By  on June 25, 2008

Accessories fair organizers see a strong market for their events.

Soaring gas prices and higher unemployment figures across the country may have impacted the consumption of many types of products, but organizers of accessories trade shows say that particular segment remains largely immune.

"The accessories category is proving to be very resilient in a bad economy," said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., the Norwalk, Conn.-based company that organizes AccessoriesTheShow, which runs Aug. 3 to 5 in New York and Aug. 25 to 27 in Las Vegas.

"When the economy is good, people buy a lot of new apparel so accessories are strong. But when the economy is such that people are being judicious about their ready-to-wear expenditures, they are still buying accessories to update their look."

Jones' confidence in that end of the market is certainly borne out by figures: The New York show, in its usual home at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan, will be the largest one yet, spanning more than 90,000 square feet and hosting some 1,800 lines, a couple of hundred more than took part last year.

That buoyancy in this particular sector of the trade show market is echoed by other show organizers. Accessorie Circuit, which happens three times a year in New York, was sold out for its January and May chapters, and organizers are not expecting anything different for the upcoming one, which runs Aug. 3 to 5. (The show traditionally happens at Piers 92 and 94, but will be moved over to the Javits Center for August.)

"Traffic so far has been unaffected [by the economy]," said Coleman McCartan, spokesman for ENK International Trade Events, the New York organizer for Accessorie Circuit. "Our feeling is that when times are tough, that's the worst time for designers to start skipping seasons and shows. They need to be out in front of the retailers, maintaining their presence."

Trade shows, such as JCK Las Vegas, which was held in early June, are still "an efficient and effective way to do business," said Dave Bonaparte, group vice president of JCK Events, adding that exhibitors had reported "very positive results."Jones is expecting more than 14,000 retailers to AccessoriesTheShow, a slight increase in attendance over last year.

"We're promoting our shows more and more internationally," he said, adding that given the euro to U.S. dollar rate, it's very affordable for Europeans to come over. "Retailers and exhibitors are being more and more careful and judicious about how they are spending their time and their money, and that's actually working in our favor because if people can only afford so much time and travel, they want to go where they can see the greatest number of lines."

Nonetheless, the pressure is on to keep the accessories show format new and inviting.

According to Sharon Enright, general manager of the trade show division of Business Journals Inc., the front of house at AccessoriesTheShow is important, and will be outfitted in the reds and purples that tie in with the holiday-resort offerings.

"We'll be showing texture because it's a big trend going forward," she said.

At JCK Las Vegas recently, highlights included a keynote presentation by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons focusing on his initiative regarding African diamonds. There were also enough celebrities around to keep visitors happy: Actress Shari Belafonte was there on behalf of jewelry brand Simon G, and "American Gladiator" Mike O'Hearn showed up in support of Croton Watches. A couple of beauty pageant winners and Playboy playmates added to the glamour.

Given their new Javits home, Accessorie Circuit will have more space to accommodate the 9,000 attendees expected, said McCartan.

"We can also accommodate the designers that want more space," he added. "The August show starts to move into holiday and resort offerings, and possibly into early spring, and we're always just as surprised as anyone else to see the range of trends on offer," he said, adding that the May event featured plenty of bright colors and lots of enamels.

Fine jewelry vendors continue to flock to the JA New York shows, which take place three times a year — January, July and October — at the Javits Center. The summer show, which runs from July 27 to 30, will showcase some 30 designers who have never shown before. The Designer Showcase is a bid to frame the season's newest trends. Other staples include the International Pavilions, housing vendors from across the world.But while offering significant business opportunities is crucial, organizers say it's also important to include small niceties.

"We have some wonderful lounging areas, designed again with the trends in fashion accessories that we are highlighting," said Jones. "There will be comfortable areas with lots of amenities in terms of catering and bottled water. "Another draw is the stylish tote bag given out to visitors, which varies every year depending on key trends in fashion. This time around, it's faux snakeskin.

"It's all part and parcel of being part of the fashion industry, which is all about being new and exciting," continued Jones. "We don't want our retailers to walk in and feel like they are at just another trade show, but instead to experience the environmental experience that we put forth."

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