Alicia Gimeno (BabyKid+Fimi): "We are the first fair in the sector with very positive results”
After two years of absence, the event dedicated to children's fashion and associated products returned to Feria de Valencia between February 17 and 19. The comeback edition was held three weeks late in order to adhere the best possible sanitary conditions. Expectations were exceeded as it brought together a total of 3,600 visitors from 40 countries and up to 261 brands (of which 161 were Spanish) from 23 markets. FashionNetwork evaluates the sector together with the event’s director, Alicia Gimeno.
FashionNetwork.com: What is your evaluation of the trade fair's return?
Alicia Gimeno: It was very exciting, both for buyers and for the participating brands because it had been two years since we held the event. It was an opportunity for children’s fashion and products to be exhibited on the stands. As far as visitors are concerned, most of the exhibitors have considered the fair a great success given the uncertainty of today’s context, as they saw many international buyers from North America, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Europe. We have exceeded expectations. There are exhibitors who have made high quality connections with international buyers that were not expected. We must bear in mind that buyers have run out of options, considering the cancellation of the Nuremberg fair and the low demand and small number of buyers at Pitti Bimbo. We are the first fair in the sector with very positive results.
FNW: How have you been impacted by the cancellations or results of other trade shows in the industry?
A.G: It is always sad hearing that a trade show in this sector failed because setting up a fair takes a lot of effort, both for the organizers and for the visitors. I think we were very smart in delaying the fair for three weeks. This period of caution allowed us to wait for a lower incidence rate and encouraged visitors in turn. The attendance exceeded our expected target.
For me, the most significant part is that BabyKid+Fimi is establishing itself as an international meeting point. The domestic market is as it is, so the internationalization of companies must be a priority. It has been the most hectic fair, with ups and downs throughout these recent years due to issues related to contagions and vaccinations. Despite this unfavorable framework, we are surprised with the incredible response and reception.
FNW: Various fairs have shared the feeling of having qualitatively improved their attendance, despite having fewer visitors than before. Was this the case for this edition?
A.G: We had that same feeling. I think there was a strong desire to close deals at the fair, a need to be present. People wanted to come and touch the products again, something very important in terms of fabrics, patterns, and in children’s products due to technology and innovation. We are going back to the roots and essence of what a fair used to be.
Perhaps the pandemic will also bring positive aspects such as the reorganization of distribution and the calendar, sustainability, etc. These two years have been horrendous, but at this moment we must look at the positive side. Physical attendance cannot be replaced by any kind of technology. Now that we are all so digital, there has to be an indissoluble marriage of convenience between the technological developments of recent years which we have become accustomed to and physical presence as an added value. People need direct contact, and trade fairs are now more valuable than ever before.
FNW: Have you noticed any change in attitude from the attendees?
A.G: Maybe people used to be somehow more comfortable in their booth chairs. I have seen much more proactivity this year. There used to be fairs where people didn't even approach others to talk and now it's the opposite; Exhibitors immediately attend you. It’s a result of people missing human contact.
FNW: Brands have also missed physical fashion shows. Will they be back for the next edition?
A.G: If everything goes well, yes. I was very decisive on this issue from the beginning. This is true, they are an essential for brands on a commercial level. But it would have been crazy to force children to take antigen tests every day of the fair. They have suffered enough from the consequences of the pandemic. I was very clear that, even if the incidence rate went down, the children could not participate in the fair. 100 children with their corresponding guardians implied too much risk and it was not feasible, no matter how many security measures we put in place. For Día Mágico in May, the children’s ceremony and occasion wear fair, we will not have these same problems because the models for that show are around 12 years old, so that age group is already vaccinated.
FNW: What state has the industry been in after the pandemic?
A.G: The children's fashion industry is in the midst of reorganization. Important companies have disappeared, either because they have not been able to withstand the pressures of the pandemic or because they closed just before knowing that they were not prepared for what was to come. But small designer companies and people belonging to those that have closed, such as Circular Baby, have emerged. They have been born digitally and with a strong focus in sustainability, adopting an organic theme at their roots. There is a new business network of very interesting people from other industries such as architecture. These presentations need to be offline, as opposed to companies that needed an online platform. For these companies, participating in the fair is a kind of long-term development.
It is also crucial that the central government helps with policies that favor fertility rates. Globalization is important, but it will end up being mandatory. In Spain we have half a child per family and having children during a pandemic is very complicated.
FNW: Also because they are the future consumers and the teenage market is currently dominated by Chinese powerhouse Shein, right?
A.G: Absolutely. Girls have become accustomed to fast fashion. At that age, there is not much environmental awareness, despite manufacturers implementing certain practices. Shein offers quantity, easy returns, variety, loyalty programs, etc. Stores and manufacturers have to study and imitate this. It is mind-boggling to think that these young people assume they are going to wear the garment once to go out or for a photo. Young people are the future, and we have to think about how to persuade them.
Mothers have a lot to do with this mentality. You can't expect children to know about garment quality or pattern making. They only think about the price and the amount of clothes they can buy with their allowance. At that age, everything fits them. We must educate them to dress beyond the idea of daily throwaway consumption. The stores have to reinvent themselves and capture this audience’s attention; We don't want the parents of the future to educate around a Shein culture. And the problem is that there is a lack of knowledge in the sector, especially in older people. We see brands launching teenage apparel lines without even knowing what Shein is, which could well be their direct competitor. They need to get their act together.
FNW: Beyond environmental responsibility, is there also a global commitment in producing ethically responsible products of higher quality?
A.G: Totally. Increasingly more. The older generation is very important for this. They watch a lot of television, they are more and more concerned about sustainability, they defend craftsmanship and local commerce. They don't go shopping at Shein. The people who are mostly responsible for this way of thinking are mothers who pass on these types of values to their children. Manufacturers, retailers, the media, and influencers are also critical in spreading this message. There is still a lot of work to be done.
FNW: Another major challenge in the children's sector is second-hand sales. How should brands incorporate this into their strategies?
A.G: It's a very complicated issue for companies that are now working on sales, digitalization, and sustainability. Second-hand is very relevant in fashion and for children’s products, as the price of a new stroller can go above €1500 while on Wallapop you can find it for €400. We are going to have to live and adapt to this. There are companies that are managing to incorporate it into their own business models and in turn help build customer loyalty and promote sustainability.
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