PSA: Don’t go to Magic to buy fabric

I’m publishing this PSA because five weeks from now, I’m going to hear a lot of complaints from people who went to Magic to source fabric. It is the same every year. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I say this, do not go to Magic for the purpose of buying fabric.

Don’t get me wrong, Magic is a great show. I think everyone should go to Mecca at least once in their lives but you don’t go to Magic to buy fabric. The primary intent of Magic and its satellite shows is for retail buyers. Designers and manufacturers lease space there to have the opportunity to sell wholesale clothes, accessories etc to stores. Any designer who thinks that Magic is like a Super-Store that should serve their needs from soup to nuts is missing the point. Yes, Magic is a soup to nuts solution but it is soup to nuts for wholesale buyers of clothes not wholesale sellers of clothes.

I’m not saying you cannot buy fabric or maybe even find contractors there but if sourcing is your primary motivation for going, very few of you will have your expectations met. You have to consider why the sourcing section even started. It was started so that buyers (stores) -not sellers like you- could arrange for the possibility of private labeling to fill out their merchandising mix. In other words, Magic is still the (store) buyer’s market. Now, because the sourcing segment was developed to serve as a one stop shop for store buyers to fill out their merchandising mix, there isn’t going to be much variety in the way of fabrics or even product types. Store buyers are looking to fill broad requirements like low cost white tees, black ladies dress slacks or value priced children’s hosiery. Whatever will fill in the gaps between the inventory they buy from you and other manufacturers. Stores that use the sourcing section at Magic will not be providing patterns and designs to any contractors there. At best they will select from samples provided in the booths and have it made up in basic colorways available to them. That’s it. Now if that’s what you also want to do then go for it. However, if you want design flexibility or low minimums, the vendors at the show won’t be very helpful because their target customer (store buyers) are not interested in that to the extent you are.

As designers, you should attend a wholesale market show like Magic well before you ever lease a booth (anything else is insanity). You go to get the lay of the land, see how people in your niche display, sell and promote their products et cetera. Attending Magic and its satellite shows is a very worthwhile expenditure of your time and money as long as you don’t have the expectation that you will be able to meet all of your purchasing needs too. At least that’s how it is now. I am certain that the tradeshow management would love to provide more solutions for people like you too but they aren’t there yet.

Lastly, if you plan to attend a trade show for whatever reason, you should read all the trade show reviews of it you can. I don’t know of another site that publishes as many reviews as we do on F-I but there has got to be at least 30 separate reviews of Magic and all its satellite tradeshows on this site.

Sorry to be such a nag but now I have a post I can send people links to…and if you’re interested in meeting people from Fashion-Incubator at February’s Magic show, be sure to let everyone know you’re coming.

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  1. Rhonda Bell says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have been thinking about going to Magic to get an idea of what it is like to sell to retail customers. When I saw the sourcing part, I thought that could be a good place to help me find resources. I’m glad you cleared that up for me.

  2. Bente says:

    No sales Reps. or stores I have interviewed would suggest I show my line in Magic. It’s seams like it’s not the place for Children’s wear. Also very few retail stores ever go there! Most of them go to LA, ENK, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas.
    Besides: I don’t think I would enjoy Las Vegas much..who knows; never been there..

  3. Rhonda Bell says:

    Thanks for posting this. I had plans to attend Magic (if I could qualify to get in). The sourcing part interested me, but I don’t think it is a right fit for me now. I’d still like to go to get an idea of actually being a wholesale vendor. But I’m still early in the process.

  4. Peter says:

    I used to attend MAGIC regularly when I worked for a retailer. In addition to being a resource to find wholesale suppliers, it can also be a great resource for design and trend inspiration – especially with Pool, Project, etc. being added.

  5. Victoria Kathrein says:

    Yep Yep. I have been there. Only go to MAGIC to source if you are ready to buy 1000 yards of fabric per item with a 3000 minimum order. DO GO TO MAGIC to find out that you are most like NOT READY to attend MAGIC as a wholesaler. You will feel like a twig in the ocean.

  6. Jane says:

    Oh, thank you, Kathleen. I totally agree and you just saved me an hour of explaining to a few new designers why it’s not a good idea to go there to source fabrics! I’m just gonna send them to this post so they can read it for themselves! I can hit the sack now. Awesome.

  7. Harmony says:

    Thanks Kathleen! I have been to “Mecca” partly to see if I should (as an organic fabric supplier/designer) have a booth there. I walked away saying… no, thank you. The sourcing section was dismal and downright scary…

    Might have any suggestions of GOOD shows to go to for sourcing fabrics? I have had a booth at the LA Textile Show and at Material World. Are there others worthy of my time and $$?

  8. Hepzibah says:

    What does anyone think about Spesa and Texworld for sourcing goods? After alot of reading on this topic my conclusion is before I souce to make samples to sell, I want to go to a trade show like Magic to get a feel for what it would be like to market myself in this style.

  9. Kathleen says:

    Re: Magic for kids wear. I’d agree with Bente that it doesn’t seem to be as vibrant as other options. I reiterate for people commenting here or reading this entry to read the tradeshow reviews published on this site. We’ve covered most of them and several times -including kids shows.

    Harmony, I’m not up on the fabric shows. The last one I went to was in Paris (2008 premiere vision) so it mostly doesn’t count. Assessing fabric shows is difficult anyway because everyone is looking for something different and if it’s not their show, they will say it’s bad when the truth is, it’s not their show. Case in point, sourcing at Magic is great -if you’re a retailer. The best thing to do is to confer with others in your same niche to see what shows are best for them. Since you sell fabric, maybe road reps are an option? Maybe you have some already, I don’t know.

    Hepzibah, I’m on the fence about when to attend a trade show just to poke around. Some people have never been or only went after they’d been producing a number of years (and have never shown there) and they are doing quite well by anyone’s standards (millions in sales etc). I wouldn’t want a green DE to become discouraged by how put together lines seem to be at Market.

    Considering all the changes in the market, if it were me, I’d sell what I could on my own (via sales reps and/or consumer direct) for a few years until I got most of the kinks worked out of my operation and developed a semblance of a supply chain together before I’d ever show at market. And even then, I’d show at WWIN, not Magic because the former is more attuned to where I envision the line fitting best. Your mileage may vary.

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