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Byline: KIM-VAN DANG
LOS ANGELES -- Gambling is no longer the only game in town for Las Vegas. In recent years, this desert destination has been a growing mecca for trade shows.
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the city hosted 2,443 conventions and trade shows in 1993, more than double the 1990 figure of 1,011.
Nearly a dozen different apparel and accessories trade shows now take place in the city, staging as many as four editions a year. Some, including the largest of them -- MAGIC [the Men's Apparel Guild In California show] -- relocated from Los Angeles in search of a bigger venue. And additional ones keep coming, in the hopes of attracting a national and international audience.
Last year, the city drew 23.5 million visitors. They are accommodated by an expansive base of hotel rooms -- 86,653 at last count -- with prices generally lower than many other major cities. A tradition of headline entertainment and dining ranging from $1.99 steak-and-eggs to gourmet menus add to the draw.
"Vegas offers variety," said Terry Jicinsky, marketing research administrator for the Visitors Authority.
The Las Vegas Convention Center is yet another draw: it offers 1.6 million square feet of exhibit space on one level. The center already hosts two of the country's largest shows: Comdex, a semiannual computer trade show that attracts 155,000 delegates (the other edition is held in Atlanta), and the semiannual Consumer Electronics Show (its other venue is Chicago) that attracts 80,000 delegates. MAGIC attracts about 50,000 delegates to its semi-annual shows there.
Come Feb. 21-24, 1995, the WWD MAGIC Show will make its Las Vegas debut. John Remeny, chairman of MAGIC's women's show committee, said that between 850 and 875 booths on 200,000 square feet of the Hilton Pavilion -- a contiguous space to the Las Vegas Convention Center -- will feature women's wear.
"Given the success of MAGIC and changes in retailing -- there used to be a hell of a lot more road salesmen, for instance -- retailers, including those in the women's market, have to be more efficient with their time and resources today," Remeny said. "This show is not meant to replace any existing markets. It is just an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to get together, to get clear directions on trends under one roof.
"Moreover, retailers love Las Vegas," he said."In terms of food, hotel, travel and entertainment costs, your money goes far there."
Jicinsky of the Visitors Authority noted the city is also supporting several smaller shows.
"We are attracting a lot more trade shows with fewer attendees these days," he said. "Smaller meeting spaces that can accommodate between 100 and 5,000 delegates are now available at new hotels, including Mirage, Treasure Island and MGM Grand."
The Tropicana Hotel and the Sands Hotel are two other venues for smaller shows. The former has hosted the semiannual Big and Tall Woman (BAT Woman) show since October 1990.
Jeff Yunis, president of Specialty Trade Shows of Miami, Fla., which produces BAT Woman, said the shows regularly feature 250 lines and draw the same number of retailers.
"The numbers are not big, but they are real," he said. "We draw people from 41 states to our show. Where else can you get a hotel room for $60, $70 a night and walk around absolutely safe at 1 o'clock in the morning?"
Convention Business Services, which operates the Ladies Apparel Show Vegas (LAS Vegas) at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, joined forces with New York-based Fashion Accessories Expo this year for a combined show in February. In September, the two sponsors will do separate but simultaneous shows.
Don Pulliam, president of Convention Business Services, said his company also plans to produce four new shows on its own in addition to LAS Vegas.
The Sands is also home to Children's Trade Expo Vegas (CTE Vegas). It staged its first Las Vegas show in March, after three shows in Los Angeles. CTE expects to sell 400 booths and attract between 800 and 1,000 retailers to its next show Oct. 3-5.
"Vegas is a better venue," said Kathy Browning, who co-produces the show with Candace Cohen out of San Juan Capistrano, Calif. "It is more affordable to fly into from any city in the U.S. and it is affordable to stay there."
Another newcomer to the Sands is Splash, a swimwear and activewear show to bow Sept. 9-11. Produced by Barbara Brady, director of the International Swimwear and Activewear Show (ISAM) in Los Angeles, and Gary Abeyta, publisher of the Swim Journal, the semi-annual show's first edition is expected to feature 50 exhibitors. Brady said she has sent mailers out to 15,000 retailers nationwide.
The Sands hosts two other industry shows: the American International Outerwear Show that began this April and the Jewelers Circular Keystone fine jewelry show that celebrated its third anniversary in June.