By  on August 17, 2009

The MAGIC Marketplace is geared to enhance its women’s offerings when the show unspools Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 in Las Vegas.

“The focus is on what’s new and exciting and what’s the best way to get customers back in stores,” said Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC International and executive vice president of the Advanstar Fashion Group. “We expect to have a bigger, better and more successful show in August. There’s been a constant dialogue with exhibitors and retailers to find out what they are trying to accomplish. The customer seems to be adapting to working in a different economic environment. This is about people being more aggressive and trying to position themselves in the best possible place.

With travel budgets down and customers looking to get the most out of a single trip, the intensity level seems to be up, especially with the show condensed into three days.

“We were encouraged both by vendors retooling strategies and buyers really coming to do business,” DeMoulin said, noting that, while individual retailers may be opting to send fewer buyers, more stores are coming.

MAGIC’s enhanced offerings include more matchmaking between exhibitors and retailers, more informal networking opportunities and more specialized staff dedicated to building brand relationships within each category. Among the format changes implemented in February were bringing the Accessories show to the Main Hall within WWDMAGIC and the introduction of Premium at MAGIC in both the women’s and men’s sections.

Premium on the women’s side will feature premium denim labels such as Buffalo Jeans and Divine Rights of Denim (where spokesmodel Audrina Partridge is scheduled to make an appearance), and contemporary sportswear labels such as Yvette Mandell and OmniPeace, a licensed brand that sells in stores like Kitson in Los Angeles.

“I wanted to come to MAGIC to show the brand as a full collection instead of just a licensing company with a lot of different licenses,” said OmniPeace founder Mary Fanaro, a first-time exhibitor who has attended the show as a guest. The humanitarian fashion brand, which donates a portion of its proceeds to various charities, partners with accessories and apparel companies such as Love From Australia and Signorelli to produce items.

Nearly a quarter to a third of exhibitors will be brands new to the market, such as Seal Beach, Calif.-based Essentials by A.B.S., which will launch in the contemporary section with separates.

For Los Angeles-based young contemporary resource Miss Me, August will be a time to expand its presence at the show. Last season, Miss Me Jeans had its own booth at WWDMAGIC, while the sportswear brands MM Couture and Sweet shared another booth. The brands now will occupy three adjacent booths on the show floor.

In addition to thousands of domestic (and mostly California- and New York-based) companies, the European presence at the show continues to build, with the addition of brands such as Mango looking to get back into the U.S. market. Other newcomers from Europe and Australia include Motel, Société Europeenne De Confection, Look a Million Dollars, Sarissa Designs and 2B. International brands make up 11 percent of exhibitors.

An increasing presence online also has helped preregistration jump significantly. “A lot of our communication has been on Web sites and blogs as a great way to engage users,” said DeMoulin. “We are using Facebook and Twitter to find real advocates of the show. Social networking is a reality of how everyone in this industry keeps up to speed.” Improved tools on the home site, also available in PDA applications, also enable buyers to see the floor plans ahead of time and map out the shows.

With Advanstar’s acquisition of the Project and Pool shows last year, there is an even broader range of options for exhibitors, particularly for women’s wear. Pool features 70 percent women’s brands and 30 percent men’s, and Project features 58 percent dual gender brands, 27 percent women’s and 15 percent men’s brands.

“It’s given us the opportunity when we go meet with a brand to know that we have the ideal platform for them to do business. By matching them up with what they need, we can serve the life cycles of many brands,” DeMoulin said.

“Pool is a place you go as a young company without a lot of money to spend. For them, that’s really their first stop on the circuit. Project has become about higher-end designers with limited distribution.”

Project is staggered to begin its three-day run a day after MAGIC and Pool, giving buyers maximum time to spend at each show.

MAGIC also is aiming to keep costs to exhibitors down with a few new booth packages that offer simple turnkey solutions as an alternative to building a big expensive booth.

“Some brands stay the same, some downsize,” said DeMoulin. Our only goal is to make sure when they come to show they can get the best return on investment. More people are opting to spend less on booths and more time selling.”

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