Trade shows flatter to deceive, but much of what is on show fails to makes its way to the store.

There have been a lot of reports that last week’s Bread & Butter, the casualwear megashow that takes place biannually in Berlin was not as well attended this season as in previous years. Whether this is true or not, wandering its aisles last week, it was hard not to marvel at the ingenuity that had gone into so many of the stands and to wonder, equally, why this is so infrequently seen in stores. This really was a showpiece for the art of the stand designer as much as the merchandise that was on display. And whether it was Hilfiger Hill (yes, a hill covered with fake grass on which winsome looking types showed-off the benefits of wearing clothes from the Hilfiger denim range…although they’d probably have looked good in anything) or the stand that had sprayed the skeletons at its entrance the same colour as the merchandise on the mannequins next to them, this was a visual feast for the eyes.

The real point about all of this perhaps was that creativity had been poured into almost every stand and probably for no better reason than that this is the most red of tooth and claw arena in which to operate. If your shout fails to convince here then it’s all been a complete waste of money. Yet curiously, it’s too often the case that this does not translate when the brands come to be displayed at retail. It’s not as if the high street is any less competitive - it might even be more so as consumers are notoriously fickle when it comes to buying a brand and then sticking with it.

Trade shows are, naturally, where brands put their best foot forward. Yet selecting as a result of a good-looking stand and then stacking the merchandise in neat piles in a somewhat lacklustre environment is often the way things go. Buyers and retailers may be seduced by the appearance of the merchandise at a show and then, for some almost totally inexplicable reason, be quite happy to overlook all of the strengths that made them inspect a range in the first place.

Fashion is a difficult sector in which to operate, but many retailers do seem more than capable of making it more difficult. Perhaps therefore, the next time you happen to be at a trade show that really makes you stop and look, consider why you’re doing so. It won’t be because of the merchandise.