The indirect route to market
Contrary to popular belief, not all Chinese manufacturers are seeking out high volume orders or want to work directly with brands and retailers.
In conversation at Texworld with a wool manufacturer based along China’s eastern seaboard with a €30m annual turnover, its director told WGSN of its plans to deepen its relationship with agents across Europe.
As a supplier to independent menswear retailers equipped with its own collection, the company recognises the key role agents play in expanding its particular business in Europe: “They can offer introductions, communications and service.” Although this may sound like a route to lower revenues, the company continues to trade directly and notes that in the in long term, agents know the market better, and bring in more eventual business.
This same company also rejects the idea of high volume orders, preferring to fulfil small-volume orders quickly and obtain what it considers a reasonable price for product.
Angela Rumsey, WGSN Business Editor
Borderless marketplace: pairing up across ASEAN
Collaboration was a hot topic among suppliers before the global financial crisis changed the game plan and WGSN was pleased to see the idea returning to the discussions it had during its visit to Texworld this week. Taiwan’s already established Southern Taiwan Textile Research Alliance was out in force and presenting joint ideas and especially impressive is a move by countries that make up the ASEAN trading bloc to set up a borderless marketplace across the region.
Phongsak Assakul, president of Thailand’s Textile Manufacturing Associations explained the region’s ambitious moves to set up practical and workable partnerships between textile and apparel firms in ASEAN through a Vertical Virtual Factory (VVF) network. The initiative is being run as the Source ASEAN Full Service Alliance (SAFSA) Program (http://www.sourceasean.com/) with the aim of shortening lead times and making the region a preferred sourcing location by improving quality and competitive prices.
Funded by US government agency USAID and implemented by the private sector, the initiative plans to ‘pair up’ textile and apparel firms across ASEAN to provide buyers with a simpler way of doing business across the region. For example, a fabric supplier in Indonesia might be teamed up with a cut-and-sew operation in Cambodia so that if a buyer goes to either one, that supplier can easily broaden its offer to include the service or access to materials from the other.
The idea, says Assakul, is to create the free flow of raw materials across the region and to work together as a team.
The matching up began in the summer and so far, there are five pairs in place with a target of 20 pairs by year-end. WGSN applauds such thinking. Let’s hope the companies involved can see the value in this bigger picture idea.
Angela Rumsey, WGSN Business Editor
Paris Tres Chic
From Florence there is a few weeks pause before all the buyers troop over to Paris. This is slightly less glamourous than Florence as it is the equivalent of going to a giant automative show but with fabric. However, it does have two clear advantages 1) You’re in Paris 2) French food!
February (usually around Valentines Day) and September the week of shows begins. Everyone has their own ideas about the best time to go and their own reasons. Personally, I prefer to go early in the week Monday thru Wednesday. It’s quieter, you have more chance of seeing everyone at the actual appointment times you booked and more chance of not being in a terrible hotel.
The whole event lasts 1 one week and is split over two locations. Texworld (metro stop: Le Bourget - free bus to exhibition centre) and Premiere Vision or PV as it’s affectionately known (tube stop - Parc des Expostitions)
Your first pit stop really wants to be the shops. Paris knows everyone is coming for the shows so tries to showcase the pre-collection in time. It’s a case of having a nosey around and drawing your own conclusion to see if you are on track, to feel inspired or to completely u-turn because everyone else is showcasing lime green and you totally missed it. Then I would suggest Texworld Day 2 followed by PV Day 3. You might want to mix it up but if you have a short amount of time this is a pretty concise way of doing it.
Paris has it’s own bubble and depending on your brand will depend on where you want to shop but I would definitely suggest;
Galleries Lafayette- bit like Selfridges/Saks
Printemps - think Harrods but more friendly
Colette - too cool for school but closest equivalent a small scale Dover Street Market.
Bon Marche - Harvey Nichols but with Parisian chic
Rue Saint Honore and LaFayette are good shopping roads but then there are also lots of other little areas that are pretty exciting, such as around Le Marais is pretty good for inspiration and independent stores.
First thing pre-register for the shows they cost approx 20euros each but are more expensive to buy on the day. Also, if you pre-register you also get free cloakroom tickets which is a big plus.
When you arrive pick up your pass and guide book. It’s best to always wear your pass this will really help with stands identifying you. It’s nice to think you’re popular but the stands see so many people that it easy to forget a name.
