August Las Vegas trade shows: fewer buyers, orders up, events eclectic

The recent August run of about 20 apparel trade shows in Las Vegas, including Magic, Project, Stitch, Offprice, and Curve -  offered a glimpse into a retail industry undergoing major transition. Many exhibitors at these shows, running concurrently at various Vegas hotel/convention centers, noted lighter-than-usual buyer turnout. But many did report meetings with retailers prepared to place orders for Spring ’18 - rather than fill-in fall 2017 goods with Immediate deliveries.

Vegas  sported both massive trade shows, such as Magic, as well as smaller regional shows. This forced retailers to pick and choose where to spend their time and somewhat limited open-to-buy dollars. Some noted there are fewer independent retailers and department stores, with many closing locations and focusing efforts on in-house brands. Others observed a growing trend of hybrid trade shows that mix business-to-business events with direct-to-consumer activities, to get the most bang out of potential buyer bucks.
Magic, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in mid August, felt more like a disco than a trade show. Booths hawked free snacks to grab buyers, and a pulsing party soundtrack served as backdrop. But that didn’t help traffic, down about 10 percent to 20 percent the first day of the show, said Daniel Paik, the company’s marketing director. Still, “retailers have been spending about the same as last year." He noted that about 30 percent of the orders were for fall 2017 merchandise - the rest reserved for Spring 2018 collections.
Michael Kye, president of Miley & Molly and sister label Kali, said retailers at Magic used to buy their merchandise at least six to 12 months ahead of time, but that’s been reduced to three to four months.
The Project Women’s show at Mandalay Bay Convention Center saw many buyers placing orders from January through June. However, most of the buys were from existing customers as opposed to new ones.
The Pool tradeshow, also at Mandalay Bay, produced daily “happenings” such as live music and custom-apparel demos. There was also a new section called Outpost, for brands on the verge of being large enough to show among main exhibitors. One exhibitor noted, “We lowered our expectations so we wouldn’t be sad.”
Offprice showed at Sands Expo with all the super-discounted merchandise: But just as big name-brand retailers have been shutting stores, so have stores that buy off-price garments. “We’ve been seeing less people. Business is pretty challenging because there are less retailers,” said Richard Bosch, owner and president of Alliance Wholesale Apparel.


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