MAGIC Trip Report: Todd Hudson

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Apr 19, 2007 at 12:01 pm / Sales and Marketing, Trade Shows / Trackback

I know I already said we’d finished up the trip reports but we have one last entry. Todd, a pattern maker in the Bay area, is pinch hitting for me today as I work on another tutorial. Of all of us, he had the most feedback on Pool so be sure to read that if you’re thinking of showing there. Thanks Todd!

——————–
February 13th through 16th, 2007, I attended MAGIC, Project and Pool in Las Vegas. I’m indebted to my friends for letting me borrow badges to get in. My reason for being there was to walk the shows. My business partner James Kessler and I are planning a menswear line so I wanted to see what was out there in our target market. Here is what I witnessed.

The first day I arrived at MAGIC at the end of the day 15 minutes late for Robert Silverstone’s lecture “How To Retain And Motivate Your Sales Team”. One area he covered was active listening skills. I’ve been taught these techniques many times before I find them to be very effective. I’ll give you a summary of some of the listening tips. Try to understand what the other person is trying to say about their own experience rather than telling them your own related experience. Let people know you’re listening by paraphrasing back what they said. Ask open-ended questions (like a defense attorney would if examining their own witness). And finally, don’t interrupt people while they’re trying to tell you something. You can learn so much if you just open your ears, hold your tongue and let people talk themselves silly. Sometimes it takes people awhile to tell you how they’re feeling and they retell it five different ways before you really understand where they’re coming from.


Silverstone also talked about his trademarked GROW principle. He had an entire class scheduled during MAGIC to explain the GROW principle and he was plugging a 3 day course in Sedona, AZ to learn the GROW principle. When I heard it explained, it reminded me of the RAIN principle my meditation teacher taught. Silverstone has a book called “In the Moment”. I think he took Buddhist principles as a basis for his corporate coaching and trademarked them! Anyhow, he gave pretty good advice to the audience and I liked his energy. He has real experience working in the apparel industry too.

It was a challenge walking into the seminar late and trying to find Kathleen sitting in the audience. I couldn’t see her when I walked in so I sat in some random seat and then I noticed her hair right in front of me. She ran out at the end and I had to chase her to the door so I could get my fan-boy awkward introduction experience. I got it.

Kathleen, Malia, Sally and I went to the Best Western lounge to have dinner. It was a lot of fun. A gentlemen was dining solo near to our table. Kathleen and Sally teased him until he agreed to sit with us (he wanted to but didn’t want to impose). Robyn, originally from Scotland, was a really nice sales rep for a knitwear producer. He lives in the Philippines. His company also has production in India. I kept running into him at the tradeshow the next few days and he was doing well with interest from manufacturers to contract with his company. When I introduced him to my German friend Axel, Robyn spoke fluid German with him. Everyone loved Robyn cause he was such a nice guy. If people like you, you can sell anything.

Later, my business partner James showed up for dinner. Kathleen and Sally were toying with the idea of crashing the $120 per ticket MAGIC costume ball that night. James is a vintage clothing dealer and stylist so he has a whole bunch of clothes at his house. He offered to dress them for crashing the costume ball but he lived too far away so it didn’t happen.

James and I left to take care of our business that night. Our business consisted of seeing a band play a show. It was a successful evening for me because the drummer cornered me at the after-party and insisted that I make him custom shirts.

This year Pool was right next to MAGIC but you needed a specific Pool badge to get into Pool even if you were a buyer. It’s a lame policy considering they’re owned by the same corporation. My friend and I walked into Pool with our other friends’ Pool badges and walked around a bit. BORING, BORING. Wednesday at Pool was totally dead. Maybe all the buyers were out “doing business” the night before like I was. From what I saw, the goods being offered were dead too. If I was a buyer I would have been disappointed. Who buys this crap? There were too many lame t-shirt companies and too much overpriced womens wear. A few places were offering denim but it was obvious by their huge booths they had a lot of money behind them. Otherwise there were barely any wovens. I didn’t see anything I would make, sell or wear. Either that means Pool is the wrong market for my product or that there is a void waiting to be filled.

