How was business at Playtime Paris last week? Brands share their opinion, speaking about signs of recovery, increased volumes ordered, lack of French buyers, growth of Asian visitors…all in a rather positive and optimistic tone.

“Playtime was great!” comment Akiko Mukae of US brand Atsuyo et Akiko, at Playtime Paris, the children’s trade show, for the 6th time. “We saw our usual clients for re-orders, and we opened 14 new accounts including 5 stores in Paris”.

Her enthusiasm was shared by Nickey Thrussell of Miller : “We had a really good show, we were very happy with how Miller performed”.  Yanina Aubrey from UK brand Aravore was similarly positive: “We saw some signs of recovery. Increased optimism among buyers in spite of the toughness of the last couple of SS seasons”.  Hucklebones owner and designer Zoë Goldsmith echoed these remarks, saying “We had a fantastic response to our SS14 collection at Playtime (…). It was about making new business connections and we picked up some fantastic new accounts this season while there”.

If some brands found the show a bit slower and less well attended than past editions, they also mentioned an increase in the quality of buyers. “Quantity of buyers aside, we have observed that the quality of buyers has strengthened. The visitors had real projects and were truly interested in the brand, whether from France or abroad. Although we lost some visitors, it was still a quality trade show” says Arnaud Bayeux of French label Pom d’Api. Similarly, Cristina Alvarez, International Marketing Manager of Feiyue said: “It was a little quiet compared to last season. Although there was less traffic, clients placed more orders and we had the chance to make new press contacts so the balance is positive”.

Playtime has a reputation for being very international, but where are the buyers coming from?  Everyone seemed to agree that Asian buyers were on the rise, French buyers decreasing, and Middle Eastern buyers also relatively fewer. “We saw mainly European, Asian and US buyers. As the timing was during Ramadan we did not see any Middle Eastern customers” remarked Joanna Binder, CEO of Marie-Chantal.

On her side, Yanina Aubrey noticed a growing number of South Korean buyers, but also, growing numbers from South East Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore) as well as HK. She comments: “There were less Japanese buyers though and the weak Yen has probably a lot to do with it…For the first time in a few years, we also noticed a growing number of American buyers returning to Europe”.

“We have received more Asian customers than any other season before” says Arnaud Bayeux.

Being able to sell to a global clientele is very important for many brands. Zoe Goldsmith points out that the Asian markets and Middle East are allowing her business to grow, that having a global following ensures a more stable platform for her brand.  “Listening to feedback from all over the world also allow us to tailor the product to create both directional and diverse collections”, she adds.

For Atsuyo et Akiko, new accounts came from France, the Netherlands, UK, Denmark, Korea and Japan.  For Pom d’Api, they came from France, Japan, Korea, Belgium, Denmark and Austria, while for US brand Lucky Fish, exhibiting at Playtime for the second time, they came from France, Spain, Germany and Greece. Feiyue mentioned new accounts from France, Canada and the UK.

Playtime Paris has, after 7 years of existence, become the international leader for young, independent brands, and as important as the well respected Pitti Bimbo, founded in 1975. Launched in 2001 by the Princess of Greece, Marie-Chantal exhibited at Pitti for many years before joining Playtime Paris. “Pitti as always focused on heritage, established and more classic brands. Playtime has fewer brands – mostly child specific with a focus on smaller, niche and up and coming brands in an arty and informal atmosphere. The set-up, visual merchandising and organisation of the two shows are very different and therefore have a more varied appeal. Pitti gives the opportunity for each brand to create its own space and environment whilst Playtime is very understated and open”, comments Joanna Binder of Marie-Chantal.

Clear days ahead for the industry on this side of the world? Behind the optimistic comments, Yanina Aubrey notices a certain inertia in buying habits : “We felt that Europe is slowly showing signs of improvement. However, many buyers are sticking to their usual buying formula instead of trying to anticipate new trends and changes in consumer preferences. This might seem safe now, but might backfire in the medium term and once recovery sets in”. A comment worth sharing with retailers around Europe, isn’t it?

On the visitors side, Thorunn Anspach and Olivier Bremond of  Kisan concept store in Soho, New York found Playtime definitely inspiring, even if they have no space for additional brands at the moment (they currently carry 12 children’s collections).  They particularly appreciated the collection of Caramel Baby and Child that they qualified of really beautiful and different. I asked how business is at the moment in New York.  Here’s their answer : “It is quite good, nothing to complain about… But culturally, very few people are willing to spend money on kids clothes. We mostly sell kids collections to New Yorkers. Otherwise, visitors spending money in New York are mostly South Americans and Australians”.

Thanks to everyone for their participation.