I actually, strangely, love Las Vegas. Same with Miami Beach. All these Sin Cities, they just seem so nice and free.
Daniel and I were in Vegas last week for a tradeshow (one of his projects, not mine.)
The fashion tradeshow thing sort of blows my mind: it is sooooo expensive to do a tradeshow like Magic, or Project, and it’s really only the designer who is covering the costs. A small booth cost several thousand dollars last time I researched- five years ago. Then shipping product samples and booth fixtures could easily cost another few hundred. In this situation, the hotel then charges a surcharge of $20 or so for ‘handling’ each box, after fedex has delivered it. That turns into another couple of hundred. If you are showing via a showroom, you’re paying them on top of all that- a few thousand per month.
Then you’ve got travel & hotel costs, which are fairly predictable. An unpleasant surprise at the Mandalay hotel was the costs of food and water- all were dramatically overpriced, because of the semi-captive audience. (The hotel/ convention center was so large it was difficult for people busy with the tradeshow to leave- and thus water prices were jacked to about 31 cents an ounce- I am not exaggerating- and food prices were shocking. ) The first night there, we ordered breakfast room service, knowing we’d be jetlagged and exhausted and needing to work the next morning: a simple breakfast of OJ, coffee, croissants, and fruit came to $100. The orange juice was a dollar an ounce, the coffee was as expensive as water, the fruit was $22 a plate— and it wasn’t good fruit either!
Since we were there for the entire tradeshow, I had a fair bit of time to walk around and observe. It’s easy to tell if a booth is writing orders, because the buyers are sitting in chairs focused on papers in front of them. And this is the thing- it’s become less and less common for buyers to actually write orders while at the tradeshow. It was an uncommon sight to see a buyer sitting down with a writing instrument. I don’t know if this turn happened with the 2008 crash, but everyone seemed to recognize this was a problem: for the designer, the show becomes a giant gamble, and an activity that is more posturing than anything else: “we are here, we’re doing well, we’re showing up” – since very few are leaving the show with enough confirmed orders to cover the upfront costs.
I look at this model: of paying a showroom a couple thousand a month, of paying PR a couple thousand a month, of showing twice a year at 5 figures per show…and I wonder how to do it smarter. Because the incentives seem all upside down. The only one with skin in the game at these numbers is the designer.