BabyKid+Fimi positions as global meeting point despite challenges facing children's wear industry
The children's wear sector is back to business as usual. The industry’s eagerness to recover is reflected in its organized events, which are gradually returning to a physical format in order to gather industry professionals together.
This is certainly the case for children’s fair BabyKid+Fimi led by Alicia Gimeno, which held its second edition at Feria Valencia after a two-year absence. The purpose of this new event is to reunite professionals from the childcare industry, "with a renewed desire to reactivate the dynamics of the sector".
"We have exceeded expectations," said the director of the event, held between February 17 and 19 in Valencia, in an interview with FashionNetwork.com.
"Buyers have run out of options, given the cancellation of Nuremberg International Toy Fair and the small response of demand and buyers at Pitti Bimbo. We are the first fair on the circuit whose balance sheet is very positive," said the manager proudly, considering a qualitative improvement and a professionalization of the event, which delayed its dates to cushion the blow of the omicron variant during the first months of the year.
It was a risky gamble, but one that paid off, positioning the trade show as an international meeting point for the industry. BabyKid+Fimi exceeded its attendance expectations, with more than 3,600 multi-brand retailers from 40 countries. The main visitors came not only from European markets, such as Italy, Portugal and Poland, but also from the United States, Latin America, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.
The children's wear trade fair brought together 261 brands (161 of which were Spanish) from a total of 23 markets, occupying a total of 12,500 square meters.
"The internationalization of the event has to be a priority," said Gimeno, about the objective of positioning both the fair and the Spanish children's industry on the international map in order to find business opportunities outside the limited Spanish market. In line with this foreign outreach, the event was supported by ICEX (Instituto de Comercio Exterior) and IVACE (Institut Valencià de la Competitivitat Empresarial).
In Spain, the 298 brands that make up Asepri (National Association of Children's Brands) are expected to grow by 11% this year, returning to global pre-pandemic turnover figures of €1.17 billion. In terms of global production, 57% of fashion and footwear are exported, while only 38% of childcare products are exported. The main markets are Italy, Portugal, Greece, France, UK, Russia and Germany.
Optimistic return to the fairgrounds
"We have returned to the fair after several years and we are sure we will be back. All of our contacts are proving to be fruitful," said the French firm Orchestra, directed in Spain by David Aucouturier.
This positive feedback was shared by the Spanish children's footwear brand Pisamonas, which entered the business-to-business market last year.
"This is our first time here. Up until now, we had only participated in fairs in collaboration with fashion shows. We are very satisfied, but we have our sights set on the next edition," commented the company, pleased with the number of national visitors and "valuable agreements" closed.
The Monnuage brand agreed: "The fair has been a success. We have worked hard. We had a packed stand every day and we have made very valuable contacts".
Babidif and Portuguese firm Laranjinha, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, acknowledged their surprise at the optimistic return of the physical event.
"There has been a lot of movement, our expectations have been far exceeded," they said.
Meanwhile, Creaciones Charo highlighted closed agreements in international markets and having signed a "good distribution agreement with an Italian agent," while the accessories brand Siena underlined the attendees’ "desire to buy."
Finally, representatives of the firm Paz Rodríguez were happy about "future negotiations," consolidated with international customers.
Satisfaction was also heard in the conversations held within the aisles of Feria Valencia about childcare products.
"It's very nice to see that customers are eager again. We have had many export customers," said the Valencian brand Cambrass.
"We have gained many new customers and some have gone on to order directly from us," commented the firm Bimbi Dreams, which boasted one of the busiest stands, together with the iconic children’s brand, Chicco.
Doll brand Nines D'Oneil, German firm ABC Design and children's furniture specialist Micuna mentioned how the event was a revival of hope, while confirming their presence in next year's 2023 edition.
The children's wear market undergoing reorganization
While a new reality marked by the use of masks or tests required for entry to the fairgrounds was unsurprising to visitors, the children's fashion shows usually held at the fair were dearly missed by the attendees.
"We didn't want to take any unnecessary risks," explained the event's director about the difficulties of organizing a catwalk show safely with a 100 or so young children during a pandemic period.
Nevertheless, the shows will return to Feria de Valencia during the 8th edition of Día Mágico by Fimi, from May 13 to 15. The professional event dedicated to communion and ceremony fashion will bring together 60 brands from 26 countries and will see vaccinated children over the age of 12 parade down the catwalk. Fimi Summer Experience’s next edition will return to the Valencian fairgrounds a month later, between June 17 and 19.
Gimeno spoke bluntly on the post-pandemic state of children's fashion and the childcare sector: "The children's wear market is undergoing a complete reorganization," she explained, stressing that the closure of long-standing companies, even before the start of Covid-19, coincides with the birth of other digital native projects with a radically more sustainable character. But environmental responsibility and adaptation to new technologies are not the only challenges facing an industry forced to transform itself.
While the event's director emphasized the need to implement policies that favor the birth rate, she also stressed the need to "educate the consumers of the future from an early age", redesign physical stores into experiential meeting points and to learn how to better understand the adolescent customer; agile on social media platforms and a prone consumer of the Chinese giant Shein's fast-fashion.
The final challenge to keep in mind? Exploring strategies and business models to integrate second-hand sales into the brands themselves. Currently, brands don't have a handle on their second-hand products in an industry where children's needs change from month to month and where childcare products have a high price positioning.
"We need to get our act together," concluded Gimeno. As with the challenges related to the pandemic and digitalization, only companies capable of adapting to new realities will emerge victorious.
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