With names like Poggy’s World, CurveNV at MAGIC, Coast Life and Blue, one might think that the trade shows in Las Vegas are morphing into some sort of Cirque du Soleil extravaganza.
Mirroring the retail world, industry events are enhancing the experience for thousands of attendees at some 19 fairs held up and down the Las Vegas Strip between Aug. 15 and 20. To attract more buyers, show organizers are forming new alliances with old competitors, pushing hot categories like wearable technology and reviving old features. But no matter how much they try to control the experience at the trade expos and use social media to whet consumers’ appetites, one thing they can’t control is the economy.
Just as retail sales appeared to be on an upswing, American consumers shifted their financial priorities. The Census Bureau estimated that, in the first quarter, sales at clothing and accessories stores increased about 3 percent to $53.99 billion from $52.47 billion a year ago.
WWDMAGIC president Tom Nastos echoed his peers when he said the projections for “the second half of the year will be strong.”
At the same time, the weakened euro is opening doors to European brands vying to increase their U.S. market share.
Aaron Levant, founder of Agenda Show, said, “Ten times a day somebody e-mails me and says, ‘I started a new brand.’”
Trade-show executives aren’t complaining about the resurgence in entrepreneurial spirit sparking start-ups, since more brands mean higher booth sales — and a bigger selection for retailers. For instance, there are 2,000 lines at Womens Wear in Nevada, more than 1,200 brands at Project and 1,700 factories from 42 countries occupying 200,000 square feet at Sourcing at MAGIC.
Las Vegas has “become the mecca of trade shows,” said Liberty Fairs founder Sam Ben-Avraham.
On top of that, the Glitter Gulch is turning into an enclave for conferences. MAGIC is sponsoring Fashion Forum with WWD on Aug. 16. On the following day, Capsule is inviting Beams Japan’s Terry Ellis and Unionmade’s Todd Barket to discuss creating a distinct point of view at retail on its first panel in Las Vegas.
“Our retailers and designers wanted more than being in a trade show,” said Capsule cofounder Edina Sultanik. “They wanted information on how to build a brand.”
Besides scouting for sources, retailers also must keep track of show debuts, name changes and venue switches. On what would have been its seventh anniversary, ENK Vegas is disappearing to reemerge as Project Women’s. Moving to the North Hall from the South Hall in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Sourcing is introducing wearable technology as a new focus. Pool Tradeshow is back on the first floor at Mandalay Bay Convention Center, after testing spots downstairs and upstairs. MAGIC Men’s is being rebranded as The Collective.
CurveNV and WWDMAGIC have joined forces to present CurveNV at MAGIC in the LVCC’s Central Hall, where all the swim and lingerie brands that formerly exhibited at WWDMAGIC will participate. Previously based at the Venetian, CurveNV expects 150 swim brands — up from 50 last August — and 100 lingerie labels, said chief executive officer Pierre Nicolas Hurstel.
Shows within shows are spreading. At Liberty Fairs, United Arrows & Sons brand director Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi is unveiling Poggy’s World with directional men’s brands. Capsule is hosting a handful of U.S. streetwear companies in a nook dubbed New America. In landlocked Las Vegas, MRket is interpreting coastal style for men in Coast Life.
After a three-year absence, Project is again setting up emerging brands in Workroom. Also at Project, Blue is using music and art to amp up the cool factor for the premium denim business that has seen some of its momentum sapped by the ath-leisure trend.
“The heart and soul of Project has always been denim,” said Tommy Fazio, president of men’s for UBM Advanstar, who oversees Project.
At the end of the day, the main task for show organizers is to present something new. As Sourcing president Christopher Griffin put it, “Is the consumer excited by what she sees at retail? If she’s not excited, nothing else matters.”