E-tailer Zalando hosted the first “new” Bread & Butter in Berlin after BBB’s collapse as Europe’s dominant leisure-wear trade event. Around 25 leading sportswear brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, G-Star, Converse and others took brave initiative and substantial investment by creating impressive futuristic booths, offered visitors, who were end-consumers en large, possibilities to customize product and interact with the brands. Zalando did its best to entertain visitors by all means. However, if such big (and impressive) investments from brands will be seen in person by only 20,000 consumers (those were the officially reported visitor numbers), not industry professionals, the question arises, whether this justifies the costs. Of course, the goal was to reach consumers via all channels of the internet, but this will happen as well during B2B fairs.
Let’s for one moment take a step back and do the maths: compare the combined budgets present at trade-shows of global buyers from department-, multi-brand or bigger online store (like Zalando itself) and compare it to the effect of inviting 20,000 end consumers including their possible followers to an event. Where are guaranteed sales? What advances a brand globally?
It is clear, that there are marketing advantages. However, even using Gigi Hadid is short-term and relevant only for a certain market, and only substantially for the one brand using her, despite Tommy Hilfiger having done so very well.
Further, despite current efforts of many brands to desperately sell to consumers directly and cut middle-man to control all sales – do not forget, that such thinking got quite some big brands into existential trouble, such as the Sixty Group. Too many own stores, long leases for too much money, no more flexibility, not interesting enough by themselves to truly attract enough end consumers into the stores- to make it short: brands should concentrate on creating desirable and sellable fashion; Retailers should concentrate to market this fashion best and create environments of interest and pleasure, inspiring consumers to buy such products.
That is still the best working formula today, if done properly and adapted to today’s times with online-stores. Most major brick and mortar stores operate also an online store today and generate more online sales than offline sales in their traditional stores. But they need both to be successful and there is no way around these influential retailers in order to position a brand globally and long-term.
I do not have to remind this industry that the multiplier effect of the big retailers marketing a brand and a product correctly is substantial. Not only brands can use the power of digital influencers.
Don't make the mistake, some have done before, to put all eggs into one basked, but use this power retailers have and are curently inventing models to use this even more efficiently.
A further feature of this industry is to give smaller brands a chance, to advance those that bring varieties to the big ones and really make fashion a creative industry. Those do not have even a close shot at either building huge booths, nor paying digital influencers or even reaching a critical mass of end consumers. They still need retailers.
Don’t get me wrong: Zalando invested heavily, did a great job, but aimed clearly and solely to reach consumers. This Bread & Butter had nothing to do with the old one, a typical B2B fair, connecting and inspiring the industry.
How will Bread & Butter evolve? Zalando already said they will continue it. Brands do not have results yet to comment how happy they will be to return again.
In my mind, unless the concept will change into a B2B/ B2C event, Karl Heinz Müller’s correctly assumed but wrongly executed route, this will not be the perfect answer to today’s question how to market a brand successfully to consumers on a global level whilst generating the necessary sales. Don't forget – marketing and sales is not only B2C or B2B – it is all about the correctly balanced mix.
Publisher & Editor
WeAr Global Magazine