LOS ANGELES — Organizers of the various trade shows in Las Vegas are used to the usual hustle of competing with rivals for the attention of marquee brands and increasing attendance among retail buyers, but for the upcoming February editions, they also must contend with a schedule that conflicts with lunar New Year celebrations and the risk of losing exhibitors that want to be far from the madding crowd.
This story first appeared in the December 10, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
With Offprice kicking off the week of trade fairs — it will open its doors at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on Feb. 15 — and the majority of the dozen-plus shows, including CurveNV, Women’s Wear In Nevada, Capsule and Pool Trade Show following suit two days later, show organizers are figuring out how their business with Asian companies will fare, given that Feb. 19 rings in the Year of the Sheep.
One way to bypass the potential loss of business among vendors, particularly those from China, is to focus on other regions of the world. Anticipating a decrease of 10 percent in its Chinese business, Sourcing at MAGIC is shifting its attention to duty-free nations. While countries from South America and Asia will be integrated in the displays and seminars addressing duty-free trade, Africa will seize the spotlight with as many as 60 factories, the most ever participating at Sourcing. To underscore further the global nature of the supply chain, Sourcing is also introducing a new area called Global Artisan, in which indigenous communities can promote their arts and crafts, whether alpaca knits from Peru or metalwork from Africa.
“Made in USA” continues to be a big initiative.
“We wanted to cover all the bases and give us as broad a focus as possible,” said Chris Griffin, president of Sourcing and WWDMAGIC.
International business is also important at WWDMAGIC. Heart of Prêt will host French designers and brands for the eighth time, and Japan Fun Time will return for its sophomore show with new, young contemporary and accessories brands such as TokyoStyle Impressline and Another Important Culture. The women’s trade event will also welcome clusters of designers from Turkey and South Africa.
WWDMAGIC is also taking care not to forget fast-growing categories. The White area in the North Hall will be the base for a new outerwear section, dubbed Cold Weather Shop. A year after its launch, the corner devoted to yoga and activewear will increase more than 50 percent, to 5,000 square feet. Among the 31 brands showing there are first-time exhibitors Mika Yoga Wear and Colosseum.
Despite all the initiatives to lure new exhibitors and the buyers who seek them, show organizers also risk losing some established brands. Sweden’s Nudie Jeans, which previously did the rounds at Project and Liberty Fairs, decided to pull out of the February editions of the Las Vegas expos because it wanted to focus on smaller events for a better return on investment.
“We’ve reached a plateau as a brand, and there’s no growth opportunity at the trade shows,” said a spokesman.
Citizens of Humanity clocked its last appearance at ENK Vegas in August 2013 and stopped participating in women’s trade shows nationwide this year. Instead, to solidify its customer relations, the brand opted to display its collections at its New York and Los Angeles showrooms and treat retail buyers to intimate dinners. The tactic worked. Emphasizing pricier washes that evoke a vintage vibe, it tallied a double-digit increase in sales in its men’s and women’s business this fall. For its men’s business, it continues to exhibit at The Tents at Project in Las Vegas, although those days may be numbered.
“At some point in the future, we plan to wind down the men’s trade shows,” said Amy Williams, president of Huntington Park, Calif.-based Citizens of Humanity.
Sunni Spencer, vice president at ENK Vegas, was diplomatic when addressing the brands that have left, perhaps in the hope they will return one day.
“There are always brands that feel the trade-show market is not where they want to be,” she said. “But we keep finding that the reality is, it’s way more expensive to go on the road. And people don’t have anywhere near the brand exposure that they would have at a trade show.”
To help highlight the hundreds of brands that will participate in ENK Vegas in February, Spencer will continue with the second iteration of the Accessories section, including the fourth appearance of Oasis as a curated installation, featuring noteworthy labels such as newcomer Daniella Kallmeyer and Ben-Amun, and the third round of exclusive collaborations, inspired by a chic African safari, with McGuire, Well Kept and other brands.
Spencer will also initiate a new program that emphasizes philanthropic or ethically conscious brands. The candidates include Eileen Fisher, which is active in water conservaton and recycles clothing through a subbrand called Green Eileen, and The Base Project, which incorporates hand-carved work from artists in Namibia.
“I think the days of doing everything at the lowest cost are over,” Spencer said. “How we take care of our planet and the people on it matters.”
At Project, the mission is based on service and education, as well as new brands. Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein Underwear will exhibit at Project for the first time, and Belstaff will make its premiere at the Tents at Project. Project will launch a retail concierge service to help first-time and international brands meet the top 10 U.S. retailers of their choice. It also will revive the seminar series after a two-year hiatus. To be held in the VIP area right before lunch during the first two days of the trade fair, one 20-minute panel will address men’s fashion, with insights from fashion directors and magazine editors, while another group, comprising senior managers at influential stores, will discuss men’s retailing and where it’s heading.
“It’s good to hear what other people are thinking, seeing, doing,” said Tommy Fazio, president of Project. “We want to bring the community together.”
Curation is a convenient means to give cohesiveness to a sprawling trade-show floor.
At AccessoriesTheShow, emerging designers will congregate in a new section, called The Nest. Stitch, formerly known as Moda Las Vegas, will adapt a contemporary fashion section with about 30 brands and showrooms from its New York expo. After launching in August with about 38 of what show organizers deemed the best men’s wear, Liberty Fairs’ Quest will return with custom fixtures, black booth walls, communal tables and central displays.
On the other hand, given that several of the 250 brands at Agenda have finished most of their bookings due to early deadlines for their fall collections, organizers of the streetwear-centric expo in Las Vegas encourage a sort of free-for-all in experiential marketing. After all, even if the retailers don’t place orders, they’re still important enough to meet.
“Whether it be from the Buckle or Macy’s or Nordstrom, we had people from the highest ranks — who don’t come out to our other shows — be in Las Vegas,” said Aaron Levant, founder of Agenda. “We want [vendors] to show how a brand can be presented at retail in a compelling way.”