3 Questions for Frédéric Bougeard
President of Messe Frankfurt France

interview Frédéric Bougeard

Frédéric Bougeard is President of Messe Frankfurt France, the organiser of the Texworld Evolution Paris event. He reviews the tools his company set up to keep manufacturers and buyers connected during the quarantines and analyses the pandemic’s effect on the profession. 

What does Messe Frankfurt France do? 

We’re a subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt, the world’s third largest trade show organiser which presents between 500 and 600 events each year in around 50 countries. The company also owns the Frankfurt fairgrounds. Our subsidiary is more modest. Our events are held in the French and Monegasque territories and focus on two industry branches: textile care with the Texcare France trade show and regional forums and the textile industry with Texworld Evolution Paris. This event, which happens twice a year in February and July, is divided into four different shows. Texworld concentrates on textiles, trims, accessories and denim; Avantex focuses on sustainable, high-tech solutions for fashion; Leatherworld is dedicated to leather; and Apparel Sourcing brings together clothing and accessories manufacturers. 

With 98% of participation by international exhibitors, we see these trade shows as primarily export platforms. The fact is that the mid-range to high-end textile industry has moved offshore over the last 20 years, and it’s now very difficult to meet this market’s needs in France. We have to turn to other partners, and we can now list five main manufacturing countries: China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey. Texworld brings together the manufacturers from these countries and makes them accessible to French and European fashion professionals. 

The health crisis has had a huge impact on trade show organisers. How did you react? 

During the quarantines, holding trade shows was, quite simply, banned, and, in addition, exhibitors couldn’t travel. Buyers’ demands, however, continued. Like most trade show organisers, we set up digital solutions to meet some of their needs, but that wasn’t enough. At Messe Frankfurt France, we know that buyers need to see and touch samples. So we came up with the idea of organising showrooms. We didn’t invent the concept, we just adapted it to our operations. We decided to act as substitutes for exhibitors by presenting and promoting their samples ourselves. We also set up a highly personalised consulting service and created an iPad application for ordering samples directly from suppliers. Of course, the format was smaller than our usual shows, and our selection was more limited, but it provided an alternative. And it was popular! 

The showroom’s first edition in February 2021 was held in Paris on rue Richelieu. We had doubled visitor numbers for the following session and opened a second showroom a few metres away on rue de Mail with a revised system based on a trade show’s categories. The feedback from visitors and our clients was very positive since we were the only organisation that had maintained a physical event. 

How is the economic recovery going? Have trade shows changed with the new tools put in place during the lockdowns? 

For now we still can’t talk about an economic recovery. In February we started producing shows again in the countries that had opened. The July Texworld Evolution Paris edition will be three times bigger than the winter session, since travel is now possible in all parts of the world except China and Hong Kong. Both those places are still closed with extremely discouraging travel restrictions. 

That’s not insignificant since China accounts for 60% of our exhibitors – a statistic that reflects a market where 60% of textile imports come from that country. To compensate for this absence, we will undoubtedly continue our showroom format located within the trade show. That’s what we did in February when business was still limited, and we are going to set it up again so that Chinese companies will also be represented. Unfortunately, this solution doesn’t replace direct contact, and our consulting teams don’t have the same expertise as the companies’ own representatives. With all these adjustments, I can say that being a trade show organiser today means being a solutions provider. We have to come up with tools that can create a physical connection between exhibitors and visitors, and to do that we have to rethink, innovate, and invent.