The Interview: Juls Dawson, founder Just Around The Corner (JATC) and JUST Consultancies
The Just Around The Corner (JATC) trade shows at Manchester’s Freight Island on 2-3 August, and east London’s Truman Brewery on 7-9 August have just wrapped. We ask JUST Consultancies fashion agency owner and JATC organiser, Juls Dawson, what he’s learnt from the latest shows and what he has planned for the future.
What have been your real learnings from the Manchester and London SS23 shows?
We are only just off the blocks in our journey and are learning all the time, so with this being only our third season we have several lessons to take on board and strive to improve our event season on season. In Manchester, we learnt that the Freight Island venue, albeit super cool, isn’t suitable for a trade event, and it looks like we have a much more suitable alternative, still central and an industrial setting but one set up for our kind of exhibition.
Personally, and for my team, I won’t be doing back to back dates again, as it's too much of a strain on my incredible team. We all need a well deserved rest now!
Which would you say was the most successful and why?
That’s difficult to say. I would say London feels like it was a real success in the end, albeit the strangest of shows as traditionally the first two days are the best in a three day show, whereas with SS23 London, after a sluggish start each day got better and better, and in the end there were still plenty of people writing orders and browsing when we were trying to close the show.
What will you look to change for each?
With the next round happening in winter, I need to ensure that we have ample lighting for all and I am prepared to invest in whatever it takes to ensure all stands are well lit.
What about show timings and what days the shows are on?
I think our hours of opening are perfect, but I do think we need to take on board feedback we have had about how Sundays are no longer the busiest days of trade shows.
One menswear exhibitor said the London show would be better if it was mid-July, but a womenswear exhibitor said the timing was perfect, how will you tackle the divide?
Undoubtedly it is difficult to keep everyone happy when you span so many categories and genders, but we will definitely learn from this season and move earlier in the calendar which will suit the majority. We couldn’t have foreseen when we booked the venues that this season many men’s brands would close so early due to recent concerns about supply chain issues. Personally, having sold menswear for over 20 years, I have never seen brands close so early as this year.
What have been the main concern from exhibitors?
I would say foot flow. We are up overall by 30%, but this was driven by growth with womenswear buyers. By moving earlier, this will encourage more men’s buyers to attend like they did earlier this year for our AW22 shows where attendance was strong.
What have exhibitors been very happy with that they’d like to see more of?
Offering complimentary drinks, food, coffee etc. to all really is appreciated. The way we present the brands is also well received as everyone is on a level playing field without the days of old of brands trying to out do each other with costly builds.
How do you intend to grow the show?
From next season we will be set up for brands to apply for contribution towards costs with several European embassies, so although we are already accessibly priced as a show, it will enable many more brands to join the mix. This will also enable many of our existing brands to double or even triple their footprint within the show for the same investment, and it will also allow many more brands to participate in both Manchester and London.
We have also been asked by one of our largest exhibitors (with 15 brands) to take our concept to Paris and Berlin, but I need to sit on a beach for a week now and assimilate my thoughts as I am rather exhausted after two shows back-to-back in the UK, never mind taking it to mainland Europe! Luckily, I have a family holiday booked this weekend.
What areas will you be adding for the AW23 shows and SS24 shows?
We are looking to create a new zone for beauty, skincare and fragrance for AW23 and have brought in an industry specialist to curate this zone, Karen Berman.
Why are beauty, fragrances and homewares now on your radar to add in?
Most of these categories don’t currently have a home from a trade show perspective, or certainly one that gets them in front of an audience such as ours, so it seems there is a massive opportunity for JATC to cater for brands from these sectors.
What areas will you be looking to grow and why?
We have trialled lifestyle and jewellery this season which has worked well for the brands who debuted with us and word is spreading as we have already half a dozen enquiries in this sector.
We also launched resort, swim and lingerie with 15 brands. There used to be a hotel show pre-Covid for these brands and agencies but now, having tested our format, they seem very keen to make us their London trade event going forward. They will hopefully return next season along the rest of their peers. Because of the nature of the product, we will give these categories their own room, and for January/February, due to the seasonality of this product, the focus will encompass nightwear too.
The womenswear offer seems to have been the biggest hit from the summer shows, with The Edit seemingly popular, has that taken you a bit by surprise?
Womenswear, after all, is the larger section of our industry. Not only that, womenswear buyers will travel to multiple shows in one season to find new brands and actually write orders. This is less prevalent in menswear, so come on fellas - get with the programme and support us!
How do you intend to build on that success?
We will continually add new brands to our events as it is important to offer buyers the opportunity to discover newness as well as seeing their regular brands.
Do you now see JATC as a real contender to take on the likes of Pure and Scoop in both the commercial womenswear and more premium womenswear sectors?
Without sounding blasé, I think we successfully established ourselves in the commercial womenswear sector and now have credibility with brands and buyers alike. We have a raison d'être for both women’s tiers in Manchester as we are the only fashion event in the North West. However, in London, Scoop does a great job for a lot of brands and does it well, so I would hope we can be an additional outlet for premium womenswear as I think there is space for two players.
How did footwear perform at the shows?
The majority of exhibitors were happy by the end of the shows as foot flow steadily improved in both locations from an independent perspective. We also open them up to a different audience from Harrogate and Moda, plus all the key accounts including footwear departments and specialist stores came along.
Is that something you are looking to grow?
Of course we want to grow this area as we are only just scratching the surface and it has huge potential.
Footwear shows are traditionally later in the season, with new season samples coming in later, hence why Micam in Milan isn’t until 18 September, so how do you plan to accommodate the growth of the footwear area?
As previously mentioned, it’s very hard to keep everyone content with dates, and to be honest many footwear brands closed their books even earlier this season. For example, we carry Fila footwear and that closed three weeks ago. Supply chain issues have affected footwear more than most categories, especially if produced in the Far East.
Anything else you care to mention about JATC going forward?
We have always been an order writing show and really want to drive this message home going forward, so we will be asking brands next season if they want to participate in a scheme to offer 5% discount on orders placed at the shows which will encourage more buyers to visit and place at the show.
Read our review of JATC London here.
Read our review of JATC Manchester here.