The slow stream of attendees at the Sourcing apparel and footwear trade shows in Las Vegas on Tuesday were not met with outstretched hands.
The impact of the rapidly spreading, Wuhan-born coronavirus has infected the attitudes of both buyers and exhibitors at this week’s usually massive fashion expo.
In a pair of small ballrooms, manufacturers from across the globe showcased their shoes and clothing with seeming trepidation as impalpable uncertainty hung in the air. The travel ban instituted on Sunday afternoon by the Trump administration has prevented about 50 percent of the trade show’s Chinese vendors from entering the country, some exhibitors said.
“A lot of the Chinese people couldn’t get in,” said Laurence Tseng of Chinese footwear manufacturer Beluga Shoes.
According to Stephanie Douglas of Aero Fashion, a footwear manufacturer based in Taiwan, the Footwear Sourcing showrunners closed down an adjacent pavilion that was meant to have been filled with vendors.
With the show’s anemic turnout, all of the footwear vendors convened in a smaller ballroom fit for a modest wedding reception.
Jessie Zhang, sales director at Sourcing at MAGIC, Footwear Sourcing, confirmed to Sourcing Journal that about 60 percent of the Chinese manufacturers expected to exhibit their wares were locked out by the Sunday travel ban. Of the 300 vendors registered to attend, just 100 have showed up, she added, citing scores of last-minute cancellations.
“People are in a bit of a panic,” Zhang said.
As a testament to the outbreak’s far-reaching effects, Zhang said a handful of manufacturers from Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia declined to attend Sourcing at Magic, citing the risk of exposure to the virus that has infected 20,618 in about two dozen countries and China, and killed 427 as of Tuesday, with all but two deaths occurring inside the world’s most populous country.
Zhang described these no-shows by non-China vendors as “minimal,” though their effects is “still being felt to some degree.”
Asked whether fashion buyers harbor any trepidation about showing up for the sourcing world’s staple event, Zhang admitted that many will likely hedge their bets and stay away, though some will make the journey because they have little choice but to figure out their sourcing strategies, especially with the ongoing U.S.-China trade turmoil.