When MAGIC International unbolts the doors to the Las Vegas Convention Center on Feb. 17, buyers and vendors will face more than the latest fall fashion. They’ll also be dealing with a flurry of bracing financial figures — from slumping retail sales and rising unemployment to wobbly consumer confidence and an uptick of corporate bankruptcies — that, to say the least, hardly encourage a shopping spree.


Still, the show must go on. With an eye turned toward better merchandise, the semiannual trade expo plans to unveil new sections for premium and contemporary fashion, eco-friendly apparel and higher-end accessories. At the same time, MAGIC International folded the casual category into the larger section for women’s sportswear and dresses. It also closed its intimates show, cosponsored with Lingerie Americas, after the namesake partner decided to retreat from the U.S. market. In addition, MAGIC relocated its young men’s showcase, including streetwear and S.L.A.T.E. at MAGIC, to the Central Hall of the LVCC.

“The apparel industry is changing constantly,” explained Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC International, of the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based organization’s job to reshuffle space on the show floor. “We need to continue to evolve.”

What remains most constant at MAGIC is the emphasis on value. MAGIC International insists that value is paramount, despite its new focus on Premium, where it will group premium denim and contemporary fashion targeted at retailers such as American Rag Cie, Scoop, Barneys Co-op and Neiman Marcus, as well as White in the accessories section, where wholesale prices may start at $200.

“Obviously, retailers and consumers are looking for what they buy [to have] value,” DeMoulin acknowledged. “The price point might be higher, but they’re still looking for value in those areas.”

MAGIC International has taken steps to reduce prices for exhibitors and attendees. It will install a turnkey booth system whereby a large or medium-size exhibitor can have a pre-prepared booth that organizers said is more cost effective than building their own setup. The basic booths will cost less than usual. As Sin City has fallen victim to the recession, MAGIC International has successfully negotiated with some hotels to decrease their rates to as little as $45 a night.

Logistics aside, it’s all about the product at the end of the day. As Project Global Trade Show grew over the years to encompass about 1,300 brands at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, the line differentiating what should be shown at Project was blurred. With Project’s move to Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino for the coming run in Las Vegas, the space available for brands will shrink. MAGIC International will pick up the denim and sportswear collections that Project left off by launching Premium, which will be held over the same three-day period that WWDMAGIC and MAGIC Man will take place.

Featuring as many as 70 brands, including Betsey Johnson, Dolce Vita, Farylrobin and Royal Plush, Premium at WWDMAGIC will be spread across 6,000 square feet in the middle of North Hall. On the men’s side in Central Hall, Premium at MAGIC will reserve more than four times the space for brands including 191 Unlimited, It Jeans, Jonathan Logan and Marithé & François Girbaud. Brands that offer clothes for men and women will show at Premium at MAGIC, while Premium at WWDMAGIC will revolve around women’s-only lines.

Premium could address the needs of vendors such as New York-based Evol. In August, Evol displayed its edgy T-shirts retailing for $40 at Chrome, a new section that was billed to compete with Project. Yet, tucked behind the action sports and streetwear-centric S.L.A.T.E. section, Chrome was difficult to find, proving to be a disappointment for Evol.

“I think the real problem is there are certain brands out there that fall between MAGIC and the Project show,” said Roy Pachinsky, vice president of Evol. “We’re an edgy collection, but we’re not at the price points of the Project show and we’re more expensive than the MAGIC show. That’s the real problem. What MAGIC needs to do to accommodate those people is [introduce] a section for contemporary looks with better price points but not boutique-specialty store-Barneys price points.”

In response, DeMoulin said Premium will supersede what Chrome, which is no longer around, tried to offer. Rather than upholding price points, Premium examined distribution points to specialty stores and better department stores in determining which brands would fit. “It certainly can be a home for [Evol],” he said.

To make buyers feel more comfortable at Magia at MAGIC, the new area devoted to the Hispanic market with an endorsement from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, MAGIC International will sponsor seminars discussing who is the Hispanic customer, what are the trends in the Hispanic community and how to break down its psychographics. One of the speakers will be Mercedes Gonzalez, founder of a New York buying office called Global Purchasing, who worked for Gonzalez Padin in Puerto Rico and helped open or restructure hundreds of stores in the U.S. and abroad, including the inaugural Sears store in Panama.

DeMoulin expects that half of the exhibitors at Magia at MAGIC, which will occupy 25,000 square feet in the LVCC’s South Hall, will be Hispanic-owned businesses based in the U.S., while the other half will hail from Mexico, Central America and Spain.

“It’s not taking your English language and translating it [into Spanish],” DeMoulin said. “It’s understanding your customer and speaking to them directly.”

Another trend that organizers hope to enable buyers to understand better is environmentally friendly clothing. In August, the trade show introduced Ecollection in Central Hall. Realizing that the green business was geared more toward women, organizers transplanted Ecollection to the North Hall. The sophomore show in February will feature the same number of brands as August’s run, about 70 to 100 brands, including Blue Canoe, Clothing of the American Mind, EcoSkin, Ethos Paris and Indigenous.

“It’s everything from people who are using organic to recycled materials and people who are using [green] design and manufacturing,” DeMoulin said.

One sector that MAGIC International hopes to grow is White, which features better-priced apparel across some 10,000 square feet in WWDMAGIC. Opening wholesale price points for White range between $100 to $125. MAGIC International said brands sitting on the show floor outside of White could be at this level as well, but generally they will be lower, possibly ranging all the way to $8 at wholesale for junior T-shirts. The brands at White include Anathea, Blue Ice, Carolyn Vale, Finley, Iconoclast and Womyn.

Based on the response for White in apparel, MAGIC International will introduce higher-end bags in a White-branded area for accessories at the Hilton this month. Handbags in White might cost $200 and higher at wholesale, whereas the rest of the accessories at the Hilton could run from $50 to $125. The 20 to 30 accessories brands to be featured in White include Euromode, Kenneth Cole Productions, Kenneth Cole Reaction and Koralia.

“Pulling it all in one area will make them easier to shop,” DeMoulin said.

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