An important entry is that of GianPaola Pedretti as the Exhibition Manager at Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags, who will take charge of the footwear and accessory marketplace strategy, while reinforcing the international role of the event of reference for the market. Strong from over 20 years of experience in Italy and abroad, GianPaola Pedretti in fact offers the Riva event her know-how and expertise acquired in the field of marketing (including digital marketing), strategy and public relations with stakeholders, so as to oversee the fair’s activities at 360 degrees (from the coordination of the commercial team to the management of exhibition spaces). The curriculum of GianPaola Pedretti in fact includes a 3-year period of working in Russia as an import-export representative for a local company, which allowed her to perfect her knowledge – in terms of management, and business and human resources management. This proved essential upon her re-entry to Italy when she decided to dedicate herself to the world of fairs. After an experience with the fair of Brescia, she worked for 16 years for Veronafiere, where she took on several roles: Exhibition Manager, head of internationalisation, business development, and strategic marketing. Today, as she becomes part of the Expo Riva Schuh-Gardabags team, she looks with innovation and internationalisation to the future of the event.  

What convinced you to become part of the big family that is Expo Riva Schuh?

The footwear and fashion industry were not part of my previous work experiences and so the project presented to me by Expo Riva Schuh was quite attractive right from the start, also for the novelty of it all. At the same time, Riva del Garda is an extremely beautiful place, with its lake and mountains, where you can’t help but have a pleasant time, and my team is very close-knit. However, that’s not all: Expo Riva Schuh is a fair with its own unique character, representing a completely Italian success. In fact, it’s a trade fair reality of relatively small dimensions compared to the worldwide trade fair panorama dominated by organisational bodies and trade fair complexes of large dimensions, who are generally the only ones capable of creating successful events of international scope. Despite this, the Riva event has shown itself capable – through the quality level of services offered and the specialisation achieved in the footwear industry – of proposing itself over time as the worldwide appointment of reference for the footwear industry. In this sense, you could even say that Expo Riva Schuh/Gardabags proposes itself as a kind of ‘boutique hotel’, capable of attracting an international pubic, while maintaining its small dimensions.

What are the fundamental key points of your ‘vision’ that you will focus your attention on the most?

First, buyers, by offering new and innovative services dedicated to buyers and increasingly breaking up the demand into segments, while matching supply with demand in the best way possible. Understanding exhibitors better from one end, while learning more about the desires of buyers from the other end, will increasingly help us to create the perfect ‘match’ between supply and demand, with the aim of transforming the fair into a perfect networking and business platform. The aim is for the fair to effectively become ‘the right place to be’, the place where you can meet up with the community, have a new experience, rediscover your world on a humane level, and naturally do business.

The other aspect on which I intend to focus my attention is innovation, so that Expo Riva Schuh can increasingly propose itself in the future not only as an extensive, beautiful, and complete showcase of products, but also as a bona fide motor of innovation for the sector. This year, in particular, at the end of January 2023, innovation will follow the pathway of sustainability and traceability for the product, with the aim of bringing footwear and leather goods to the same level of other sectors, which were the first to invest in fairs and which today find themselves more prepared.

The third element on which I would like to focus my attention and my efforts is inclusivity: I like to think that footwear is a consumer good that literally ‘fits’ all of humanity, with an extremely important impact on the lives of people. The fact that Expo Riva Schuh has always proposed itself as the fair of reference for volume footwear, means that it has always placed itself at the centre of the footwear offering that is part of the daily life of every person in the world, affecting the daily budget of each one of us. Here, we’re talking about a commodity that is very inclusive in and of itself. If you think about how we ‘fit the feet of the world’ at the Riva fair, it makes you reflect upon the role of the event itself. In this sense, we have a series of ‘surprise’ initiatives in the works, which are reserved for exhibitors and visitors…

For the next edition, is there an aspect that is especially important to you that you would like to work on in particular?

Without a doubt, the efforts that the fair is making, with the help of ICE and the Italian Government, in reinforcing incoming services for foreigners. This means tangibly setting up a specific programme for buyers and focusing with awareness not only on Europe, but also on non-European countries: I’m thinking for example about Africa (North and Central Africa), the centre of Asia, and the USA. It’s a novelty of great importance for exhibitors – who accordingly find themselves in a trade fair context of high-profile companies -, as well as for buyers – who can become part of the ‘community’ I mentioned before. This means that only at Riva, and in the context of the fair, can I find the products of interest to me and in demand by the market, while also meeting people from my sector coming from around the world: from Azerbaijan and the Ivory Coast, to the USA and Sweden. It’s only in the ‘here’ and ‘now’ can I meet up with the world of footwear.

A second aspect that is quite important to me and which has always characterised Expo Riva Schuh is the ‘widespread exhibition”. The fact that the fair is held not only in the pavilions of the fairgrounds, but also in the hotels of Riva del Garda, is of great added value and uniqueness. This is because unlike other well-known fairs, the city of Riva is in this case involved in offering not only leisure-like experiences outside of the fair, but also business experiences, which are held at the same time in both the trade fair halls and hotels.

Is there a show or initiative that especially struck you while travelling around the world and which influenced your future vision of Expo Riva Schuh-Gardabags?

Today, there is a lot of discussion, in the trade fair industry, about the new formats connected to the deep transformation that the entire world of fairs underwent following the outbreak of the pandemic. A transformation, which in my opinion, is destined to continue, because the way in which visitors and exhibitors ‘see the world’ has changed. Just think, for example of the blending between ‘real world’ and ‘digital world’, and of the possibility of doing business without travelling. In my opinion, what increasingly counts in the future is the experience that buyers and exhibitors can have at the fair, which is inextricably connected to ‘that place’ and ‘that time’. The ’here’ and ‘now’ typical of the physical trade fair accordingly become two assets of an experience that appears to be increasingly complex today, and which includes not only business, but also learning, networking, and randomness. What do I mean by randomness? When I search on the internet for a product, I look precisely for what I have in mind; when, instead, I am at the fair, I can also happen upon a stand that has products of interest to me, which I was not specifically looking for. This is of great added value to the physical experience of the fair. The ability to organise a trade fair is accordingly that of being able to insert in your offering a wide variety of products capable of replying to the needs of buyers, but also the market, with products that visitors might not even know yet are of interest to them.

In addition to the essential experience of participating in the fair, there is also the community. The community is reinforced over the course of the year on the platform, with a formula of ‘engagement’, which must be capable of conveying the experience of the fair for the entire year. This means creating distinct services for that specific market. We are working a lot in this direction with initiatives like the new Business Scout service, which is extremely well-appointed and made-to-measure for visitors.