By  on January 22, 2009

MAGIC is abandoning the South Hall.

In a move that reflects the struggling economy and the trade show’s attempt to consolidate all its men’s wear brands in a centralized location, Advanstar Fashion Group is moving all of its South Hall resources to other parts of the Las Vegas Convention Center for the February show.

The restructuring is the latest in a string of initiatives unveiled over the past few months geared to update the show’s image and manage the impact of the recession.

The newest move: the entire young men’s showcase — which includes streetwear vendors as well as S.L.A.T.E. at MAGIC, the progressive streetwear component of the show — will relocate to the Central Hall, the current stage for the show’s classic and contemporary vendors.

“From talking to the market over the past few months, we realized most men’s buyers were shopping across the entire show, not just in one hall,” said Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC International and executive vice president of the Advanstar Fashion Group. “We realized that we could house every portion of our men’s show under one roof and bring all the energy of MAGIC together.”

Since young men’s resources moved there in 2002, the 900,000-square-foot South Hall has increasingly become a hot spot for buyers, thanks to the growth of the premium streetwear business. But during MAGIC this year, the large space will be empty. DeMoulin said the consolidation wasn’t a reaction to the economy. “Buyers have been asking to consolidate to make shopping the market easier for them. The convention center is gigantic. We could have moved all these showcases together last year,” he said.

Retailers have long remarked that the Las Vegas trade shows — which now include Project, ENK Vegas and MRKET — are too spread out, and they will likely cheer any move to make the market more user-friendly.

However, the consolidation also reflects the contraction of the trade show business in a shrinking economy. Even as MAGIC has courted additional vendors with its new showcase for the contemporary market, dubbed Premium at MAGIC, a number of key vendors in the Central Hall have backed out of February’s show, including Calvin Klein, Timberland and Tommy Bahama.

Under the new plan, the various showcases will remain in their own “neighborhoods,” each with distinct signage and entrances. “We talked to a lot of exhibitors,” said Sherrie Krantz, vice president of marketing for Advanstar Fashion Group. “They told us not to change the things they liked aesthetically. We plan to maintain a similar look and feel for the different showcases.”

DeMoulin said the show’s format will reflect existing overlaps in the marketplace. Classic vendors will be next to the new premium showcase. S.L.A.T.E.’s vendors will be adjacent to premium, and streetwear will abut S.L.A.T.E. All told, the Central and North Halls span just over 1 million square feet of exhibition space.

Streetwear exhibitors approved of the move. “I think it’s a good decision,” said Fred Mazza, president of Artful Dodger, which has shown in the South Hall every season since the brand’s launch in 2005. “Anything that makes it easier for the retailers is good.” That sentiment was echoed by other exhibitors, including Peter Macaluso, who will be showing Akademiks outerwear, a mainstay of the South Hall, and Freddie Stollmack, president of Weatherproof Garment Co., a long-time exhibitor in the Central Hall.

In addition to young men’s vendors, MAGIC is shuffling other parts of its show. The sourcing showcase is moving to the Las Vegas Hilton, and the accessories show will join women’s apparel at WWDMAGIC in the North Hall.

DeMoulin declined to say if the changes were permanent. “I think it’s hard in this environment to say that anything is permanent. It’s what makes sense for the show now,” he said.

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