On Wednesday, the trade show organizer announced that its fall Las Vegas and New York markets will be supplemented by a wholesale platform and e-commerce space, launching with men’s in August and women’s in September. Informa has been working to evolve its offerings, which generate crowds in the tens of thousands, to include digital platforms for those who can’t—and now, may not wish to—attend in person.
The news comes on the heels of Informa’s announcement last week that it would postpone its Magic Las Vegas marketplace, rescheduling from Aug. 17-19 to Sept. 29-Oct. 1 out of an abundance of caution in light of the coronavirus pandemic. It is working on a new, “more considerate” layout that respects Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for social distancing, crowd-control and sanitation.
Informa Markets Fashion’s chief commercial officer, Tom Nastos, said that the partnership has been in the works for months. The trade show organizer recognized the need for digitization long ago, he said, but decided to accelerate the launch “to address urgent industry needs given the current environment.” The short term goal was “to provide some form of business continuity and, in the long term, create a digital solution that will help our community connect and collaborate beyond our physical marketplaces,” he said.
“We see this as an important next step in the evolution of our business, and the fashion industry as a whole,” Nancy Walsh, president of Informa Fashion Markets, said of the addition of the new digital trade event. While Walsh believes the live event experience is irreplaceable for buyers who wish to see and touch the garments, “the future of fashion wholesale is a synergy of physical and digital,” she added.
The virtual market debuting this fall will help translate “the experience of discovery and connection” at the heart of the group’s physical shows “to a new and exciting virtual environment,” Walsh said.
Walsh told Sourcing Journal that the group has not set expectations on attendance, “because this isn’t about just replicating a physical event online.” The digital experience is “meant to complement our keystone physical events and will inherently be a different experience for both brands and retailers,” she said, and she hopes the efficient and streamlined layout will help drive discovery and commerce.
“Having said that, our marketplaces are already established and vibrant so we are confident that we will have strong adoption of the digital event format,” she added. “We are of the opinion the product speaks for itself and the community will continue to grow quickly and organically as a result.”
Heath Wells, co-founder and CEO of NuOrder, believes that there could be some marked advantages to holding events virtually, especially in light of the current circumstances.
“Technology today has made it possible to simulate real life experiences and allows us to work faster, more efficiently, smarter and has been a game changer for wholesale buying,” he said, adding that digital platforms now allow for rich storytelling and immersive brand experiences. “For us, digital is in our DNA but the true value and what excites us most as we move toward the true digitization of the industry is the synergy between the physical and digital which takes this whole experience to the next level.”
With NuOrder, brands will be able to leverage custom digital catalogs, line sheets, in-platform ordering and 360-degree virtual showroom to help them tell brand stories and present new collections. Retail buyers can connect with them through the platform and discover new products through efficient search tools that filter by category, price point and other criteria.
“NuOrder’s Virtual Showroom technology let’s brands dive deeper into their storytelling and interact with buyers and retailers beyond the confines of the physical experience,” Wells said. “Using the platform and our robust selling tools, retailers are able to pre-shop trade shows by browsing product in advance and connect with relevant brands to order online.”
Wells characterized the partnership as “a defining moment in the industry solving real customer needs at a critical time.” The digitized trade platform would mark a “new era for fashion markets,” he said, and set a “standard for discovery and commerce moving forward.”