MIPEL 123, a return to normalcy with confidence
From February 19th to 22nd in Milan, MIPEL returns with its 123rd edition. The usual exhibition dedicated to leather goods and fashion accessories presents an important edition devoted to FW 2023/24 collections in the sign of a market trend that seems to have resumed a positive path, despite all the uncertainties arising from the global socio-economic context. For this reason, MIPEL123 outlines itself as a fundamental appointment for insiders and to better understand its expectations, perspectives and news, we spoke with Franco Gabbrielli - President of Assopellettieri and with two historical MIPEL exhibitors, Mara Visonà - CEO Plinio Visonà and Roberto Briccola President of Bric's Industria Valigeria Fine.
MIPEL123 opens its doors in the light of the latest industry data that recorded a positive first half of the year with an increase for industrial production of +12.4% and turnover of +15%, supported by recoveries on the domestic market (+12.2%) and especially exports (+18.3% in value, despite a significant slowdown, in terms of volume, in April and May 2022). "The situation is positive," says Franco Gabbrielli, "there has been a rebound after the pandemic crisis that reassures us, but it is difficult to be completely so because of the uncertainty of the future, so optimism yes, but with caution" A view shared by Mara Visonà (Plinio Visonà) according to whom "leather goods, like many other sectors is benefiting from a positive rebound, post covid" with benefits both on the domestic market and on exports. More specific is the point of view of Roberto Briccola of Bric's who stresses, "what is happening in the world is unfortunately becoming the norm and we really have to navigate by sight" and then testifies that the data referring to the luggage sector are not overlapping with those of the handbags segment but, in general, confirms a definite positive trend in 2022 compared to the previous two years.
With this in mind, MIPEL123 can play an important role in supporting brands in the difficult recovery because historically it has always been a benchmark for buyers from around the world. But what is the real added value of the fair for exhibitors? "Bric's has just turned 70 and we have participated in all but one edition of MIPEL," Roberto Briccola tells us. "We have always supported the event because it offers a view on the international market where we can find new potential customers and surprising contacts. The approach to the fair has changed compared to many years ago, the goal is not to cash in on orders but to showcase and compare with colleagues and clients to understand the direction of the market." Of a slightly different opinion is Mara Visonà according to whose experience, "MIPEL is still a fair where you 'write' and gather concrete contacts to place new orders." Visonà is also a long-standing partner: "We have been participating for forty years, as many as eighty editions! - the company's CEO tells us - We believe that it is an unmissable appointment for our international clientele who see in the fair the opportunity to view the most interesting Made in Italy leather goods and footwear collections in the area."
The imminent arrival of the Milan show also raises the bar of expectations for its protagonists. According to Mara Visonà, the return to the "full" formula of four days in attendance will be an advantage with the hope "of the return of American and Asian buyers, while in pre-pandemic times, the reference buyers were mainly Europeans and Russians." Briccola also places emphasis on the shift in the center of gravity of its clientele from Asia to the United States as a result of the prolonged Chinese lockdown that has actually downsized this slice of Bric's market: "We know that the next edition of MIPEL will lack the Chinese buyers who were our reference buyers in the pre-Covid era. Now that role falls to the U.S. where we have been present for 20 years anyway. We are curious to present our new collections and see how the market will react."
Chapter marketplace and online fairs. After the favor met by the start-up MIRTA, the partnership between Mipel the digital showroom is confirmed for the 123 edition as well. So virtual editions of fairs have been useful in supporting brands over the past two years? Mara Visonà expresses deep satisfaction and says that "during the pandemic the value of digital marketplaces was discovered and touched. They have been the innovation that has stimulated many of our companies to relaunch and restructure their online sales channels both with their own e-shops and with platforms such as MIRTA." It is now an indispensable resource according to Visonà for whom "digital marketplaces are now the complement to physical exhibitions." Roberto Briccola's view is different, still tied for generational reasons to the traditional way of doing business: "Anything that is virtual I consider to be impractical by definition. We have made some attempts to participate in online trade shows, but I have a hard time considering them still important resources. My son who is 30 years younger than me and works in the company, however, thinks differently. For me, the fair is always presence, confrontation, handshakes. But I realize that online presence is now an irreversible process.
We close with the final thought of Assopellettieri President Franco Gabbrielli, who on the eve of MIPEL123 expresses confidence despite the difficulties of the moment: "Our entrepreneurs are masters and we verified this even during the pandemic. Where in other countries companies have been able to rely on long-term state structural plans and subsidies, in Italy we have faced a very different reality. The Italian entrepreneur is more responsive in adversity because of his skills. So I am hopeful for the near future as well."