The once every three years retail expo that is EuroShop, was hosted once again in Düsseldorf from February 16th to 20th. Billed as ‘the World’s No.1 Retail Trade Fair’ this does not disappoint.
As the ‘must visit’ destination for retail trends, innovation, networking and investment related conversations, 2,300 exhibitors from 57 nations were represented across a spectrum of related fields. Over 94,000 visitors attended to see that latest line-up of products, trends and concepts spread across 16 vast exhibition halls and with a massive seventy percent of the visitor audience coming from 142 global markets.
This year’s event was held amongst growing concern about the international outbreak of the Coronavirus and the implications for those attending and whether the increasing spread of the virus would dampen visitor numbers. With other large international conference events being either postponed or cancelled, including the massive Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in January, questions were asked about whether EuroShop 2020 would go ahead as planned.
With some major retail organisations placing embargoes on staff travel, and countries who would typically show a strong presence at the event as exhibitors enforcing restrictions on overseas travel, suppliers from China understandably being most affected as the source of the Coronavirus outbreak, these concerns could potentially have derailed months of preparations.
EuroShop is comprehensive, and for the visitor, can be somewhat exhausting. It’s breadth, scale and sheer volume it’s hard to take in anything less than a two day visit. In recent years, it has turned from being a purely retail focused event into one which integrates other elated industries: digital technology, electronic signage, point-of-sale and promotions, and all aspects of retail catering from food production to food and beverage fit out and food presentation. So it is not just a place for ‘stores people’, but is also widely attended by those from the travel, hospitality, e-commerce and related marketing sectors too.
Visitors attend to EuroShop for a variety of reasons, to learn about ‘best practice’ case studies, future gaze forward-looking trends and supplier networking. There is also a varied programme of lectures held on the individual stages on such topics as retail technology, architecture and store design. I particularly enjoyed the special event features including the Start-up Hub, the Designer Village and Premium City.
Here the Peter Behrens School of Arts presented a visionary city for 2050, where retail fuses with the public space and mobility. Through a series of highly imaginative, interactive spaces, visitors were stimulated to ‘think differently’ about topics, including consumer psychology, marketing, e-commerce and conventional stores based retail distribution. Presented with a simple black and white exhibition theme, the students and lecturers presented a series of informal presentations, themed spaces and interactive installations. It was a fun area but rooted in serious thought. And, like all good intellectual study, was an open space to step back, think and contemplate a different future outside of the reality and ‘here and now’ shown within the main exhibition halls.
EuroShop for the most part is still a conventionally designed trade show. With 16 vast halls, a grid like ‘maze’ layout and marked out supplier spaces, typically formed as decorated shell schemes, or a booth set up. These occasionally punctuated by larger, multiple booths or lavish, bespoke brand spaces. Suppliers approach the design of their stand depending on their marketing needs, but typically use it as a space to showcase products and to host/entertain clients. So much standard fayre, trade fair fodder.
This year I was particularly impressed with suppliers who were taking a newer, more engaging, approach to their brand presence and stand design. These brands featuring more interactive ideas and immersive look into how their products are made.
Perhaps the best example coming from the premium Italian mannequin manufacturers, the Bonaveri Group. Here products were presented from collections in the Bonaveri, Schläppi Collection and a revitalised Adel Rootstein brand. The stand design taking on the form of a ‘makers studio’ where products were being crafted ‘live’ in front of visitors by their skilled artisans including: wet clay sculpting, hand painted cosmetics, seamstresses expertly covering bust forms and even hairdressers demonstrating how the products are made. This demonstrated the great skill, quality and processes used within a stylishly designed ‘factory’ setting. It was a good way to show the expertise and ‘price differential’ offered with bespoke crafted products, versus mass production factory products.
Suppliers in different fields were experimenting with these experiential stand design ideas too and it was refreshing to see brands stepping out of the conventional ‘set up and sell’ model to engage visitors in conversations and relationship building in an innovative and engaging way.
Part of the EuroShop event hosts a dedicated area for Chinese Manufacturers and Suppliers.
Always a less attended area of the show, this year it was extremely quiet, being clear that many visitors were giving the area a miss for obvious reasons. Of course, for the Chinese brands that had made an investment to participate, and using their staff who were free to travel to Dusseldorf, this would have been a disappointing time. Perhaps, for people to console themselves that when the current Coronavirus crisis has passed that they may be able to enjoy better prospects by participating at the sister event to EuroShop, C-Star in September 2020.