LOS ANGELES — From boasting first-time exhibitors to hosting parties and using the latest technology, trade show organizers in the Los Angeles market are implementing new strategies to entice buyers to shop their expos.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

 

Even as the national economy experiences an uneven recovery and specialty store closures in California continue, trade show producers are striving to improve their offerings and set themselves apart.

 

The California Market Center, which not only houses fashion showrooms that participate in the contemporary fashion market and Los Angeles Majors Market but also organizes fairs such as the Los Angeles International Textile Show, Select and Focus, is testing every outlet it can. It uses its blog and Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote new exhibitors, special events and articles about brands that participate in its shows. It’s catering to buyers’ fondness for parties with a contemporary fashion show in October, highlighting brands that have showrooms in the building.

 

The California Market Center is also trying to increase its show size. For instance, Select, which started last January, is trying to establish itself as a venue for better contemporary brands with new exhibitors such as shoe brand Pour La Victoire and women’s fashion line Twinkle by Wenlan. Focus, the three-year-old show that emphasizes emerging brands with lower prices, has tested a cash-and-carry section that it may revive in October. Both Select and Focus have sponsored free manicures with Pop Beauty and facials by Glam Go.

For the Los Angeles International Textile Show, increasing the presence of European mills is a priority for the upcoming Oct. 10 to 12 edition. European factories made up 25 percent of the exhibitors in last March’s expo.

 

“They’re a popular attraction for the attendees that we’ve been speaking with,” said Audrey Okulick, who handles marketing and public relations for the California Market Center. “It was the busiest area of the show in March.”

 

Designers & Agents’ producers are constantly on the scope for emerging talent. This month, Barbara Kramer, D&A’s co-producer, traveled to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Italy to meet and research new designers.

 

“We invest a great deal of time in researching and vetting out new and interesting brands to introduce at our shows,” said Kramer.

 

Agenda, the semiannual show that started in men’s streetwear and has absorbed more action sports brands over the years, is making the most of coordinating its August edition with the Nike U.S. Open of Surfing. Held Aug. 3 and 4 at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, Calif., Agenda allows manufacturers and buyers to walk across the street from the trade fair and check what the 500,000 attendees at the surfing competition are wearing.

 

Aaron Levant, president of Agenda, acknowledges that it’s the brands that ultimately draw attending retailers, ranging from the Buckle, Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters to Ron Jon Surf Shop, Zumiez and stores from Australia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Thanks to the debut of first-time women’s exhibitors like Roxy, Agenda is doubling its women’s fashion to represent 40 percent of its lineup of 350 brands, which includes Vans, Rvca, Quiksilver and Obey.

 

“The general attitude of the attendees and brands is positive right now,” Levant said. “The mood has been on the up and up.”

 

Even if business at trade shows seems to be picking up, Ronda Walker, who founded Pool Trade Show before selling it to Advanstar, said the industry is paralyzed by its dependence on selling and buying by season. That’s why she plans to introduce an e-commerce site called the Factory in August. Starting with 100 brands, the Los Angeles-based company allows designers to upload images of their collection for sale continuously throughout the year. Moreover, retailers can place their orders and consumers can buy the clothes from participating stores — all on the Web site.

 

“The whole reason we’re launching the Factory is the need to abolish seasonal business,” Walker said. “Our viewpoint at the Factory is that consumers don’t buy by season and retailers don’t want to buy by season anymore. It’s a continual business.”

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