Fairs during and after the pandemic. How should we handle this? And what is really Formex doing? I have received a lot of questions of what is happening up here in the northern parts of Europe and I will try to give an impression of what is happening here.
A brief introduction. Fairs. All fairs in Europe and most parts of the world have been cancelled due to the pandemic. The Danish fair Formland was the first physical fair during and after the pandemic. With almost 5800 visitors and 290 exhibitors, you could say that the numbers were half of a normal year.
The design fair in Norway has been cancelled and the Finnish fair Habitare has been postponed until November 25-29. As part of the northern European region you can of course include Hamburg fair Nordstil that is planned to run September 5-9.
Paris and London are cancelling their physial events and focus purely on virtual and digital events. There will be Copenhagen event Three Days of Design and also a similar activity in Milan – but no real fairs.
As most of you know – I love fairs. Really. Many people don’t. They don’t find any attractive new stuff or find the halls simply boring. I love meeting people, looking at things, talking, and it is a huge stimulus for my thoughts on trends, behaviour and needs. And since I haven’t done any fairs since Ambiente in February, I miss fairs enormously. And I do think fairs are important.
The Swedish fair Formex in fall 2020 chose to go a different route than the other fairs. It was not really closed and not really open. Kind of the policy of how we in Sweden handle the corona in general? Formex say they have a digital fair and a city edition.
The digital fair was simply a list of 176 products from 40 brands. Example below, or via link here.
The main communications chanel for Formex is Instagram where they marketed this section twice. On August 10 and on August 20. They talk about their seminars four times, but the actual part where brands contribute is only mentioned twice.
The second part of Formex was what they call “The City Edition”. This is a list of Formex associated activities in Stockholm during the week. You could see it as if the exhibitors that normally participate at the fair now host activities in their showrooms. The events were purely done by the specific brands but Formex did a coordination.
To get access to a list of the events, you were forwarded to a new website here. The site contain 42 events. Out of this 14 are by exhibitors. Well depending on how you count. Of these 14 activities, many of them are actually at the same site with the same people – but under different listings. For instance all the brands with pr agency Ek PR (A scent of Sweden, Himla, Lene Bjerre, Day Home, Ester&Erik and Ek Pr itself) are listed as individual events but are acutally just one.
So the list actually only consist of seven (7) unique activities done by exhibitors. The rest are duplicates or other activities not by exhibitors. Is it important to talk about replicates or not? Well, some fairs think it is important to differ between brands and exhibitors. For instance an agent can exhibit plenty of brands, but only have one stand. So in this case you could say Formex City Edition had 14 brands but only seven exhibitors.
The other events are done by museums and institutions, and Formex’ own event.
So, for these events and coordination Formex made 23 posts on Instagram. Seven of these were to talk about external activities and 16 posts about their own activites.
So. To sum it up. Formex had 40 brands on their digital fair and coordinated seven exhibitor activities in the city.
But there were of course a lot of things that weren’t on the list by Formex. I got to look at some news that will be launched for fall. Stockholm wasn’t really buzzing with design junkies, buyers or designers these few days but there were enough activities to actually call this a post-corona design week.
The majority of the activities kept the rules by Swedish authorities so groups were small. But I got to meet some journalists, brands and buyers.
There are some observations I would like to share. First – we miss eachother. Damn. It was a constant chatter. We all wanted to talk about summer, corona, recession and possibly new things. And one thing is certain – no one cares about trends. Well not as in colours. We are much more interested in behaviour and new functionality.
Secondly. It is of course extremely difficult to get an overview on how many people attended. There were mixed reactions and results about how many attended these events. I would say the majority were pretty happy. Perhaps because of conclusion number one. We get happy when we finally meet.
But, someone said they normally have 40 important clients coming to a fair like Formex. And with these other activities they would get about 30. So approximately 75 % of a normal fair.
I of course talked to the pr agencies and the number matched with 75 % too.
Thirdly, people are buying. Yes, we have a possible recession but shops are still stocking goods. The e-commerce industry has grown 100 % from last year. Almost ALL ecommerce sites have doubled in size. But interestingly also a lot of the local shops. A brand reasoned and said “I think people want to buy local and support local shops. People are actively thinking about what they want their towns and cities to look like.” I think that sounds logical and true.
But what about the future? Should we have fairs as Formex? It is definately to early to say. Like many fairs Formex happens twice per year so next should be in January. There are still threats of more waves of corona or new viruses, and people seem pretty ok with not doing Formex. The majority of the brands I talked to said they will not participate in Formex in January. Perhaps try this with activities on their own in the city a second time.
But still – everyone agrees that fairs are important and should come back. One way or another.
And I hope so. I will still like fairs after the corona. I still think they are important. I can’t wait to go to my next one.