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The Las Vegas trade shows are about to get another entrant in Liberty Fairs, a new exhibition that industry veteran Sam Ben-Avraham will launch in August.
This story first appeared in the February 19, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Ben-Avraham was the founder in 2003 of Project, which he sold to Advanstar Communications in 2005 for about $38 million. Since then Advanstar has grown Project into its marquee men’s show in both Las Vegas and New York.
Liberty Fairs will be staged at the Sands Expo in the Venetian/Palazzo complex and will focus on the men’s denim and contemporary market, in competition with Project. Ben-Avraham, whose non-compete agreement with Advanstar expired last month, is expecting to host about 250 brands in the August edition.
“When I sold Project I did not think I would get back into the trade show business. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think there was an opportunity and a need for something different,” said Ben-Avraham, who also owns the three Atrium specialty stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Miami. “The world has changed so much in the last 10 years and I think there’s a place for a new platform.”
Ben-Avraham has formed a strategic alliance with a group of other Las Vegas trade shows, encompassing Capsule, Agenda and the Business Journals Inc.-owned MRket, Stitch and Accessories The Show. The partners will cooperate on marketing efforts and streamlining the attendance process for the various shows, which will all be situated in the Sands Expo Venetian/Palazzo.
These shows and Liberty Fairs compete with the MAGIC Market Week shows that include Project, WWD MAGIC, ENK Vegas and FN Platform, which are all owned by Advanstar Global and which currently dominate the Las Vegas market. Project alone is home to more than 2,000 men’s and dual-gender brands.
Advanstar increased its heft in December via the $155 million acquisition of ENK International, which operated ENK Vegas, ENKNYC, Coterie and WSA, among other shows.
Agenda, which caters to the street, skate and surf market, will launch its first Las Vegas show in August. The show, founded by Aaron Levant, joined the Reed Exhibitions portfolio of events when the global trade show operator made an investment in Agenda last month, buying out Levant’s former partner, Seth Haber.
Levant, who remains at the helm of Agenda, said he expects 150 to 200 brands at the first edition of his Las Vegas show. The original Agenda show in Long Beach, Calif., hosts about 550 brands, while a New York edition usually hosts between 120 and 150 brands.
“This is a wonderful way to provide retailers with a complete shopping experience under one roof,” said Britton Jones, chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc. of the Modern Assembly agreement. “I think to an overwhelming extent the lineup of Modern Assembly shows is complementary to each other rather than competitive.”
Ben-Avraham’s Liberty Fairs concept includes an innovative booth system, a digital wholesale planning and ordering system powered by NuOrder, environmental initiatives and charitable contributions to educational programs at Parsons The New School for Design.
The booths will offer wider frontage with a bit less depth, sized at 15 by 8 feet, rather than the traditional 10 by 10 feet at most trade shows. The standard booth will cost vendors $6,500. Sourced from Vancouver-based Molo Design, the booths are constructed from accordion walls fashioned from recycled cardboard, rather than conventional aluminum. The booth walls are lower than normal at 5.5 feet, allowing people to see the entire trade show floor when standing up.
The goal of Liberty is to be a paperless trade show, and the company has partnered with NuOrder for an online shopping and order processing system that will be available to all exhibiting brands and retail attendees. A smartphone app will give attendees access to brand directories, event listings, show maps and guest services.
“We are creating a whole set of tools just for Liberty exhibitors to find retailers prior to the show and for buyers to maximize their visit there,” said Heath Wells, cofounder of NuOrder. Ben-Avraham made a personal investment in NuOrder last month with a group that includes Adam Bernhard, ceo of HauteLook; Khajak Keledjian, cofounder of Intermix, and Betsee Isenberg, owner of 10Eleven Showroom.