Joe Loggia, the current chief executive officer of Advanstar Communications, has seen tremendous change in more than two decades at the helm of MAGIC.

This story first appeared in the August 12, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Loggia joined MAGIC in 1991, as a consultant. In 1993 he became chief financial officer, added chief operating officer in 1994, president in 1996 and chief executive officer in 1997. He led the trade show’s acquisition by and integration into Advanstar Communications Inc. in 1998, and as part of the transition, Loggia was also named general manager of the company’s fashion and apparel sector. In just three years, Loggia repositioned the MAGIC Marketplace, dramatically growing earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and turning it into the most comprehensive, largest and most widely recognized men’s apparel trade show and overall family of trade fairs in the world. By the time MAGIC was sold to Advanstar, revenues had more than tripled and it had become highly profitable. He became president and then chief operating officer of Advanstar in 2001, and was named ceo of Advanstar in 2004.

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His overall strategy was to turn it into a profitable business of selling floor space. Loggia created customer service teams for exhibitors as well as retailers, thereby giving each customer a point person to deal with. He also further defined the categories, or “communities” within the show floor, giving each segment of the market its own identity, such as Accessories or Contemporary. He did away with pipe-and-drape booths and the lottery system of placement based on seniority, encouraging vendors to build more creative spaces.

When WWDMAGIC started, it was 50,000 square feet with around 200 exhibitors. Today, WWDMAGIC is more than 250,000 square feet with 900 exhibitors.

After Advanstar was acquired in October by UBM, Loggia opted to stay on for a transition, but will leave at the end of this year after 24 years with MAGIC, 17 of which were with Advanstar. (Perhaps then he’ll be able to take more than five days of vacation in a row — the most he’s ever taken.)

Here, he reflects on how he shaped WWDMAGIC. He’s always more comfortable behind the scenes, saying with a chuckle, “This isn’t about me, it’s about a big team that does the work that I get credit for. I’m just window dressing.”

How would you describe MAGIC in the Nineties?
Prior to 1995, MAGIC was a men’s wear show. Nobody had ever combined a men’s and women’s trade show before. That was new to the industry.

What was your M.O. in shaping WWDMAGIC?
I was hired to transform MAGIC into a business. We’re driven by what the customer — the exhibitors and the retailers — wants. They were seeing more men’s and women’s crossover in the business and wanted to see a broader collection. So if you want to be in the women’s business, how do you do that? You partner with whoever has the best interpretation of the industry. We were pretty well-versed in the trade-show business, and the best name in the fashion business was Women’s Wear Daily. It’s what the industry and the customers were most comfortable with. It made sense.

You once said creating the customer databases was one of the most important foundations of the strategy.
I love data. We don’t make intuitive decisions if we don’t have to.

How did you “make over” the show?
The first thing we did was ask the industry what they wanted and how to do it. All these designer brands — DKNY, CK, etc. — wanted to push out to a broader audience, so it was now time to redo everything. By creating these categories — designer, streetwear, women’s — under the MAGIC umbrella, retailers now get choices. One thing we strive to do is create communities. When you look at the women’s business, we created communities within communities: the junior segment, contemporary, misses’. They all get synergy. We go to great lengths to make sure the environment is designed to meet their needs.

Would you say MAGIC today is a more accurate reflection of the apparel business?
We’ve laid the groundwork to continually evolve. In 1994, MAGIC was 98 percent men’s when women’s represented half of the total marketplace. Now it’s 50 percent women’s, 20 percent footwear, 20 percent men’s and 10 percent sourcing. Again, it’s matching up the data. Fashion trends, design concepts, retail trends.

What has been the driving goal?
We’re focused on the business of fashion. We provide an environment for the industry to conduct business. MAGIC overall generates $600 million to $1 billion [in orders] per show.

What about the “show” element?
We are in the event business. The fashion industry likes to be in an environment where they can entertain their customers. Las Vegas is a good place to do business. You have 100,000 hotel rooms within 10 minutes of the trade shows. There are restaurants at all price points. We work in concert with the tourism board to create that environment. The industry is exciting; it’s our job to enhance that while focusing on conducting business.

How has technology impacted the show?
It’s a tool to connect before and after shows, it’s added value. Shop the Floor can put whole collections online. But it doesn’t replace the need to do business. At some point, you want to meet in person and see the product.

What was the strategy after MAGIC acquired Project, Pool, and ENK?
Our research told us exhibitors wanted to identify with specific communities and that retailers wanted to be communicated to by MAGIC. They wanted to go to an umbrella. So we positioned Project as the premium denim destination, Pool was the streetwear and art segment, The Edge was streetwear, and so on. We created teams to mirror on the inside what was outside.

What has been the biggest challenge?
The most difficult thing is balance, to mirror the industry and where it is going. We don’t want to be incorrect. We make sure we deliver more than anyone is expecting. It’s a lot of work and sitting down with customers. If we have a 97 percent satisfaction rate, we focus on the 3 percent to find out what we’re not doing right.

Is it hard to stay on the edge?
We are not positioned as being the “cool” show. We don’t offer opinions. We focus on bringing people together who want to do business.

What’s changed the most since 1998?
When we launched, some of the biggest names were XOXO, Hot Kiss, Dollhouse. Now, the exhibitor landscape has changed but we remain constant. I hope people remember that we have provided consistent value and stayed true to our mission of connecting the industry. When I first got here, they were just a bunch of guys in the desert who got together to sell men’s stuff.

What’s made you the most proud when you look back on the show?
I’ve been stopped in the aisles by people who’ve said, “I’m in business because of you.” People who were just starting their lines whom we’ve helped. I’ve been out of the day-to-day running of MAGIC since 2004, but I still get phone calls from people asking for help — and we make sure they all get it.”

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