If you’re a regular you will should already have a list of appointments booked. Leave half hour per appointment and ten mins between each appointment in case they over run or you need to get to another hall.
If you’ve never been to the exhibitions before and not sure where to start I would do two things:
1) Visit the trends areas. These are are laid out in terms of fabric types, colours and regions. If you spot something you like it will have the company name and the stand number on it so you can collate a list.
2) Get your guide book - find your specific area (knits/wovens/leather). Then look at the people showing in there. Start with the names you recognise and make a list. If you’re not sure then just head to the areas.
If you’re a buyer but this is your first time the protocol is simple. Introduce yourself, handover business card and state what you are looking for very simply. i.e. Autumn/Winter casual shirts designs. They will then either sit you down to run through a collection or direct you to an area of a stand to look through. Select what you like, ask for hangars (squares of fabric with the construction on) or if you are buying in season narrow down your choice and get specific on price, lead-time, etc. I would also suggest taking fabric swatches with you to show what type of thing you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to look at things quickly you have a lot to look at and everyones time is important.
If you’re not a buyer but a student then it is often difficult to get on stands and a no no to take pictures. The reason for this is it costs a huge amount of money to have a stand here. The people on the stands must make there money back and can’t afford to spend time with students or have any ideas copied.
There are however a few good tips around this.
1) Make sure you visit all the trend areas. This will give you a huge amount of good solid information regarding colour, texture, handle and direction
2) Do not visit the stands in groups. They will not let you on. A buyer would only ever visit on their own or at max with one other person
3) Dress like a buyer. There is definitely a uniform and if you can initially blend in it does help
4) Be confident - walk on to the stand and just ask to peruse the collection around the walls
5) If asked be honest - say you are student. These could be your next employer / customer. Compliment them and ask for five minutes.
**Additionally, dress in layers, much like Florence it’s boiling hot or freezing cold and wear flat shoes. Some people attempt heels these are often the people not working hard enough!
Where to Stay
Paris is much like New York and London it’s expensive. There is a lot to be said for staying centrally but for the shows there is little point. You will need tp travel to the shows from Gare du Nord so save some money and stay close to here. It’s not glamourous but taxis are cheap if you want to go somewhere nice in the evening for dinner and it will save you money and time.
Closest hotel is Terminus Nord, this is literally outside of the station. Further afield but closer to the shops is Hotel Jules and Hotel Millennium Opera. I have stayed in all three and they are much the same. All tiny but clean. For cheap as chips and slightly quirky is the Eldorado Hotel by Sacre Coeur. Honestly, I loved this weird little place, I liked the crowd, the owner’s cat in reception and the fact I could climb out my windows and have a huge balcony to enjoy the sunshine in, for 70 euros. Things not to expect are a lift or matching furniture.
Getting to the show takes at least half an hour after buying tickets. It takes this long as usually the trains are so full that you need to wait a while to find one with breathing room. Here’s another top tip don’t expect to get on a train in a big group (it won’t happen) also the trains really smell so don’t get on a really jam packed train with no breathing room unless you know you can cope with a long wait. One year the trains broke down and we stood squashed like sardines for over an hour.
I would suggest buying the tickets for both days at the same time and going to the ticket booth. The queues for these in the morning before the show can set you back half and hour particularly towards the end of the week. Return tickets to both approx 13 euros.
Also, top tip Gare du Nord has a great left luggage. For seven euros you will get your case and all your bits and pieces in here. This is much quicker than the cloakroom at the show and perfect if you are tight between getting back from the show and getting your Eurostar. Taking a suitcase on the tube is a nightmare in the morning.
Eating at the shows is expensive and pretty horrible. I would suggest unless you have unlimited funds picking up a sandwich en route to the station and a large bottle of water. A sandwich and bottle of water inside can set you back 10 euros at least. I also eat a large breakfast before heading to the shows to set me up. It’s a long day (9am start PV / 9.30am start Texworld) both run till at least 7pm and depending on how your schedules are you will be there all day.
So when you finish you really want a great meal. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always had some great meals. Below are my two most recent outings and they were pretty tasty.
BAM - cosy (half height ceilings) light hearted and play mobile obj’darts.
Honestly, though you would be very unlucky to find a bad meal in Paris unless you try to eat fast food.
Hope you enjoy & let me know if you have any tips.