LAS VEGAS — Foreign factories coped with the recession by drastically lowering their minimums and reducing prices as they sought new U.S. customers at two sourcing shows held here last month.

This story first appeared in the March 10, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

At the latest edition of Sourcing at MAGIC and the ASAP Global Sourcing Show, the number of exhibitors declined significantly. With 13 exhibitors, ASAP didn’t rent a ballroom at The Venetian Hotel as it had in the past. Instead, participating factories erected booths in the hallway connecting the Sands Expo & Convention Center to The Venetian.

At the Las Vegas Convention Center, Sourcing at MAGIC moved from its previous home in the South Hall to the first floor of the adjacent Las Vegas Hilton. There were about 240 exhibitors at the show, compared with more than 700 from 30 countries during the February 2008 edition.

Anhui Orient Garment Co. made its third appearance at Sourcing at MAGIC still looking to sign its first U.S. customer. The Chinese factory cut the minimum for producing silk items to 100 from 500 and for polyester garments to 1,000 from 1,500. While silk remains the company’s specialty, it said an increasing number of customers have switched to less expensive polyester. The company refrained from lowering prices, however, because expenses and workers’ salaries are increasing.

“Business is really hard,” said Anhui manager Ada Xue.

China’s secure hold on manufacturing has been loosening as designers kept their options open in an effort to keep prices down.

“We’re here to look at all the countries,” said Anna Haycock, designer for Knit Mania in the U.K. “It has to fit in a certain price point.”

Exhibitors went to great lengths to attract potential customers. In addition to slashing its minimum order to 300 pieces from 2,000, China’s Interfashion International Trading Co. posted a banner printed with the message “No business is too small.” A sign in Madagascar-based Miw Sarl’s booth read “Duty Free.” Regent Industrial Ltd. from Macau began offering handbags made of PVC for budget-conscious designers who couldn’t afford leather.

Danken Enterprise Co., a Taiwanese maker of hosiery and socks, cut prices by 5 percent while introducing new fabrics such as microfiber nylon along with fresh techniques enabling two-tone crochet.

“We have many special designs,” said Danken representative Anna Chen. “Maybe that will be our selling point.”

Inter Blue sought to differentiate itself with its novel fabrics for scarves. The South Korean company mixed and matched fake fur with lace, cotton gauze with polyester tulle.

“No one wants basics these days,” said Kelly Kim, a representative for Inter Blue. “That’s why you have to target different details and more detailed designs.”

A novel product was also the goal of Leatherworks, a Doral, Fla.-based seller of Italian leather. Among the innovations were a floral-printed suede and patent snakeskin in 20 bright hues ranging from red to teal and orange.

“Some people, when the economy is bad, they go back to basics,” said Leatherworks president Michael Turkanis. “I think it’s a mistake because there are enough basics.”