According to the Pool website, Pool costs about $4000 for an exhibitor to get a basic 8’ by 12’ booth space. You can share one for about $2500. Most DEs I talked to barely broke even with orders taken during the event. They were all disappointed with their sales. People in the trade I talked to, including a buyer for a major retailer, think that Pool will probably only last two more seasons at the most and then be absorbed by MAGIC.

I also learned that best use of a tradeshow is to make appointments with buyers beforehand so that you spend your time at the tradeshow showing product to people you have already introduced yourself and your product to. If you don’t have any existing accounts, start contacting potential buyers before you even pay your registration fee. If you can’t get enough appointments set up with potential buyers, you may not even profit by going to the show. $4000 plus transportation, plus union fees to move your booth into the building, plus hotel, plus food, plus drinks, plus roulette is a lot of money to risk. I seriously think that a lot of people attend because of the experience of being in Vegas during a trade show week rather than the trade show itself. People really party and spend money like crazy in Vegas. It was fun but I’m glad I didn’t invest very much money in the experience.

The other problem with shows like Pool and United (a concurrent independent street wear show I did not attend) is that they attract exhibitors and buyers that have little money to invest. Another words, it’s a bunch of credit risky people running around trying not to spend too much money they don’t have and at the same time putting in orders or accepting orders that they can’t make good on. My friend, a yoga/dance/casual wear DE, did Pool in New York last season (I think it was the first show Pool was under the same ownership as MAGIC). She said she picked up some of her lousiest buyers at Pool. They were the type that don’t pay and cancel orders. She said the best buyers she picked were some that wondered in from the Project show. In Las Vegas, the guards at Pool wouldn’t let buyers with Project badges into Pool without making them wait in line for Pool badges and maybe even pay another fee. Basically, the people running the tradeshow made it a hassle for buyers. Also, my friend’s cute yoga wear was placed next to a bunch of skate shoes and other stuff totally unrelated to her product.

The rest of that day I spent at Project. According to my friends, Project costs exhibitors about $10,000 for a 10’ by 10’ booth. The format is different from Pool because the booths are like a cross between an office cubicle and a chicken coop. All the cubicles are in rows and aisles stacked against each other and you can’t see over the top of them easily. It was held at the Sands Expo Center. It was probably 4 times the size of Pool. The manufacturers are older and more established than the exhibitors at Pool. There was a ton of denims, woven, shoes and accessories. I spotted some real live garmentos at Project. I walked the menswear section in about 3 hours. I had quite a headache by the third hour.

My final day at the tradeshow I spent an afternoon at MAGIC. My business partner and I arrived at MAGIC near the streetwear section. Before we even entered the building, we were barraged with loud music, celebrities, low riders and hoochie mamas. It was “hiphy.” I was annoyed. We ran inside the showroom without issue (I was wearing a Project badge) and found the textiles section. It was really skimpy. I do not recommend trying to source fabric at MAGIC. We did however, spend $135 on a book called Fabric Services Trims at the Fashiondex booth. I recommend it. We also spent awhile at the Mode Information magazine distribution booth where we perused pricey textile look books and oversized Gap Press Japan magazines. I highly recommend the any of the magazines published by Gap Press Japan. You get really clear pictures of collections presented in major runway shows and no advertisements and just a few interviews. The rep at Mode Information was really nice and gave us a few issues of a textile industry magazine they distribute.

After visiting the textiles section we got lost in the streetwear section looking for the tailored menswear section so we had to exit and then re-enter. At this point in the day, the celebrity guests and performers were everywhere so the security guards were checking all badges. They wouldn’t let me in with a Project badge so James got me a guest badge.

We found the tailored menswear section and it was pretty much dead. I guess all the action was over at the streetwear section that we escaped from. The clothing we wanted to see (such as Ben Sherman) was all hidden behind temporary showrooms that you had to have an appointment to get into. We just wanted to have a peak, but if you’re not a buyer and you didn’t have an appointment with the right person beforehand, they would not let you even peek.

