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Informa Markets Fashion President on Sourcing at Magic’s Virtual Makeover

Magic is getting a makeover—and it’s likely to stick, well beyond the Covid crisis.

The famed Las Vegas trade show, which normally draws tens of thousands of attendees, transitioned to a digital format this year amid the pandemic. But the show’s Sourcing arm, which normally pulls in manufacturers and suppliers from across the globe, faced its own unique set of challenges that could only be addressed through a sophisticated virtual infrastructure.

The Sourcing at Magic show provides an important opportunity for brands and product teams to interface with potential sourcing partners who work and reside a world away. “It was so important with the international component of sourcing that we would be able to still convene the market,” said Kelly Helfman, commercial president for Informa Markets Fashion, adding that “everybody thought it was critical to keep doing business, even if it meant just doing it digitally.”

While the accelerated transition to a digital format has been difficult, it has actually presented some global manufacturers who could not afford to travel or rent a booth at the show’s physical event with an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their wares.

The online Sourcing at Magic portal was created for long-term use, Helfman said, rather than following the schedule of the traditional, in-person event’s three-day run time. Instead, the platform launched on Sept. 15 and will be open for business for three months, closing for business on Dec. 15. “This gives people the opportunity to continuously be able to source through the platform, to come back as needed and continuously engage with different exhibitors,” Helfman said.

The platform also contains new educational content in the form of seminars from industry experts, which have served to drive engagement, along with information about emerging trends in the sourcing sphere. For example, footwear manufacturing has skyrocketed in Brazil in recent seasons, catapulting the country to the rank of No. 4 shoe producer in the world, and No. 1 footwear sourcing country outside of Asia. Duty-free nearshoring opportunities have also presented themselves in Peru and Colombia, and Sourcing has made a point of showcasing exhibitors from these emerging regions for companies looking to diversify their operations.

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“Ultimately, this is not just about today, and doing it because of the pandemic,” Helfman added, saying that the move represents a part of the “overarching strategy for Informa” moving forward. “We will come back to events, so rest assured that is our primary business,” she said, “but we do feel that the future is going to forever be a hybrid of both digital and physical events.”

The Sourcing platform drew over 770 exhibitors from 26 countries this year, Helfman said, showcasing more than 66,000 different products. Since the platform’s September launch, the Sourcing event has generated 223,704 total page views and more than 26,000 connections, and has been attended by 1,725 buyers from 56 countries across the globe.