Amid a tepid market for apparel sales, organizers of the Las Vegas trade fairs have identified a trio of solutions to help manufacturers and retailers overcome consumer ennui: consolidation, face-to-face dialogue and new brands.
The most obvious and drastic change to affect visitors at the approximately 20 shows that start Aug. 13 is the union between the parent companies of MAGIC and MRket, Stitch and AccessoriesTheShow.
And the most immediate result of UBM plc’s $69 million acquisition of Business Journals Inc. — revealed in April — is the relocation of MRket, Stitch and AccessoriesTheShow to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, where shows such as Project and The Collective are based, from the Venetian Hotel and Sands Expo & Convention Center (where the trio used to be part of the Modern Assembly alliance with Agenda, Liberty Fairs and Capsule).
Elsewhere in Las Vegas, Womens Wear in Nevada is being held at the Rio Hotel and Offprice Show at the Sands, and PGA Fashion & Demo Experience will stage its summer-only event at the Venetian.
No matter where they are located, the shows’ organizers reiterate the same goal.
“Our main focus right now is making it easier for the buyer to shop all our shows,” said Tom Nastos, president of UBM Fashion’s women’s business. “As always, it’s a big priority.”
Even with the ease that digital technology brings to commerce and communication, trade show executives said there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. At some point, “people get burnt out just staring at a screen,” said Chris Griffin, president of Sourcing, which starts its four-day run at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Aug. 14.
“On the B2B, we see an increasing importance in face-to-face meetings,” Griffin said. “Because of the nature of relationships today, they’re more tenuous than they used to be, you need to get in front of the people you deal with, whether it’s boutiques or department stores.”
Some new retailers expected in Las Vegas are Harvey Nichols’ Dubai department store, France’s L’eclaireur, Portland Dry Goods Co. and Miami-based Supply & Advise.
Walking the floor at the expos allows retailers to scout new brands. First-time exhibitors include House of Wolves and Tasi Designs at Pooltradeshow, Daniel Hechter and Lejon at The Collective, Agnes B. and Closed at the Tents, and Singer + Sargent and Oxford Lads at Project.
Project Womens features the launches of Rachel Zoe and Zac Zac Posen on the Las Vegas sales circuit. Other brands expected to exhibit for the first time at the women’s offshoot of Project at the Mandalay Bay are JP and Mattie, L Space by Monica Wise and Via Spiga Handbags.
As the denim industry undergoes a resurgence, brands are readying to either make their debut or return to Las Vegas. In WWDMAGIC’s juniors section, Ivan + Ryan is introducing jeans that wholesale for between $18 and $25. Raven Denim, which is owned by the same company that produces Siwy Denim, is relaunching at WWDMAGIC with styles wholesaling from $50 to $60 after a hiatus from the premium category. Miss Me Vintage is moving from WWDMAGIC to Project Womens.
“For us, it’s been really an opportunity to provide for our exhibitors so they can get in front of these buyers in a rocky time,” said Kelly Helfman, show director for WWDMAGIC and Project Womens.
“The market goes through a downturn now and then,” said Erik Ulin, president of men’s fashion at UBM, who oversees The Tents, Project, Collective, Pooltradeshow and, as part of the acquisition, MRket.
Ulin said by placing between 2,000 and 2,500 men’s brands in UBM’s shows under one roof at Mandalay Bay, it becomes less of a burden for retailers to shuttle between venues. Moreover, he aims to provide a path for attendees as they cross between traditional men’s wear at MRket and the contemporary brands at Project. For instance, he plans to continue supporting MRket’s Vanguards Gallery, a contemporary-centric section curated by Michael Macko, a former fashion director of Details and executive at Saks Fifth Avenue.
“It marries well with the Project look and the Tents,” Ulin said. “It’s a nice escalation for the brands — where do they go after they graduate out of Vanguards?”
At Modern Assembly, the Agenda, Capsule and Liberty Fairs continue to collaborate to help ease the registration process and provide a complementary mix of brands.
Capsule said its crop of new exhibitors includes Dubai-based Army of 1, conceptual men’s line Merrill + Forbes and Australian swim brand Mocha Salt. The New York-based show is partnering with fragrance fair Elements Showcase for another season as a way to highlight established and emerging names in beauty and fragrance.
As Laura Gammel, who manages public relations for Capsule, explained, “lifestyle retailing is where the market is heading.”