On the plane back to Oakland I was fortunate to sit next to a buyer/DE for a skateboard/snowboard shop in the Bay Area. He also sells limited edition t-shirts and other garments with prints by featured artists under his own brand. He walked all the shows I’ve mentioned – MAGIC, Pool, Project and United. Before he went to Las Vegas, he already had a plan of who he wanted to meet with and he didn’t see anything new that wanted to buy besides those that he planned to meet with beforehand. Even though he walked all those shows, he didn’t pick up one new brand. He was also walking them just to check out what other designers are presenting. He said that he also did not place any orders during the trip but that he would have to meet with his business partners back home and decide with them before placing any orders. He said that the trip was useful because he was able to meet with the reps for the products he was already interested in or that he already carries. He says that in the skatewear industry, reps do not typically go around visiting retailers. Distributors send out catalogs with pictures of the products and price lists and order forms. He said that skate shop owners don’t want to bother with all the schmoozing, communicating and contracting required for traditional apparel buying. I presume they’d rather just put in an order and then spend the rest of their time skating or hanging out with shop customers. In my personal experience, skate shops have tiny staffs and a very “hanging out at home” type atmosphere. Customers will hang out there all day just talking about skating and watching skate videos and then skate near the shop. Some guitar stores are like this too.

To me, the way skate shops buy merchandise sounds similar to how independent record stores and distributors work. The independent record label can make it or break it by getting in with the right independent distributor (such as Mordam) that will get them in the right record stores at the right volume (such as Amoeba in San Francisco or Other Music in Manhattan). The people who work in the independent record supply chain, like skaters, would rather spend their free time playing in bands and touring than negotiating contracts for sales reps. Music recordings are a very different product from apparel but those record stores sell t-shirts, books and posters as well as music.

Based on my interviews with exhibitors and buyers, I don’t think you can plan to break even or profit at MAGIC, Pool or Project based on walk-up business. Before I pay my registration fee, I would try to contact potential buyers and make appointments with them and try to estimate how much they would order from me. This will ensure I’m spending your time at the booth actually selling product in person rather than waiting for some random buyer to walk up that may not exist. The casinos aren’t the only gamble in Las Vegas.

9 Responses to “MAGIC Trip Report: Todd Hudson”

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trsih
April 20th, 2007
1:01 PM

Thanks for your post, Todd. It seems to me that product trade shows should offer DEs a chance to walk the show to see what you get for your money. It is so important to see the real show before you sink $4000 – $10,000 into a space, only to find the show does not attract the right buyer for your product.

Yet, to get into the show, as a potential future customer, you have to borrow badges. To me that shows poor promotion on the part of the show producers.

No one can blame the other manufacturers for not wanting us in the show to steal their hard won ideas and highly paid for trend report info. The show promoters, on the other hand, should be jumping hoops to get new DEs into the fold. And I would think they should be responsible to screen well before letting someone into the show — perhaps even restricting access to the actual “showrooms”, so that new DEs cannot use the trip as a “design phishing expedition.”

Also, if you are going to hold a show, get the buyers in there!! Even if they are not leaving paper, they may be sourcing for future orders and new sources. To sit at a show with your product and have no one see it is unforgettable at best!

Well, of course, it would be great if many things ran more smoothly and more “on course”.

I am so often amazed when I listen to business news. The people at the helms of huge companies are often doing things by the seat of their pants. (Not a sewing reference, LOL!!)

Well, that is why we love Kathleen for giving us this place to work out our thoughts and plans before hand.

There is a website for garment production called Taha Group. I personally like their written statements. This one, “All levels of production are monitored for prevention of faults rather than detection, starting from raw materials to finished goods ready for dispatch.” is what more people need to do with thinking and planning in general. Think first and think twice, cut once, if you know what I mean!!!

Have a great weekend.

Mindy Wiener
April 23rd, 2007
12:28 PM

Todd,

As Director of Operations for Pool, I feel compelled to correct some of the inaccuracies I read in your review of the shows.

