It was a welcome return to Magic for many exhibitors during the Aug. 9-11 showcase at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The three-day Magic Las Vegas event, which unites buyers, brands and retailers, has been virtual since February 2020 amid COVID-19 health concerns.
But with heightened safety precautions in place at this week’s show, many of the attendees felt comfortable and confident to continue with business as usual.
To protect guests, Magic organizer Informa Markets Fashion continuously sanitized high-touch areas and made hand-washing facilities and hand-sanitizers available throughout the venue. Face masks, courtesy of Z Supply and Kenneth Cole, were also available for guests who did not bring their own. Per CDC guidelines and local Clark County mandates, face masks were required.
“I think that the COVID restrictions are definitely here to make people safe and to be able to conduct business,” said Jerry Breig, COO and VP of international business at Lamo. After his team interacted with customers, Breig said they sanitized their own work areas wherever anyone sat down. “We only brought employees who are vaccinated as well, to make sure that we keep our families safe when we go home from this as well,” he said.
Indeed, the event’s safety precautions helped restore confidence in face-to-face interactions after more than a year of Zoom and virtual interactions.
“People are really excited to be back in Magic again,” said Jessica Nelson, a West Coast account executive at Chinese Laundry. “It’s been the buzz word for the last six months or so because people want to be here. They’re ready for this. They want to buy. They need product. They’ve been shopping remotely for so long that they’re ready to be able to touch and feel things in person.”
Even with the renewed excitement among attendees and vendors, Magic did have a muted tone compared to its vibrant past events. “There’s been talk about this show not being what it used to be in terms of the brands,” said Yetzalee Mazza, marketing director for Jambu. “There’s just not that same foot traffic and that energy that it used to have.” Mazza also expressed a desire to return to the prior format, with footwear brands in a designated area. This season, shoe labels were scattered throughout the Magic and Project exhibitors. Overall, though, Mazza said Jambu had a positive response from customers at the show, following on strong growth this past year. “We grew 19 percent during COVID, which is like the silver lining, mainly because of our shoes being in that space of outdoor fashion that everyone was on track with during COVID.”
Despite the more-modest lineup, exhibitors said their interactions with buyers restored a sense of normalcy to business.
Hillary Hickmann, Aetrex national sales manager, told FN, “It’s a little quieter than in the past, but people, in general, are really excited to get out to shows again and to get that energy back — and to be able to touch and feel things and not have to do Zoom. To see people in real life is really refreshing, and that’s part of the excitement.”
And Hickman noted that what retailers are hunting for is plenty of comfort and color.
“Overall, it seems like people are looking for different, unique, brightness — color — because it feels like for the last year and a half we’ve been in the doldrums,” she added. “Now, people are out shopping again.”
Other exhibitors agreed that their retail clients are looking for dynamic products to attract consumer interest. “They want something new and fresh, something that’s going to drive their business,” said Larry Paparo, Floafers president and CEO. “They’ve gone through such a hard time recently that, right now, having something that can create revenue for them, it’s critically important for the survival of the retail stores.”