Vakbeurs voor bruidsmode, mode voor bruidegom en gelegenheidskleding

Interview with Ulrich Wendel – CEO of the INTERBRIDE

Mr. Wendel, how difficult was the decision to postpone the Interbride to 2021?

Honestly? It was awful. I can say that from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all those responsible for putting together the INTERBRIDE. Everyone would have preferred to use all the levers available to make the 8th INTERBRIDE 2020 take place. But the decision to postpone was inevitable. The dynamic development around Sars-Cov-19 holds Germany, Europe and the world in suspense despite the current easing of restrictions. In Germany, the contact restrictions for large events applies until August 31, 2020. We would never have compromised the health and protection of our exhibitors and trade fair guests. Health is inviolable and has top priority for us. Yes, the postponement of the dates is unfortunate, but at the same time the only right decision. New dates will be announced promptly. In the meantime, we wish the shops and all exhibitors the very best. Get through the crisis safely. We look forward to seeing you again in 2021 with hopefully few wounds in our industry.

What were the ultimate deciding factors that led to the postponement of the Intebride?

The reason for the postponement is the contact restriction for major events that has been expressly imposed by the federal and state governments until August 31, 2020. Several thousand people meet at INTERBRIDE. In 2019, we reached up to almost 50 different countries. Yes, it is a bitter loss, but there is no alternative for a postponement.

The INTERBRIDE has been the trade fair “From the industry for the industry” right from the start. We see this responsibility as being even more in demand during the crisis. Despite the easing of restrictions, the coronavirus pandemic has not been defeated, but only contained. The travel ban continues to apply and in addition to the respective national quarantine measures, this has stopped our exhibitors from planning. The retail market was completely paralyzed for weeks and only returns to everyday business with great constraints and struggle. The industry is badly battered. An INTERBRIDE as we all know and appreciate it could not have existed this year – with its lightheartedness, the joy of reunion, the hustle and bustle and its business. This year, with the first time participation of the Rosa Clara company, we would have had a great premiere within our top-class exhibitor mix.

Did you consider the possibility of moving the Interbride later this year in 2020?

For us, as for all other trade fairs, the ban on major events imposed by the federal and state governments applies. The current status is that it will last until the end of August. So it was our duty to think about the option of holding an event in September and to discuss this with Messe Düsseldorf as well. In the end, the decision was made more in the interests of our visitors and exhibitors, less for our own economic considerations. If major events are actually permitted again in September, this date is – in our view – too late for an order fair. The reasons are as follows: Under normal conditions, the new collections will be delivered starting from September. The boom in the shops begin in September. It is  the start of the season. The order is time-wise late. If we stayed with a trade fair date in September, the order, start of the season and delivery would have to coincide at the same time.

All exhibitors will be reimbursed for payments made to us and are now required to find their own solutions on how orders can be generated and how order transactions can be boosted. This will involve great efforts because a lot has to take place virtually. In addition to the corona crisis, nobody wants the start the season to slip away. Therefore, the main goal will be to keep the delivery rhythm as normal as possible. In our view, holding the event at a later date in the year is not conducive to the industry.

What does the postponement mean for exhibitors and visitors, and what are the next steps for the Interbride?

 The consequences for retailers and manufacturers are complex: no trade fair, no order business, no industry meeting point, no networking. A functioning order is a complex topic that begins long before a trade fair. Stock levels must be minimized, sales policy measures must be taken so that the conditions in the store are right when new goods are delivered. Businesses need liquidity for their new orders. Corona is particularly sensitive to each of these process stages.

Exhibitors and retailers are in the same boat because the economy as a whole is confronted with an unprecedented situation, as both sides incur additional expenses due to the absence of the trade fair. Both sides need to find new ways to connect. If the retailers were otherwise able to cycle through their visit to the trade fair through appointments at a wide variety of stands, they must now consider a different strategy. For many, the switch will be to digital solutions to work with customers in an individual way.

Looking into the future, how do you think the pandemic will change business interaction between suppliers and retailers?

The corona pandemic is considered the worst crisis since World War II. So we have to be able to stand together and look to the future with hope. The need for orientation and exchange is more important than ever in times of crisis. It is certainly too early to assess the overall situation. It is possible that businesses may have to close because retailers focus on a smaller number of manufacturers that have proven to be reliable business partners in the past. Service and experience are likely to have a greater impact on sales. For the industry as a whole, I hope that it welds itself closer together, that we are all in the same boat, is not just a pictorial metaphor, but a fact. We have to think ahead, think differently. Until now we had to do with Economy 2.0, now it’s about economies in and with Corona.

What is your outlook and hopes for the bridal fashion industry as a whole moving forward?

Bottom line, we look forward to 2021 positively. Our industry has the advantage that wedding dates had to be postponed for the most part, but that also means that they are not lost. They “only” just take place at a different time. It made it easier for us that the retailers with which we had direct contact received mostly optimistic feedback. 2021 will be the year of post-shutdown weddings.

Our industry pulsates with emotion, creativity and inspiration, since we accompany newlyweds on their way to the most beautiful day in life. The retailers will be able to give all these “unfortunate stranded” couples, whose wedding were postponed, peace and confidence, as the personal misfortune is great enough for those affected. It takes prudence and empathy to accompany the bride and groom professionally and with optimism through this time.

With the Spring Season packed full with bridal exhibitions, how soon will we find out when Interbride 2021 will be? 

With Messe Düsseldorf, it is already our turn to find a suitable date for the industry. The date must be the most suitable for our international business. This means that the time must be such that it is beneficial for the order. So far, no one has been able to predict with certainty how the market will develop, how the 2021 season will develop after Corona.

As an order fair, we have to create the right conditions for manufacturers and retailers. So that we can offer our international exhibitor clientele the framework we expect for the presentation of their latest collections, the trade fair date must also be the best possible order date. A trade fair date is only the right one if it is in line with the production cycles and demands of the market players for wedding, bridal and event fashion. We promise to find this date.

And lastly, can you tell us what the ideal Interbride 2021 looks like?

Joy in the anticipation of seeing everyone again, healthy, lively and hopeful that the crisis is over. The format “trade fair” still has a future and we will continue to create the framework for an exceptional shopping experience in 2021. We are firmly convinced that direct human-to-human contact cannot be replaced. Our goal for 2021 is that international specialist retailers meet well-known companies and labels and can place their orders. We are already working hard to achieve this. We keep our fingers crossed for all market players that the restart will succeed around the world.

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