1) –First, all BUYERS had free and very easy access to all three of our shows (MAGIC, Pool and PROJECT). There were no lines and no waiting for anyone having an ALL ACCESS red badge. This was the first time we implemented the “one badge” and it was met with multitudes of praise from buyers. Qualified PRESS had 1 badge for MAGIC/Pool and a separate one for PROJECT. An EXHIBITOR’S badge worked for just the show they were participating in. Access to each of the shows for everyone else (distributors, sales agents looking to find new brands, general public, etc.) was handled by each show individually. At Pool, passes were available for $100- pre-show and $200- at the door. Many prospective brands were given a complimentary day pass; the only criteria was that they had spoken to our sales team and were put on their “Guest of Sales” list. This allowed us to minimize people walking through the show that should not have been there. Buyers and exhibitors like not having multitudes of superfluous people walking the show floor.

2) Pool offers an opening price of $2,500 for our new designers in what is called our “emerging” area. We’ve created these areas for people new to the industry to be able to test the waters and, since it is a group area, it helps people to work together.

3) Here’s just a few Buyers that came to Pool that would beg to differ:Printemps, Isetan, Beams and Ships, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Barney’s, Neiman Marcus, Up Against the Wall, Hot Topic, Delia’s, The Buckle, Virgin Megastores, Metropark, Planet Funk, Aritzia, Gravity Pope, Holt Renfrew, and Selfridges.

4) There are also many inaccuracies on our sibling shows but, I’ll let them rebut if they so choose.

Now, you had your opinion posted so here’s mine. Pool has AMAZING new talent and we are proud of each and every one of our exhibitors. I doubt if the shoe were on the other foot, you would take so kindly to this comment. There were several of your other comments that were off. I don’t know you but would implore you to give more thought to your words and try, when criticizing, to offer constructive criticisms.

Now, you were absolutely correct in your comments suggesting that exhibitors contact potential buyers prior to the show. It is a big misconception that brands just “show up” at a tradeshow and have buyers flocking into their booths. Those who prepare are typically the ones who succeed. Tradeshows are a facilitation for the business to be done. We get the buyers through the door but it’s the brands responsibility to get them into the booth.

I’m very curious to learn of the store from the Bay area who didn’t find anything new in all 4 of the shows. If you’re willing to give me that name, I’d like to check out his store.

Todd Hudson
April 24th, 2007
5:50 AM

Mindy,
Thank you for reading and giving your input. I appreciate that you gave those facts and figures to correct my anecdotal misinformation and misconceptions.

I know Maus from way back. I should have run my review by her first but it didn’t occur to me until now. You can ask her, “who is this Todd Hudson guy?”

I bet Kathleen would love it if you did a article for her blog about Pool directed at DEs (design entrepreneurs). There are many DEs that read this blog and many of them are interested in walking or exhibiting at Pool but they’re heads may be filled with misinformation or bias (like me).

marissa v.
April 26th, 2007
6:30 AM

From the opposite side of the pond, I would agree with most of the general comments Todd made about trade shows (not the Pool-specific comments). After showing at Pure London, Margin London and Who’s Next Paris and visiting many other shows in Paris, I would say that most new brands exhibit at shows to pick up new customers. To me, the ONLY point of a trade show is to pick up new customers. I don’t need to be at a show to write orders with my existing customers – it would be cheaper to rent a hotel room to show to them (something done by brands at all sorts of trade shows from COMDEX to London Fashion Week).
When it comes down to it, it’s always difficult to pick up new customers, and trade shows may be the only way. When I’ve approached stores directly, they usually say, “The collection’s nice but we’ll wait to see you at the trade show.” For new designers, buyers probably won’t take the time to look at your stand unless they have heard of you (you probably won’t have the money to do an amazing custom build). So your success depends on being able to convince stores beforehand to make appointments (I found it impossible to pin them down to a time, they would only say they would “stop by”).
I have paid around $7000 each for Pure London and Who’s Next Paris and received $2000 in orders in London and $500 in orders in Paris. What a disaster! The money would better have been spent on a PR campaign. The only show I made money on was Margin, which only cost $800.
Every time I have done one of these trade shows, all the brands around me complain about the lack of sales. I don’t know if this is a recent recession or what. One of the brands I was near at Pure was established for many years in continental Europe and was currently sold in 2 major department stores in London but didn’t make any sales at Pure! Just to show that even many years of experience doesn’t lead to further trade show success.

