January Parisian trade show programme disrupted by pandemic again
It was, at last, set to be business as usual. Trade show organisers knew that visitors from major overseas markets, especially those from Asia, might not be back in Paris in early 2022, but the January shows were meant to usher in a more favourable phase. However, the growing spread of the Omicron variant in France since the start of December has put a question mark on this positive outlook. A harsh blow for a sector that has proved to be resourceful and flexible in the course of the last two years, during which disruption and event cancellations have been the order of the day for show organisers.
Before the year-end festivities, trade show organisers in Germany announced they were switching to digital formats, or postponing their events. On December 27, French Prime Minister Jean Castex, with minister for health and social care Olivier Véran, introduced a series of new measures to fight the spread of the Covid-19 virus and its Omicron variant. The French government announced that “public gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 2,000 people when indoors, and 5,000 people outdoors.” The new regulations are effective from January 3, and the government indicated they will apply for at least three weeks.
French trade events for the fashion, lifestyle and home decoration sectors have reacted in different ways to these measures. The Maison&Objet show for lifestyle and home decoration products, scheduled on January 20-24 at the Villepinte exhibition centre in Paris, announced on December 28 it was postponing the session to March 24-28. Show organiser SAFI said that the decision was taken because new measures introduced in France and a number of other countries raised questions on how many visitors would attend. They also noted that the rapid spread of the virus is having a direct impact on exhibitors.
“Hit by the virus surge, many among the 1,700 exhibitors who had confirmed their participation stated that they don’t want to put their staff at risk, and warned about the disruptions they are facing in their business operations: mandatory isolation rules, even if the people in question are vaccinated, and repeated work stoppages are beginning to play major havoc with the functioning of services, supply flows and manufacturing operations for these companies,” indicated Maison&Objet in a press release, adding that “given the situation, and keen to avoid any risk, while committed to do the utmost to ensure an optimal return on the exhibitors’ investment, SAFI has decided to postpone the next session of the Maison&Objet show to March 24-28 2022, when we hope to situation will have improved.”
SAFI also stated that the Maison&Objet In The City event, consisting of a series of meetings held at various key Parisian showrooms, will take place on March 23-28 2022.
Another major Parisian trade event, scheduled at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre and aggregating the Who's Next, Traffic, Bijhorca and Impact shows, will instead go ahead as planned on January 21-24. The event is called Race 4 Fashion and will be staged in the centre’s halls 5 and 6. Organiser WSN Développement, which in the last two years has managed to hold a number of events, indicated that it fully complies with the health protection measures necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of exhibitors and visitors. Using hand-sanitizer and wearing masks will be mandatory at the show’s forthcoming session. “From January 15, the Covid vaccine pass scheme will enter into force in France: access to our events will therefore only be possible for people who are fully vaccinated,” stated WSN Développement in a note issued on December 30.
For the time being, the French government has indicated that the only limitation to public events is the restriction on attendance numbers. The majority of Parisian trade shows, including Tranoï, Man/Woman and View, whose attendance is smaller than that of Maison&Objet, are still set to go ahead as scheduled. If no additional measures will be announced, the French capital’s trade shows are expected to be able to welcome local and foreign visitors during the next Paris men’s fashion week.
The new regulations announced in France at the end of December prompted a response from Unimev, the French association of event organisers, which lamented measures that “once again put the trade fair, show, congress, corporate and sporting event sectors at risk.” The industry already appealed for governmental support for its members in early December, and has issued a new call for state financial aid. “In January 2022 alone, 130 events have already been cancelled, for a loss of revenue of €1 billion, and an equivalent one in terms of local economic spin-offs. We began operating again only a short while ago, and since then we have demonstrated our ability to adapt, notably by adopting stringent, reassuring health protocols. But repeated start-and-stops are unmanageable for a business sector that needs visibility over a period of months. For more than two years, activity in the event industry has nearly ground to a halt, causing the sector huge losses that will further increase owing to these new measures, which are unfair and don’t provide for compensation,” said Unimev.
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