By  on December 3, 2008

As retailers and vendors scrutinize their budgets, trade show organizers are conjuring myriad ways to ensure that February’s apparel expos won’t be eliminated from companies’ agendas.

In addition to offering lower-priced booths, show organizers are also modifying their assortment to help buyers and exhibitors address new markets.

Take the MAGIC Marketplace, the conglomeration of trade shows encompassing WWDMAGIC and Sourcing at MAGIC. At the Feb. 17 to 19 show to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, MAGIC will sponsor a new area devoted to the Hispanic market with an endorsement from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Dubbed Magia, which means “magic” in Spanish, the 25,000-square-foot area in the LVCC’s South Hall will highlight domestic companies that specialize in apparel and accessories for Hispanic men, women and children. Moreover, in acknowledgement that many Hispanics are first- or second-generation immigrants who are fond of brands from their native countries, Magia also will include companies from Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Colombia and other countries vying to increase their global distribution.

“Clearly the buying power of Hispanics in the U.S. marketplace is growing,” said Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC International and executive vice president of the fashion group at parent company Advanstar Communications Inc., who oversees MAGIC, Project Global Trade Shows and Pool Trade Show. “The goal of this area is to help retailers better understand what Hispanic customers want to buy.”

For budget-conscious exhibitors, MAGIC will install a turnkey booth system that is more scalable, DeMoulin said. So, a large or medium-size exhibitor can have a prefabricated booth at MAGIC that is more cost-effective than building their own setup. To accommodate buyers who want to limit travel expenses, MAGIC continues to follow the three-day show format that it introduced in August, while Sourcing at MAGIC will run for four days starting a day earlier on Feb. 16.

Las Vegas also will welcome the Off-Price Specialist Show, which is trying to feature more fun, trendy items priced between 20 and 70 percent below the original wholesale price. Off-Price will be held Feb. 15 to 18 at the Venetian Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. CurveNV and Accessories The Show also will be held at the Venetian Feb. 16 to 18, while ASAP Global Sourcing Show will run Feb. 16 to 19 at the same venue. WomensWear In Nevada will take its usual spot at the Rio Hotel from Feb. 16 to 19, and Christian Audigier’s When I Move You Move will make its second appearance at the same time at Caesars Palace. For its sophomore show running from Feb. 17 to 19, ENK Vegas will move to the Wynn Hotel from the Venetian.

Yet, perhaps the biggest move will be for Project, which will go from the Sands Expo & Convention Center to the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino for its Feb. 18 to 20 show. Citing unavailability of space at the Sands for the dates that Project desired next February, DeMoulin said the move to Mandalay Bay will result in a smaller number of brands, though he stressed that it’s too early to estimate how many brands will show in February.

When it comes to asserting its image as a directional and contemporary show, especially in light of growing competition from ENK Vegas, which featured approximately 70 fashion brands including Clu, Hudson Jeans, Serfontaine, Cacharel and Nicholas K last August, smaller could be better. After all, at last August’s show, Project featured about 1,300 brands occupying 550,000 square feet at the Sands.

“It’s all grown so fast in the past few years,” DeMoulin said of Project, which Advanstar acquired along with Pool in August 2005. “We got a lot of feedback from retailers that the lines were blurred. What is a Project brand and not a Project brand? We took a step back.”

“If we have a very clear and directional show at Project…it’ll make it easier for [retailers] to shop the market,” he continued.

In contrast to Project, Pool featured 315 brands at its show last August. To cater to emerging brands that might not be able to shell out $20,000 for a 1,152-square-foot space emulating an apparel showroom with six tables and twice as many chairs, Pool will introduce a new curated area dubbed Cash & Carry during its Feb. 17 to 19 run at the LVCC’s Central Hall. Inspired by craft fairs and niche Web sites such as Etsy.com, where designers sell hand-crafted wares such as sock puppies, Cash & Carry will allow vendors to rent a $500 table, from which they can sell directly to retailers, who can immediately take the merchandise home. Numbering at least 20, the exhibitors will offer small accessories, stationery, ceramics, necklaces and novelty items, all carefully selected by Pool’s organizers.

“It is something that will be very appealing to retail buyers,” predicted Stephanie Seeley, Pool’s show director. “They can buy product immediately and have it on their sales floor. It’s immediate gratification.”

Pool is also delving into its history to revive a section called Emerging Concept, where companies that might not have participated in a trade show before can pay $2,500 to exhibit alongside other young companies. (In comparison, other booths at Pool cost between $4,000 and $16,000.) Encompassing jewelry, accessories, clothing and footwear, Emerging Concept also allows up-and-coming businesses to network and share information with each other. In this economy, as Seeley acknowledged, every bit helps.

“There are emerging brands out there that need more ways to break into the business,” she said. “We’re trying to spread our wings to help more emerging brands.”

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