THE MAGIC MEN

Byline: Kim-Van Dang

Eighteen floors above Santa Monica, in a corner office with a panoramic view of the Los Angeles basin and the Pacific Ocean, Glenn Mounger and John Bernards — chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively of MAGIC International — plot the details of their next trade show. As part of a 15-member board, they hold the key to the men’s wear industry. And they could become a major force in the women’s wear industry by launching their first women’s show this month, in conjunction with WWD.
MAGIC — which stands for the Men’s Apparel Guild In California — is a 60-year-old organization that held its first market in 1942 with 19 members. To lure East Coast buyers, the group sponsored western-style hayrides and barbecues.
“Those were the wild days,” Mounger said. “When it grew to 74 members, the group showed out of rooms at the Riviera Hotel in Palm Springs. Some people got in trouble for shoving their beds into shower stalls.”
They’ve come a long way. In 1948, with its membership ranks swelling, the guild incorporated. It moved to larger facilities in San Diego in 1975. Four years later, it relocated to the Los Angeles Convention Center and admitted nonmembers, including importers and exporters for the first time.
Reaction to this policy change was so overwhelming that in 1989, the group moved again — to the 1.3 million-square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center, the largest facility of its kind in the U.S.
MAGIC now produces the largest men’s wear show in the world. Counting two temporary pavilions, as well as an adjacent Las Vegas Hilton facility, this year’s Feb. 21 to 24 edition will set a show record at 1.7 million square feet.
Today, about 5,000 lines are represented at the semi-annual trade event. At least 60,000 buyers register each February and August, and that figure is growing. Bernards projected a 20 percent increase in attendance for the February show.
“Our growth is not an accident,” said Mounger. “It’s based on a formula that can be applied to the women’s market.”
The ceo outlined it this way:
· “People want to deal with the decision makers,” he said. “We create a forum for management. At any of our booths, there is a good chance that you will meet a company president, national sales manager and designer. And how many times can a salesman fly somewhere and meet a retail president, vice president, general merchandising manager and divisional merchandising manager all at once?”
Indeed, a statistical study of last February’s show revealed that 19 percent of retailers registered were store owners; 21 percent were presidents, and 10 percent were vice presidents.Eleven percent were from department stores; 7 percent were from chain stores, and 51 percent were from specialty stores.Moreover, many retailers and exhibitors do 60 percent of their men’s wear business at MAGIC.
“The key to our success lies also in our broad base of exhibitors,” the ceo continued. “We are interested in controlled growth of all areas. We don’t want to be put in any box.”
This month, MAGIC will feature a separate women’s area for the first time. The sold-out event — WWD/MAGIC International — will take up 200,000 square feet of the Las Vegas Hilton next door to the convention center. It will comprise 871 apparel and accessories booths as well as another dozen publications booths. And there’s a waiting list.
“For years, we’ve been hearing, ‘Why isn’t there something like MAGIC for the women’s industry?”‘ Mounger said. “Thirty-four percent of our buyers already buy women’s wear.”
Asked how WWD/MAGIC will differ from other women’s shows, Mounger said, “The competition has focused on producing sales representative-based shows while more business is being done management-to-management. There are tighter margins on both sides. We have been very selective. We are interested in exhibitors who make a corporate statement.”
Timing is also a critical success factor, Mounger said, adding that retailers today want “more bang for their travel buck.”
Key retailers expected to attend WWD/MAGIC International include Federated Department Stores, Burdines, Bon Marche, Mercantile Stores, Carter Hawley Hale, Younkers, Stern’s, Hess, Dayton Hudson, Lazarus, Nordstrom, Macy’s East & West, Bloomingdale’s and Robinsons-May. Discounters and general merchandise chains including Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Sears, Montgomery Ward, Caldor, Target, Best, Ross and K-Mart are also pre-registered. A host of specialty stores and mail-order catalogs round out the list.
Aside from the WWD show, the February MAGIC show will feature other significant changes. Bernards has remerchandised the men’s segment, devoting a pavilion to designers such as Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss. Another new pavilion will showcase emerging companies. Lastly, for the first time, MAGIC will spotlight 180 big-and-tall exhibitors in a separate area.
In order to accommodate everyone, hours are being expanded. The show will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those with appointments can work the show from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Bernards said he will be encouraging buyers to make full use of the last day of market, traditionally the slowest one since exhibitors are eager to pack up and go home.
“We are starting to push the limits of how much people can shop,” Mounger said, adding that the MAGIC board is looking at future options, including additional days and staggering the women’s dates.
MAGIC executives are poised for a physical expansion, too. They have already secured the 700,000-square-foot convention center to be built at the nearby Sahara Hotel. With ground-breaking reportedly taking place in the next month or two, the facility is slated for completion in 1996.
Mounger and Bernards also noted that the Las Vegas Convention Center is looking to expand by an additional one million square feet in its 10-year plan. No doubt, they plan to fill it.

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