Las Vegas trade show season 2/08

When we talk about going to MAGIC, that’s only part of it. As you may have noticed, there’s other shows going on, planned to coincide with it. Some are affiliated with MAGIC and others are off-site in various hotels. Actually, some reps show in meeting rooms of hotels or even hospitality suites but you need an invitation to find out about those. That’s actually how Pool started, in a hotel room. Come to think of it, that’s how the MAGIC trade show started in 1933. MAGIC stands for Men’s Apparel Guild in California. A bunch of sales reps of men’s apparel felt they were getting short shrift in California so they started their own thing in Las Vegas out of adjoining hotel rooms. Now of course, MAGIC (acquired by Advanstar, a professional trade show corporation) shows everything under the sun. Except CAD systems and machines. I wish they could get equipment dealers there. Ditto for more fabric suppliers. It’d be cool if they had a small company pavilion too. One can dream.

I tried to collect information on all the shows but it’s hard. There is no multi-show directory for Las Vegas which I think is a business opportunity for someone. With all the shows at local hotels in addition to MAGIC itself, there’s no way one can easily organize themselves unless they know about given shows in advance in order to register for them. Likewise, such a directory would be immensely valuable if it included shuttle information. From MAGIC, you can take a bus to a number of local hotels but as you may imagine, MAGIC doesn’t willingly facilitate shuttle service from the convention center to the outlying shows. So, if you happen to be staying at a hotel that is hosting a competing show, few will be able to get a shuttle from MAGIC. There’s ways around it of course, but it’s all word of mouth (why a directory would be useful). I had a devil of a time getting to the Rio to see the WWIN show but I’m really glad I did even though it was a lot of hassle (I took the shuttle to Harrah’s; which is a sister property to the Rio and they shuttle between themselves). I found out later that the Rio picks up and drops off in front of the Hilton next to the convention center which surprised me because Hilton hosts MAGIC’s overflow. Remember that for next August. Actually, WWIN and the KIDShow will be at the Riviera next time; they outgrew the Rio. And speaking of the next event in August, MAGIC is going to three days rather than four. Everyone seems to be pleased with this. I haven’t heard if Advanstar will be adjusting booth fees in consideration :). Who knows? If they lower their rates, maybe more will show so it could all come out in the end.

Here’s the list of shows as best as I could gather. The ones with an asterisk are the ones I attended. I didn’t list all of the various categories within MAGIC (again, owned by Advanstar) unless they had a clearly separate identity. Personally, I don’t see the difference between WWDMAGIC and MAGIC, they seem the same to me but they’re marketed as autonomous but adjoining shows. It may boil down to a matter of revenue sharing.

Next I’ll describe some overall generic impressions of the Las Vegas trade show season this time around. I plan to cover each show more in depth, maybe not as separate entries but this entry became too long to put them all here. I’m also waiting for more trip reports from F-I attendees and exhibitors to trickle in once people get situated after aggregating orders and acclimating to the office after a week away.

Exhibitor Reactions:
Everybody (exhibitors) said their opening day was good (openings were staggered) with attendance falling off subsequent days, most notably when Project started on Wednesday. Buying seemed to pick up on each show’s last day in spite of lighter traffic. I’m thinking that means buyers were taking the time to shop all of the shows before coming back and committing to new vendors.

Exhibitors said buyers seemed to be favoring the purchase of items closer to season, a continuation of what’s solidifying into a long term trend. Part of that trend is driven by the push to lean and/or fast fashion a la H&M and Zara, but this time, it seems to be augmented with buyer uncertainty about the economy over the next six months. Some actually mentioned they expected the tax rebate to benefit them. Do you think that’s true? I wonder how many other industries are claiming that money.

Several exhibitors mentioned they were surprised at the increase in foreign buyers, with most notably Japanese buyers picking up higher end kid’s clothes, denim (Project), premium tees (Project) and accessories (the latter trend isn’t new). If it matters, NPD Group is forecasting higher growth in children’s wear over any other category.

