Trade show talk: helping the healing process

by Karen Alberg Grossman
Dallas Men’s Show

The verdict is in and it’s overwhelming: in-person trade shows are good for the soul and will be stronger than ever this summer! Here, a few comments on three recent fall 2021 men’s notes. (Although this COVID-phobic editor hasn’t moved from her kitchen table for the past year, I’m hoping to be back at the summer shows once vaccinated, and can’t wait to see my industry friends. Out of sight but never out of mind!)

Says Murry Penner from M Penner in Houston, “The Dallas show really fed my optimism: it was an extremely important event in our healing process. You can’t imagine how exciting it was for vendors and retailers alike just to see each other, much less work with actual product. There’s no doubt that what we buy from this show will be more successful and more curated than the virtual buys. (Although we’ll have plenty of that, too.)” 

According to stats from the Dallas Men’s Show, this latest edition, held January 30-February 2, was the biggest in more than a decade, with buyer attendance up 180 percent over the previous year, and more than 25 percent of attendees making a first visit. Retailers came from 32 states (and from international destinations) to shop an expanded array of traditional and contemporary collections. The next Dallas Men’s Show is July 31-August 2.

Dallas Men’s Show

“The thing I love most about coming to the Men’s Show is that everything is concentrated in one place, it’s easy access, easy registration, easy getting in and out of showrooms,” said Michael Malouf, owner of Malouf’s in Southlake, Texas.

Steve Allton of Allton’s in Edmond, Oklahoma was among the buyers intent on ordering to restock their stores and eager to see new products firsthand. “I caught up with all my friends around the country, looked at new product, and pulled more vendors than ever before,” he said. “I couldn’t run my business without coming to market in Dallas.”

Dan Kocks from MS McClellan also praised the Dallas show, citing powerful product from Brax, Baldessari, Waterville, Stenstroms, Teleria, Fradi, and Barbera. “They all showed many cool items and most are happy to let you ‘cherry-pick’ for compelling items (vest, quilts, loungewear, hoodies, and joggers). Jack Victor looked particularly impressive, especially in outerwear.”

Dallas Men’s Show

Katie at Stantt was one of many satisfied exhibitors. “The team at the Dallas Market Center put on an amazing show. It was great to catch up with old customers and introduce new ones to what we do. There was consistent (busy!) traffic every day; we saw stores from every territory. We had lots of traction with our new trouser program and stores continued to reach for more casual options with performance, knits, and flannels.”

Jim Sweeney from the Southern Clothing Market also reported a successful show in Charlotte: 170 vendors representing more than 300 lines. “Despite the pandemic, we held the show so retailers could find out what’s going on,” he explained. “Retailers need to talk to other retailers. They need to find out what’s working and what’s selling. They need to know if their orders are going to get shipped. I cannot tell you how many retailers have come up to me and thanked us–the Men’s Apparel Club of the Carolinas (MAC) organization–for having the show. Although retailers are of course concerned about business, most remain optimistic. The attitude is that they’ll figure out a way.” (The next Charlotte show dates are August 7 thru 9, with Friday, August 6 as an optional day.)

Menswear rep Bruce Wender was thrilled with the great reaction to his recently launched Sharp Lad collection shown at the Charlotte show. “Buyers loved the new models in double melange colors with suede details and tortoise zipper pulls. Our first season (fall 2020) was very encouraging: we delivered all our orders on time, sold out to the piece, and our retail customers reported great sell-throughs. Not bad for a new company launching during a pandemic!”

Wender also reps 34 Heritage and cited strong bookings in twills and urban-washed denim, all soft comfort fabrics with texture and stretch.  Hot colors were insignia blue, tobacco, pewter, and grey.

Memphis Prime

Lauren Vestal, the founder of Memphis Prime, was delighted with their first-ever show and has confirmed dates for the next one: July 25-27. Said Ken Shaia of Shaia’s, “I’m so grateful that Memphis opened its door to us. I was able to see top brands and find a few new ones. Great work environment and great brands.” And from Hal Lansky at Lansky’s, “We were thrilled when Lauren Vestal’s vision of bringing a regional men’s tradeshow came to fruition in January. The venue at Central Station (a hip new hotel in an old train station) was the perfect spot for a great mix of vendors and upscale stores.  To kick off the event, brand reps gave a brief review of their season’s offerings and we were able to then work comfortably and safely.” 

And from Tyler Hampton at Hampton’s, “My experience at the inaugural Memphis Prime show was one that will not be forgotten!  The smaller setting allowed me to work with my existing vendors as well as explore new ones, all without being rushed like at some of the larger shows. On top of that, the Central Station Hotel was an awesome venue! I look forward to attending next season!”

With widespread vaccinations expected to make travel, socializing, and shopping a lot safer, menswear business should pick up considerably in months to come. More Trade Show Talk to follow; see you at the shows!

9 Replies to “TRADE SHOW TALK: HELPING THE HEALING PROCESS”

  1. I love the positive feedback that Dallas and Charlotte have received. I attended both shows and wholeheartedly agree with all of the comments and I’m looking forward to attending the West Coast Trend and NorthWest buyers shows!

