As Coronavirus Anxiety Heightens, Many Footwear Players From China Forced to Sit Out Vegas Sourcing Show

As the industry grapples with the impact of the Coronavirus — from supply chain disruption to store closures — the Las Vegas trade shows are feeling the effects this week.

The Footwear Sourcing at Magic show got underway today, with a handful of people wearing protective masks in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Exhibitors on the scene said the event is noticeably smaller than past editions since so many people from China were forced to stay home amid widespread travel restrictions implemented by the U.S. government over the weekend.

Show organizers said they are still tallying the final numbers, but their priority is the health and safety of all exhibitors and visitors from around the world. “We are a global business, and the well-being of attendees and colleagues is top of mind,” said Tom Nastos, chief commercial officer of Informa Markets’ fashion division. “We want to find ways to be supportive of our exhibitors and [representatives of] factories from China that come here. That’s equally as important.”

Daniel Chang, assistant GM at Tristar Group Growth Ltd., which has offices in both Taiwan and China, said he was traveling in Taiwan and later Canada when the restrictions took hold. While he was able to attend the shows this week, the executive is worried about the near-term impact on production as Chinese New Year wraps up and orders build up at factories.

“Everything has stalled. And the government doesn’t give you warning when it takes actions,” Chang said, noting that school closings have been announced in Guangdong Province through March 1. Factories could remain shuttered if the coronavirus doesn’t abate in the coming days.

Trade shows across the world are being forced to make contingency plans as the situation worsens.

Yesterday, American Events said it would suspend the NE Materials Show — scheduled for Feb. 5 and Feb. 6 in Boston — as well as the NW Materials Show scheduled for Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 in Portland, Ore. Organizers from Hong-Kong based Asia Pacific Leather Fair said today they were considering postponing their event, scheduled for the end of March.

“There’s a definite impact on the ability of designers and developers to find new inspiration at the materials shows as they start the next development cycle — and for sourcing execs [seeking] to find new partners,” said Andy Polk, SVP of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.

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