On whether a particular show was good for a given exhibitor, as you can expect, this was a mixed bag depending on the venue and the product line. Many said that traffic was down and that while they were doing okay or even up from last year, that “everybody” else was doing less business.

In talking with DEs newly launching, I was surprised at how many of them had taken orders (there’s no shame in launching or showing a couple of times before you take an order because buyers want assurances you’ll make delivery). Still, buyers at independent stores favor smaller vendors for variety in styling and lower minimums. This seemed to hold true with exhibitors too, who said they were taking more orders from smaller stores. One exhibitor mentioned that internet retailers were more evident this time around. Be cautious who you sell to; that their site is established and that they sell products complimentary to yours already. Just because you write an order at market, doesn’t mean you have to fill it. Be wary of windfalls. Go back home, regroup and check out your buyers, most especially internet stores, as you’re able (ask around to see who’s bouncing checks, boxes or paying late). If you have to cancel because you’re unsure about the buyer, do it quickly. However unworthy you think the buyer is, give them the consideration of replacing your order with another vendor.

Buyer Reactions:
I’m getting mixed messages on this. As can be expected, buyers said they were less willing to risk buying from untried vendors but.. (more further down). Several buyers told me that late deliveries are killing them more than ever. With the warmer weather and depending on the region, the selling window for fall products is shorter and they want goods at the start of the season(!). Delivering two weeks, three weeks or even a month late isn’t something the smaller stores can absorb anymore -if they ever could. Large stores of course will just return the goods, issue chargebacks or demand significant discounts. Smaller stores have less to bargain with, they need to fill those racks and they’re feeling justifiably squeezed to get goods in the door. Try to keep up those timely deliveries folks; there’s got to be a healthy balance here. While buyers hope you’ll carry inventory so they can order at the last minute, it’s not fair that you’re expected to absorb what is in effect, financing and warehousing of their inventory. Whatever you do, be clear about delivery dates and meet or beat them.

Another thing that “everybody” (buyers) were saying, was that “everybody” (else) was going to be buying more conservatively and that the styles they would select were also going to be conservative too. Just what that means is anyone’s guess. One guy was telling me this as he fingered a neon purple plastic laminate coochie-baring mini-skirt, saying he bought it because it’d sell well for his store. In Topeka Kansas. This same buyer also said the Off-Price Show (I didn’t attend) was really good, that he was pleasantly surprised. He said there were a lot of US vendors there with immediates, not from offshore like in the past. While he may have been happy, I’m not sure that’s good news.

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  1. bethany says:

    Great post! I was surprised by your comments on shipping. I am shipping this week and have been calling stores to get credit cards and many of them are complaining that all the merchandise is coming at the same time and a few even pushed their orders a week or two! Maybe it is different with children’s clothing, or maybe the weather is still bad across the USA, but so far, nobody seemes too hurried to get their merchandise. I also offered two shipping dates for my Spring 2008 line: 1/15-2/1 and 2/15-3/1 and nobody wanted the goods in January, so I dropped that shipping date.

    However, I agree that stores are buying much closer to season. Nobody even wanted to see my Fall stuff, let alone write it. That is why I have decided to do four smaller collections instead of two larger ones: so I always have a collection for the buyers to preview.

  2. dosfashionistas says:

    I was interested to note that the off-price show takes place at the same time as MAGIC. If I ever get big enough on eBay, I will be hitting that show. It’s good to know I could be going to other shows at the same time.

    From what I am seeing on the bulk auctions on eBay, there is a good bit of left over merchandise that jobbers, etc are trying to get rid of. I have made some buys this year that I would never have found a year ago. Fortunately, while my sales in December were way low, January was better and February is starting out better yet. I know I am speaking from a retail standpoint, while most of your readers are doing wholesale…but how is everyone else doing?

  3. vicki says:

    I agree with Bethany. Last fall the buyers were ordering for Spring and definitely wanted the January ship date. But so far, I am hearing from the stores exactly what she said. Very few are in a hurry to get their merchandise and are delaying the shipments & payment.

    At the January show in Atlanta, I wrote orders almost entirely for Spring/Summer. Most wanted to wait until April to even think about ordering for Fall.


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