Hey guys! It’s Jesse Dombrowiak, co-founder of Indie Source, and I’m here to share some insights into the MAGIC Trade Show and some takeaways for new designers.
What is the MAGIC Trade Show?
The MAGIC Trade Show in Las Vegas started in 1993 and is one of the largest apparel trade shows in the world. Around 70,000 people come every year. While MAGIC stands for Men’s Apparel Guild in California, there’s so much more than men’s apparel there.
Here are some of the different shows on:
- WWD – Women’s Wear Daily, the largest section and full of women’s established contemporary
- THE TENTS – Men’s luxury wear
- MAGIC MENS
- CHILDREN’S CLUB
- FN PLATFORM – All about shoes and includes a platform sourcing company
- CURVE – Swimwear
- STITCH – Ready-to-wear
- SOURCING – Fabric, trim and other vendors from all across the world
- POOLTRADESHOW – For up-and-coming brands–see more on this section below
- PROJECT – Up-and-coming women’s contemporary brands
The trade show has an app with tons of goodies in it, and also delivers seminars featuring top leaders from the industry sharing great advice.
Why We Go
As Indie Source we go to MAGIC and other trade shows for many reasons. First and foremost to expand our vendor library.
Because we’re primarily made in the USA, we’re also looking for automation, new techniques, and digital assets. But I also go to visit and support the brands that we work with, as well as to say hello to different associations that we’re a part of. Finally, we definitely go to create some new business! I’ll stop by the booths of vendors we would like to work with and have a conversation about what value we can add to their companies.
Takeaways for New Designers
Be Proactive and Ready to Work it!
A booth at MAGIC Trade Show can cost up to $10,000, which is a pretty steep entry-level price. Just like at the card tables, attending Magic LV is a gamble; the exhibitor sales reps mention most brands get their money back after attending the event three times. You could hit a home run the first time around, but it’s not certain, and what some believe is that buyers look for is stable companies. If you are new, they may want to see you around a bit before buying.
From my experience, I’ve been able to overcome that a little bit quicker by being very proactive in the booth. You want to engage the people walking past you and not just sit in your booth, waiting for them to come to you. Activate people!
Using MAGIC’s new wristbands, keep an eye out for those folks wearing the black buyer wristband and don’t be afraid to engage them. It’s as easy as: “Hey, how are you doing? Why don’t you take a look at my product. I’m in XYZ category and would love to show you around.”
Another thing I love to do is figure out a stunt. For example, one year we were working with a Peruvian brand and were able to not only wear the clothes but walk around with a djembe, beating the drum, getting some attention, and then having people touch the fabric. It was one of the tricks to get them back to the booth. So if you see a buyer, find a way to grab them, get them to your booth and show them what you have on offer.
Get out there and create some relationships. Go introduce yourself, be excited about the projects you’re working on, and you’ll get a lot of success!
Network and Talk Smart
It goes without saying to always have your business cards. But also be ready to introduce yourself and your brand using different language than you might be used to. For example, when someone asks what business I’m in, I could say “I’m an apparel manufacturer.” But what’s a little bit better is if I tell them what effect Indie Source has on our clients. So, in this case,
“Indie Source is here to help others create successful, sustainable and ethical fashion companies. That’s what we’re going for.”
And that piques someone’s interest just a little bit more, so we can then start having more conversation. If I say, “I’m an apparel manufacturer,” the conversation ends and there may not be any more follow-up questions. Be prepared to do the same. Tell people what effect your brand has on your clients and open up opportunities for more conversation.
Start at POOL
Most new brands should start at the POOLTRADESHOW because the price point of the exhibition booth is less than the other ones, at $2,000 to $3,000, instead. (Remember that you can negotiate with your sales rep from MAGIC for even more of a discount; give it a try!) At POOL you’re going to be with accessories and it’s a hodgepodge of different brands like sunglasses and screen-printed t-shirts and things like that. And POOL is also a cash & carry event, which means you can sell some items to individual consumers versus just wholesale and get some cash flow happening for your brand!
Consider Other Trade Shows
Before you jump in, make sure MAGIC’s the right audience for you and you’re ready for wholesale.
Sometimes the price point is just too high. Don’t worry, there are a lot of other trade show options out there and most of them are $500 – $1,000. Agenda and Liberty Fairs happen at the same time and are options to consider. Another tip is checking out related trade shows. For example, there’s a brand that makes tattoo-like t-shirts with a sort of Western feel that went to the World Wide Rodeo Association because there was low competition and it was a cheap price point entry fee to be an exhibitor. They ended up selling thousands of dollars of merchandise.
In summary, I believe MAGIC’s not for everyone. I think it’s a super expensive trade show and you will have to make sure that you’re going to overcome that initial investment to get a return. If you choose to go, give yourself as much advantage as possible when you get there. But in my experience, there are tons of other trade shows, even industry-related trade shows, that are around the $500 – $1,000 mark to go in as an exhibitor and are great ways to build your relationships. Perhaps start there, then transition to MAGIC’s POOLTRADESHOW.
That’s my advice for today. Again, I’m Jesse, and we really hope we can create something together!