Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

The Magic just ain’t there in apparel this August

August 27, 2008

magicblogIt’s telling when the line is short at the Starbucks inside the Los Vegas Convention Center, which is hosting the bi-annual Magic Marketplace apparel trade show — fashion people are a caffeinated bunch, after all. 
    
It’s also noteworthy when it’s easy to catch a cab to and from the convention and your hotel costs a fraction of last year’s price.
 
What does it all amount to? A lousy retail environment and a trade show with a lot of no-shows.
 
Retailers and vendors attending Magic, which ends today, were abuzz over the visible signs of lower attendance at the show, billed as the largest apparel trade show in the United States.
 
Although official attendance numbers haven’t yet been disclosed, management says preregistration numbers equaled last year’s attendance of 120,000. But two different cab drivers – who may know best what happens in Vegas – told this correspondent they estimated 30 to 40 percent fewer attendees than last year.
 
“The turnout at the show has been dramatically less,” said Cy Rosengarten, owner of Suits 20/20 outside Chicago.
 
In the weak U.S. economy, where shoppers have cut back on apparel purchases and stayed away from stores, retailers and vendors have been feeling the pinch. Given the challenges, retailers sent fewer buyers to the show, and some vendors like hip-hop brand Rocawear or the polished Kenneth Cole line stayed away entirely or scaled back their booths.
    
“Everyone I know has shrunk their booth between 25 and 30 percent,” said Raj Arora of the hip women’s Funky People line.   

Inside the sprawling convention center, the women’s contemporary section appeared bustling, with buyers perusing a colorful selection of trendy looks, but the vibe was far more subdued in other areas, especially mens’.
 
The traffic was dismally light in the section where vendors show off men’s suits, and  savvy regulars at the shows pointed out far fewer booths, which usually fill up the cavernous space.
 
Besides complaining about less traffic and fewer orders, vendors griped about the expense of attending the show, which was reduced to three days from four this season, with no reduction in price for vendors. 
    
A large installation can set a vendor back over $100,000 and even the cost of hoisting a banner high above a booth is a huge expense – an annoyed vendor flashed a $3,000 bill for said task. “Make sure you write about that!” he said.

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