Exclusive Interview with Ms. Julie Holt, Exhibition Director of IEC Group

What are the challenges that you have faced organizing a show of this size?
J – It’s an interesting show because it has major exporters that exhibit in the show that may have operations in many countries around the world, with vertically integrated facilities. We also have a certain number of exporters that may enjoy a subsidy from their respective governments to help them learn about export and uncover new markets. So we have established and emerging on the exhibitor’s side and equally we have that with the buyer’s side. We have very established volume buyers in Australia but there are also an increasing number of startup companies in this country as in many others. People want to set up online retail operations and are also sourcing internationally. So, on both sides of the equation we have major and minor players. It can be a challenge to bring them together. But this year we introduced an online business matching platform; it is a trial but the feedback has been very positive. And that way a lot of work is done by the exhibitors and visitors before the show to set up meetings and that’s been very valuable. They exchange emails back and forth and understand more about what the meetings will be about and ascertain whether it’s worth proceeding. I expect the time spent in these meetings is going to be more valuable.

So how does this portal work?
J – It’s a third party company that we have used for this portal. It’s a very established matching portal. Contact can be made exhibitor-to-exhibitor and also exhibitor-to-visitor . Often times, exhibitors also want to meet each other from different countries because in some situations they are suppliers to each other. This show is very much about buying and selling but it also provokes a lot of other discussion around investing in each other’s businesses, technology, transfers and many other things; so we would be foolish to assume that we know all of the activity that takes place in a trade show. The main benefit of a trade show apart from buying and selling is that it’s a chance for people to connect face-to-face and really uncover each other’s needs and that’s where relationships are forged; entrepreneurial ideas are sparked. So I don’t think it’s strictly about buying and selling. Of course that’s the main premise of the show, but there are other gains to be had from players on both sides of the equation just through connecting and building relationships and sharing information.

You have an increase in the number of countries participating this year from last year; how have you planned the same for next year?
J – One of the developments  for this year is introducing the Global Fashion Runway and branding that very strongly. We are fortunate to have participation by China and Indonesia to do country-specific presentations  along with emerging designers from Australia. We believe this will set an example and attract interest from many other countries around the world to promote their fashion to Australia. It’s an accessible platform; it’s not a fashion week but equally it’s not an amateur presentation. It’s an unrivalled opportunity for countries to show their designs to a fashion-conscious audience in Australia. Australia is a very fashion-conscious market and Melbourne in particular is very fashionable. Often times people assume Sydney is the fashion market; really it’s Melbourne. There is a counter seasonal opportunity about Australian markets and it’s really going to add a lot of quality to the show. When the show commenced it was very much more of a commodity product like basic garments. A lot of quality has been steadily moving into the show in the last few years, particularly from India. A lot of the buyers asked us questions about the Indian exhibitors that are coming well in advance of the show because they see India as a major source of quality, and the increasing quality aspect within the show is going to attract more and more exhibitors from around the world. We certainly have designs on attracting interest from some CIS countries and Europe. South Africa is participating in the show this year with footwear but we have had discussions about bringing  apparel for next year. So that’s really exciting. We have had Mauritius in the show for the past two years, unfortunately not this year but certainly the show is  becoming more than an Asia-Pacific Indian subcontinent show.

Are you concentrated only in Australia for this show?
J – Yes. We want to produce sourcing events in Australia to the best of our ability and continue to make this the go-to platform for countries that want to tap into the Australian market. For the foreseeable future the show will stay in Melbourne, but I think there is some appetite for a second show to be held in Sydney. Perhaps in the next few years we may consider a second, smaller show in Sydney with the main show continuing in Melbourne.  We’re looking at different ways of presenting the show in terms of product categories as well. At the moment the show is not laid out by product precinct and that can be somewhat confusing to buyers so we’re looking to perhaps make minor structural changes to the way the show format is presented. This show has a very strong base; I think certainly the medium-term outlook is very strong for the show.

Are you planning on having the Global fashion runway next year also?
– Yes! It can be as big as it can be in terms of the participation. We have spent a lot of effort in producing the show this year and certainly a lot of effort has been taken with photography and getting interviews with some of the designers. We will be pushing the Global Runway very hard to provide opportunities for some of the other countries within the show  to participate in the runway next year and also to attract new countries and fashion designers.

Do have new interests shown for the runway next year?
J – Definitely yes! In fact we have European interest and a number of fashion associations across Asia already interested.

Are you adding any new attractions next year?
J – We are very excited about introducing more of a trend focus in 2019 and we will be publishing details of that in due course. Other than that we will continue to ensure that the existing feature program gets better and better and engages more exhibitors and visitors alike..

A few buyers that came in for the exhibition:

Myer, Cue, Seed Heritage, Cotton On, Jo Mercer, Wittner, Tony Bianco, Brand Collective and Munro Footwear Group.

Dates for next year’s exhibition are from 12th Nov – 14th Nov 2019 in the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

By- Priya Kayal, Associate Editor, TVC