, where the fashion and footwear industries typically gather to place orders, gain new insights and generally network with friends and colleagues.
Next week, event organizer Informa Markets Fashion is launching its first digital trade event after it called off its New York and Las Vegas trade shows. Set to run from Sept. 1-Nov. 1, the event, which is hosted on the NuOrder technology platform, will serve as a virtual stand-in for the Magic, Coterie, Project, Micam Americas and Children’s Club shows. And while it can’t quite replicate the experience of catching up with old friends in the aisles, Informa hopes to ease the buying process for retailers and provide valuable educational resources during this particularly challenging business climate.
“We can’t wait to get back to the physical shows, but this digital trade event will be a really great complement to the face to face [moving forward],” said Kelly Helfman, president of WWDMagic, Project Womens, Micam Americas & Sourcing at Magic. “I think we’ll learn a lot from this experience, as will our brands. And it’s going to change the future of fashion. It’s actually kind of refreshing and exciting to think about how we’re evolving.”
Ahead of the start date next week, FN answers some of the big questions about this inaugural digital event:
Who Is Participating?
According to Informa, nearly 12,000 retailers have signed up to shop the digital show, and roughly 1,100 brands will be exhibiting their collections on the NuOrder platform during the eight weeks. They represent a variety of fashion categories, including apparel, footwear and accessories for men, women and kids. More than 100 shoe brands will be participating — among them: Frye, Blowfish, BedStu, Minnetonka, Mephisto, Pajar and Cougar.
How Much Does It Cost to Register?
As part of its partnership with Informa, NuOrder is selling a special eight-week subscription to its site for exhibiting brands, rather than an annual subscription. Retailers do not pay to register for the event, but they must be verified beforehand.
How Do I Navigate the Show?
Informa’s digital trade event is organized into five marketplaces, and registered buyers have the ability to shop across each of them:
• Magic: Contains the trend-driven and affordable women’s fashion brands that would typically exhibit at the WWDMagic, Pool and Fame shows.
• Coterie: Includes women’s elevated contemporary brands normally found in the Stitch, Moda and Project Women’s shows.
• Project: This is the home for all things menswear, including all distribution levels and merchandise categories.
• Micam Americas: Similar to Informa’s previous Platform show, footwear for men, women and children can be found here, including all price points and all levels of distribution.
• Children’s Club: This is the hub for kids apparel, accessories, toys and gifts.
Within the shows, brands will have digital showrooms where they will present their collections. Notably, using the NuOrder platform is similar to shopping a typical e-commerce site, which Helfman said will make it more intuitive for retail buyers.
And to encourage discovery, users can search for brands by a range of criteria, including sustainability and “made in America,” as well as by price point, sizing and even delivery.
How Do I Shop With a Brand?
Brands have the ability to set their own privacy settings for the showrooms, according to Helfman. Some will be open to all customers, while others may request that new clients submit their credentials. Once approved, those retailers can shop the full collection and connect with brand reps via a chat function within the platform, or by email or video conference.
Will There Be Educational Components?
Informa will roll out a robust lineup of educational content, including panel talks with experts, curated fashion trend guides and retail boot camps on such topics as making the most of e-commerce and selling on Instagram. Specific to footwear, NPD Group will give a presentation on the market, as will industry associations like FDRA. Helfman noted there will actually be more content as part of the digital event than at the physical show, and all participants will be able to access the educational components at any time throughout the eight weeks.
Is There a Sourcing Show?
Due its unique complexities, Informa’s Sourcing @ Magic trade show will be a separate virtual event this season, scheduled for Sept. 15-Dec. 15.