Really Tradeshows?
But I can just look everything up on the internet! Duh!

And 118 Trade Shows for Sportswear & Sports Clothes in 77 cities and 30 countries. Most Trade Shows for Sportswear & Sports Apparel take place in Germany with 33, Finland with 8 and USA with 7 Trade Shows for Sportswear & Sports Apparel. But which ones to attend and why. I hand selected a list of trade shows that you just can’t miss.

Apparel tradeshows and expos are they worth attending? Whether you are a retailer, manufacturer, designer or just starting to dabble with your own apparel line, there are several shows nationwide that you should consider attending. The ones that I feel are worth your while regarding sports apparel/activewear are listed below.

Several of these I have personally attended over the years and have seen grow and prosper and some don’t even exist anymore (I miss the SUPERSHOW in Atlanta). I have attended Interbike more than you can count on your fingers and toes, MAGIC several times and Outdoor Retailer is my personal favorite because of the overall vibe and because it ISN’T in Vegas like most trade shows.  I have yet to attend Surf Expo, but it’s on my short list and have heard many people rave about it.


When I go, I’m all business. I have my elevator speech ready, mini-portfolio in hand and attend as many seminars as I can.  This is where you can network with the seminar panel and exhibitors quickly and efficiently. If you take the time to be there, they will take the time to answer your questions.

1)      I suggest bringing a notebook and a tiny stapler to write down a quick note about who you met, their benefits and staple their card into your notebook. This is quick and handy for later when you want send a follow-up email.

2)      Spread out your attendance. You don’t have to go to each one every year. I have found that every other year works best. This gives you exposure to different types of contacts and education.

3)      Whether you can attend or not, at least sign up for the shows newsletters and check out the dailies even after the event.  Many of these were this past January, but keep these in mind for next year and put into your marketing/traveling budget.

4)      Don’t monopolize anyone’s time. They are all their for the same thing you are and the quicker you say hello and goodbye the quicker you will meet someone. You can always circle back later on. I met the director of marketing for Disney’s sports apparel standing in the Starbucks line!

5)      Research the list of exhibitors prior to going and put a plan together. This is overwhelming especially at MAGIC. They usually segment the show by countries and categories.  First day, I tackle the Must-Meet list and set-up meetings for the rest of the show. If I don’t get a chance to see them, I put them back on my list. I like to hit the New Product section the 2nd day. This strategy gives the exhibitor a day to hear what people are looking for and will be short and sweet and to the point. This also gives you a leg-up when attending other events as talking points, “Did you see the latest sublimated headgear by the new company, XGEAR?”  This also gives you a reason to follow-up with a new product exhibitor and let them know you had mentioned their product. This builds trust and connects you to someone who has started their own business that you can pick their brains later.

6)      Be specific when talking to manufacturers. They like to know price points, minimums per style, fabric specs and even show them a sample or 2 of what you are looking for. Bring a sell sheet with your contact information if you are comfortable enough with that. With some exhibitors you may just give your card if you only talk for a few minutes, but if you land a serious manufacturer you want to show them you have done your research. They may even give you samples of their latest tech fabrics or apparel samples.

7)      Bring a couple of your own samples and use a messenger bag with a top flap. Yes I already mentioned this, but if you can show someone what you are trying to achieve, even if you are going to tweak it, this will make the conversation more to the point. Using a messenger back v. backpack is more professional and you can quickly pull out your samples rather than digging through all the junk that settled.

8)      Attend all seminars. This is crucial in developing your line and your brand. What you learn at the expos isn’t something you can just get off the internet. People don’t give away this kind of information for FREE! I refer to my notes often when someone calls about a specific fabric or branding strategy. I don’t know everything, but I know where to find out!
Quick story: I ended up meeting the leading director of development of 3M and was invited out to dinner with several of their customers that evening after I introduced myself to them after a seminar.

So are they worth attending?

Apparel is something you have to see and feel. The difference between a $2.50/yard performance polyester and a $5.00/yard is only something you have to experience and talk to the manufacturers and see its applications.  This is a fast and furious 2-3 days of networking, researching and meeting with direct retailers, suppliers and did I say NETWORKING? If you are serious about starting your line, then you have to immerse yourself in the market, your industry and educate yourself.

Custom Apparel Source is your source for everything you need to work on your apparel line from branding to design to sourcing to manufacturing. We work daily with teams, leagues and individuals launching their own private label line. We receive daily calls and emails asking us…What is trendy? What should I sell? What is missing from the market? We are here as a partner to wade through the process and simply a sounding board and a means to an end. If you dream it, we can make it.


Action Expo

The Action Expo is the leading action sports industry trade event in the Northeast US (the largest action sports market in the country), bringing together top manufacturers, retailers, reps, gurus and groms to conduct the business of surf, skate, snow, swim, moto, bmx and action sport youth culture.


Largest bicycle tradeshow in North American one of the most important events on the global cyling business calendar. I have attended this over 10 times in my career. In the last few years, the Outdoor Demo segment has grown in attendance and gives everyone a chance to demo the bikes, giving buyers an up close opportunity to view the bikes, equipment and rub shoulders with pro athletes and industry icons.

Outdoor Retailer   – Winter and Summer Market

Outdoor Retailer (OR) serves the worldwide active outdoor recreation business community. Core exhibitors are manufacturers and retailers that produce/sell gear, apparel, footwear, accessories and services for pursuits in the natural environment. Summer and Winter Market expos.

Imprinted Sportswear

ISS is the largest trade show dedicated to the decorated apparel industry. Located nationwide, attendees that primarily screen print or embroider on t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, baby apparel and bags, will find the best selection of vendors for supplies and screen printing equipment.



MAGIC is the world’s largest fashion marketplace, comprised of ten unique communities showcasing the latest in apparel, footwear, accessories, and manufacturing. Every February and August the retail industry convenes in Las Vegas to spot and shop the latest trends in men’s, women’s, juniors’ and children’s apparel, footwear, and accessories.

Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show

The Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show is the premier event for brand owners, licensors, licensees and retailers interested in sports licensed products. Home to over 350 exhibits and thousands of retailers, this is the only show of its kind to target the sports and tailgating market. Exhibiting companies hold the licenses for professional, collegiate and all other sports teams and represent all product categories.

Surf Expo

The longest running and largest board sports and beach/resort lifestyle tradeshow.