mindy wiener
April 30th, 2007
9:33 AM

Todd,

Maus did tell me she knows you–small world! We (Pool) are preparing an outline for a series of seminars which we will begin to announce shortly. Rather than wait for the show cycle (August), we will launch the first seminar in our LA office in May/June; this will indeed be geared towards DE’s. Stay tuned!

Marissa,

Thanks for your feedback. Tradeshows are in place as a basic facilitation between brand & buyer. As an ex-road warrior, choosing (1) location to see thousands of buyers is much cheaper than traveling from town to town once you factor in air, hotel, etc. That said, if sales are not generated or contacts are not made, any money spent can seem like a waste. It sounds like our biggest focus will be to teach some of the DE’s how to market themselves. I can’t tell you the number of new brands with fantastic product that really don’t even know where they want to sell or how to go about contacting prospects. Any feedback that you want to share for topics for our seminars are welcome!

Big Irv
April 30th, 2007
12:02 PM

I have a question for Ms Weiner. Before I ask you, I would like to say that in my opinion apparel tradeshows STARTED as a basic means to facilitate between buyers and brands. I think over the years this has continued to be a primary focus, but the malaise we see amongst both exhibitors and attendees (buyers ) should not be ignored.
The general consensus among many people is that trade shows are becoming stale, offer the same seminars, year after year, and contrary to what some believe, and that buyers do appreciate visits from sales reps. In fact, many believe most retailers “open to buy” is depleted by the time a show rolls around and those that attend the Vegas venues do so to confirm and reconfirm placed orders and to recreate in Las Vegas. Some just are looking for accessories.

Some of the name brands you mention in your reply to Todd such as Nordstroms, Selfridges, Holt Renfrew etc… are observing, not buying. They have a need to know who’s doing what and based on the power of their namebadge, they have access to any booth or pavillion set up. Are you going to deny a Nordstrom buyer access to your booth ? Think about it.

Many designers leave shows not writing a single order. They are highly disappointed as they thought their products were fantastic and highly saleable. Well what went wrong then ? In most cases, they were told a presence at a show like Pool, Project, or Magic is a mandatory step to writing orders and it is the thing every brand does. Show people are so quick to drop names of majors and recognizable retailers and print them on brochures etc, but I think most of them leave their PO’s at home.

I think this is very misleading and unfair. Attitudes like this have lead many apparel and hardgoods brands to abandon the PGA shows for instance, as companies far prefer to make sales calls city to city, town to town. Golf apparel/equipment people caught on a bit faster it seems.
Ms. Weiner is right about travel. Travel costs can mount. But how many sales call can you make for 5-10 thousand dollars? Lots. And you are assured written orders.
I think many leave a show feeling as if the show organizers are the ones that pocketed the most money.
I think something needs to be drastically changed in order to make an apparel trade show worthwhile for both buyers and exhibitor and new DE’s should know that you will not become a huge sucesss immediately after attending a trade show in Vegas.

Heres my question Ms.Weiner . Do you make available to exhibitors a list of confirmed attendees prior or after the show. Is this part of your space agreement ? Can attendees be asked to have their name omitted ?

Kathleen
April 30th, 2007
1:42 PM

Come come Dave. Is it fair to unload on Mindy about your dissatisfaction about the general state of trade shows? You say you wanted to ask her a question and then inserted 5 paragraphs of discontent before you got to it.