    But can we also look forward and as a community do something about the August shows? Charlotte, Chicago and Project LV are all scheduled for the same week in August. Any hope of normalcy for the next year would be sabotaged by this scheduling.

  2. This was a much needed shot of encouragement! I was at Dallas and it was terrific to see the show buzzing with excitement! This proves that when you have the ability to touch the product and see the quality of the merchandise, the passion comes alive!

  3. Karen, do you EVER sleep? The job of an Editor-in-Chief is never done, I suppose. And we are luckier for you!
    Thank you as always.

  4. Hi All,
    Some of you may know me, some may not. I have been in the mens fashion business since I worked in a shop to help put my way through college. When I transitioned to the wholesale side I did so because I truly love the clothes and the people in the industry. I wanted to travel and do shows and meet all the buyers and editors I admired so much. This is why we do this, to see clothes and people and culture. I can not stress how much I miss seeing our clients and friends in person and just how hard showing virtually has been. I relish my time in NY and Paris and Chicago and everywhere in-between. Not being able to visit markets and shops is not easy. I went from flying 20,000 miles in 2 months to not flying since. We have done everything we can to do our job and show our wares, including digital markets, youtube videos, sample sends. zoom calls, etc etc none of these tools will ever take the place of in-person shopping. When I speak to my buyers, universally everyone wants to get back to in person shopping and travel. This has been the hardest year of my and most of my friends lives, this is especially true for small business such as myself and many of our retailers.
    When I read the above article and looked at the pictures of buyers and reps, I ask myself, am I living in crazy town? I, like most folks, follow the CDC and WHO guidance on wearing masks, not traveling, not visiting other households (especially mask less and especially inside) and generally trying my best to not transmit a deadly disease. When I look at the pics above I wonder, why? In many of the pics the people are not wearing masks properly, are not nearly distanced enough from others, and are clearly seeing lots and lots of strangers inside. This is the opposite of what you are supposed to be doing to stop the spread. The vaccination is at hand, we should be able to start in-person again next season. And yet, here we are, putting on shows that risk the lives of everyone involved.
    When this all started there were calls of fixing a broken system, doing better things for the environment, trying to cut down on excess travel, excess inventory and generally trying to make our industry better for the world and the people and creatures in it.
    Well this is not that. I am honestly saddened and ashamed to see people who should know better, that I may have shared a conversation or a drink, engaging in this reckless behavior for what? Selling 10% more sport coats? Not to mention all of the workers that have no choice but to work at one of these events. I let a lot of differences go, because in the end, we all want our business to thrive and our families to be healthy, but I can no longer stand by seeing this behavior and not call it out for what it is, selfish and reckless. As they say on twitter don’t @ me , there is nothing anyone can say to excuse this behavior or to change my mind about the people engaging in said behavior.

    1. Grant,
      Its a free country last time I checked. Nobody is forcing you to go, and nobody cares if you go.

      MAGA!

      John

  5. To answer Patrick Chan. In Charlotte, I wish we had some flexibility on dates but the military rents over 7,500 rooms a year from The Embassy Suites in Charlotte. We, the MAC, have to sign a contract well in advance. In fact we are booked through 2024 and getting ready to extend the contract. The nice thing is that since we have been using the Embassy Suite for 32 years, they give us the same dates each year. We have the first full week in Feb. and the first full weekend in Aug. Our dates for the next show are Aug 6 to Aug 9. We have added Friday as an official day which has worked out very well for us. I wish we could do something but we are locked in.

    Jim Sweeney

  6. I couldn’t agree more with Grant. I wish I could say I am surprised that these shows are taking place in-person, but I’m not. Every day, American’s are holding large gatherings (weddings, Super Bowl parties), doing unnecessary traveling, and engaging in careless behavior.

    Yes, hopefully by the summer more people will be vaccinated, and these types of events will be safer to attend but as we near close to 500,000 deaths due to Covid just in the U.S., attending these shows and not wearing your mask properly is reckless, at best. We all would love to go back to “normal,” but this sort of irresponsible way of doing business ain’t it.

    If one year of in-person buying/selling will make or break your business, it was going to fail even before the pandemic hit. Being able to change and evolve with the times, and what the world throws at us, is important. Technology is here to stay, so you might as well learn it.

  7. Dallas was like a shot in the arm (no pun intended) for what ails us retailer/buyers. Seeing friends and vendors in a well prepared sitting was gratifying. We are anticipating a much better fall and holiday season and being able to look at new product and actually touch it should help us create the correct buy for fall 2021. It was great to see so many vendors attend who normally would not be seen at a show setting.
    As to the comments by the people who do not want you or I to leave our homes. The show did a great job of making sure we could be as safe as possible. Temperature testing at the front door and plenty of sanitizer throughout the show floor. They even had people walking the show reminding people to either wear their mask or put it on properly. I could not of felt more comfortable. Job well done!

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