Every year from January to May, each of the major fur garment producing markets hosts an international fur exhibition designed to attract wholesalers and retailers from around the world. In the past, the fairs were more distinctive in their target visitor but as the fur trade became truly global, overlaps in both visitors and exhibitors developed and buying patterns and trends were discerned.
The 2014 fair season began in Beijing and in the months following, activities at the fairs were reflective of the ongoing issues within the industry itself as well as outside factors. It is important to reiterate that the mild winters in China, Russia, Korea and most of Europe took its toll on retail sales. This left high inventories of merchandise produced with pelts at last season’s record high prices.
BEIJING FUR FAIR – January 14-17: The Beijing Fair was held after the December sale at Kopenhagen and before the February auctions at KF and NAFA. The low clearances and inability to establish a price level for mink in December put this fair in a very precarious position. Attendance of overseas visitors, who are the main target of this exhibition, was down while there was a slight increase in local visitors.
The biggest issue was price. With no firm pelt price structure upon which to base the cost of a garment, negotiation between buyer and seller was near impossible. Pelt dealers found themselves in an even more difficult situation. The fair concluded with a “wait and see” philosophy and some optimism.
HONG KONG FUR FAIR – February 25-28: The mood of the trade definitely took an upswing following the NAFA auction. Mink prices appeared to be stable and confidence was returning to the industry. The Hong Kong Fair was considered successful in spite of the minor downturn in attendance and lower than anticipated confirmed orders reported by many manufacturers. Some buyers were said to be waiting to see pelt price levels attained at the March auction in Helsinki.
It should be noted that the Hong Kong Fair targets export business and this is traditionally not the time when the China mainland wholesalers and retailers order from Hong Kong based manufacturers. Thus, the downturn in buyers from Russia and Eastern Europe was felt. These markets still suffer from leftover inventories of expensive merchandise that have created cash flow problems that are compounded by their currency situation. However, 30% of the orders placed at the fair were attributed to Russian buyers.
The severe cold winter in the US was reflected with an increase in the number of American visitors along with an increase of orders reported to be 20-30% more than last year. Japan, Korea and Dubai also showed positive results.
It was apparent that manufacturers who offered garments in better quality fur and new, trendy lifestyle fashions fared the best. In several cases, orders were in excess of last year.
The Hong Kong Fair features the largest number of exhibitors of all fur exhibitions and the dollar volume of sales also exceeds all others.
MILAN FUR FAIR – March 4-7: With a history of being the fair for new fashion trends, the Milan Fair attracts many of the same buyers as Hong Kong but many more high end brands and boutiques shop the mainly European exhibitors here.
Some of the uncertainty from the Hong Kong Fair carried over to Milan. It was again the Russian and Eastern European buyers that were less than the previous year. The political turmoil that was unfolding in Ukraine during the fair caused further hesitation on the part of buyers.
Once again it was the top end garment manufacturers, of which there are many at this fair, who saw the most activity and collected the bulk of the orders.
Pelt dealers continued to be hampered by the uncertainties in the ranch mink sector. Sables, lynx cats, chinchilla and other luxury furs appeared to have more interest due to buyer confidence in these articles.
The many special events hosted by fair organizers, the IFF and individual exhibitors added to the excitement of the fair. The overall atmosphere was positive and buyers indicated that the new collections were quite desirable and they planned to place orders.
ATHENS FUR FAIR – March 27-30: The Athens Fair will offer further insight into market developments. This exhibition will take place after the sale in Helsinki at which time buying patterns will determine if there will be any change in the price structure or if stabilized at February levels.
The Athens Fair targets mainly Russian and Eastern European visitors but they are reaching out to Asian buyers as well. What transpires over the next two weeks within the fur trade as well as within the world political arena will affect the outcome of this fair.
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