Personally, I saw a lot of people at the tradeshow that I didn’t think were ready so I’m not surprised they didn’t take any orders. I agree we need more marketing options. Still, many people use market as a way to shop for future options. It’s not just a recent thing. New lines have always had to show at several markets before getting some bites. That’s why I think they’re better off co-oping a booth or using an independent rep who’s showing several lines. Buyers want to see that someone is still in the game, coming back for several seasons before they place that first order. It’s always been this way.

You wrote:
and new DE’s should know that you will not become a huge sucesss immediately after attending a trade show in Vegas.

POOL has started a program to educate DEs beforehand through seminars. What other tradeshow management is making the effort?

Now I have a question for you:

I think something needs to be drastically changed in order to make an apparel trade show worthwhile for both buyers and exhibitor

What do you propose to be a solution? I’m not being difficult, I really want to know.

Big Irv
April 30th, 2007
7:15 PM

I don’t really think there is any real quick or easy solutions to the apparel trade show debate, but since this blog is aimed at Design Entrepreneuers perhaps I can offer up some thoughts that might aid an aspiring designer when the time comes to exhibit at a large show or local rep market.
I think it a great idea if Advanstar offer free seminars to prospective exhibitors and coach them on the many things they will need to know before committing their time and money. Chalk it up as a marketing cost as hopefully many of the seminar attendees will turn into paying customers.

This is the clothing business.You always need to recruit new prospects and the trade show/event planning/convention business is a multi billion dollar industry that needs to be fed.

In my opinion, I think the whole Magic, Pool, Project extravaganza has gotten so big that people don’t specifically hightail it Vegas to buy and write orders, but to use it for other purposes.
A common perception amongst brands is that most of the buying is done beforehand and if you attend, you’ve made it and this can be a very positive aspect for many companies. On the other hand, if you don’t exhibit, buyers or competitors may view this as you are no longer in business and this can be injurious to your brand.
Many companies use the week to hold sales meetings, launch lines, locate reps, meet suppliers and network.
This is obviously a positive aspect about the shows and afterall, how these companies spend their money is their perogative.

Is it the best thing for new designers to exhibit ? Are you influenced by the name dropping of major companies that in most likelihood are not at the venue to write , but are there for different reasons . Do you think that because someone has a “buyers” badge that they actually buy ?

I do agree with Mindy and Kathleen that many designers need to figure out where and who their target customer is and perhaps these seminars that are planned might assist them to a degree. You have to admit many designers could appear confused at a show like POOL as many are under the assumption that this is the “major leagues” and major leaguers are going to succeed at days end.
I really think you need to assess your position and ask yourself, can I afford to spend this money and not gain a sufficient ROI, or even walk away empty handed ?

My comments about drastic changes in the apparel industry show world being needed was a result of dozens of conversations with exhibiting designers, retailers and and others who have attended and felt little was accomplished and that they would not be returning soon. Many were overpowered by the size. Many thought it was impersonal.

This malaise has also found it’s way into other industries such as sporting goods which has strong ties to apparel. I don’t know what is happening, nor do I have a definitive solution but the feeling is almost identical.Tradeshows need to reinvent or restructure. So far the easy thing has been to stop going. People say there are too many shows.

I do know the golf/ski industry has changed course and placed an emphasis on personal rep visits and have shifted a good portion of marketing dollars on smaller regional events. They see immediate “bang for the buck ” and feel this is the route to take. And these are marketing savvy companies that take apparel very seriously. Margins on apparel can dwarf hardgoods.

Other than that, I think you really have to seriously think if a large trade show is for you, or better still if and when you are ready for the show. It’s a hard call.

J C Sprowls
May 4th, 2007
1:06 PM

To Big Irv’s point about leveraging your investment, please consider: Trade Shows: Measuring ROI and Put Your Money Where The Value Is.

Every industry is convinced that trade shows are the way to go. But, Pragmatic Marketing suggests that newbies might have the wrong expectations in their article Why Demo at Trade Shows?.

For general information about operating and attending trade shows (in addition to what Kathleen has scrounged up for us) check out: Pragmatic Marketing or Sideroad.

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