August 19, 2019

Las Vegas Retail Trade Shows - Retail Environment Remains Tough, but New Trends Show Promise

By Lois Sakany
Las Vegas' biannual apparel and footwear trade shows took place in a shrunken environment, reflecting retail brick-and-mortar challenges, though at the same time, an emerging color story and silhouette trends showed potential positives for brands and retailers embracing them.

Informa plc’s Magic biannual shoe and apparel trade show took place in Las Vegas, Aug. 12-14, and, in a reflection of the industry’s retail woes, the event for the first time was housed entirely under one roof, the Las Vegas Convention Center. Previously, the show was big and sprawling enough it needed two convention halls to contain it. Across town at the Sand’s Convention Center, RELX plc’s Agenda Show and Liberty Fashion Fairs exhibit space had also shrunk in comparison to prior events.

And while multiple vendors described the state of retail as “challenging,” there were some glimmers of positivity driven by emerging trends showing the potential to drive sales in spring 2020. In general, while the mood around retail may be gloomy, bright color stories were a big apparel trend, anchored by a rising trend around tie-dye fabrics. The look was big this summer and is poised to be huge next year with multiple vendors refreshing their lines by offering casual dress and skirts, lifestyle athletic looks and activewear in a rainbow array of colors.

Tie dye, heritage, joggers
Left to right: Activewear gets tie-dye treatment; heritage looks revived with color; joggers are renewed with color
Photos: OTR Global

Reflecting the strength of the trend, Nike Inc. in early August queued up a tie-dye polo shirt on its SNKRS app that quickly sold out within minutes. Ralph Lauren Corp. in spring 2018 also did well with a capsule of men’s and women’s items that were tie-dye themed. As such, retailers like Urban Outfitters Inc., whose success is driven in part by aggressively attacking new trends, could benefit from this new look in the spring of next year.  

One heritage sport brand supplier whose women’s offerings were full of colorful T-shirts and joggers said the collection had been well received. At the same time, he still described the retail environment as challenging, with smaller boutiques and regional urban chains experiencing better demand for apparel than chains like Foot Locker Inc. and The Finish Line Inc. “Those chains until recently haven’t been known as destinations for apparel,” he explained.

Meanwhile, a women’s shoe brand supplier said he has observed the beginnings of a shift back to women wearing sandals, a trend led by the reemergence of flip-flops. At the same time, the vendor also mentioned expanding the number of shoe offerings priced under $100 in an effort to entice retailers to carry more SKUs. When asked about retail, he pointed out it is impossible to think about it anymore as a brick-and-mortar format, but one with multiple points of entry for purchases, pointing out Facebook Inc.’s Instagram has become a very important platform for shopping. 

If the trend toward more traditionally feminine styles of summer footwear expands, it’s a shift that potentially can benefit Steve Madden Ltd., which has done a good job of tackling the fashion sneaker dad shoe trend, but faces less competition from global athletic brands in the women’s fashion footwear category.

Sandals, Asics, outerwear
Left to right: Women's strappy sandals front and center; Asics retro technical styles; outerwear makes use of recycled fleece

Photos: OTR Global

Outdoor-themed looks also showed influence, especially in menswear where details associated with hiking and mountain climbing like tech fabrics, cargo pockets and carabiner were translated to lifestyle looks and accessories. The outdoor category has also benefited as a leader in prioritizing use of sustainable materials, a movement that has been widely picked up by an array of brands and fast-fashion retailers. At the same time, the trend to spend less time interfacing with computers provides a tailwind for activities taking place beyond the reach of WiFi.