By  on November 15, 2004

NEW YORK — The second half of this month’s official lingerie market could be compared with a motion-picture sequel that promises a lot of sizzle at the box office but quickly fizzles out.

November traditionally is a small market that focuses primarily on finalizing spring buys, planning programs for Mother’s Day and strategizing marketing and advertising campaigns. In some cases, it’s also a time to preview concepts and ideas for fall 2005 as well as Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

But Election Day jitters teamed with a difficult economy and retail season changed the dynamics of the two-week market, which typically draws consistent traffic during good times and bad. There was initially much talk and fanfare among manufacturers about a larger second-week turnout, especially from scores of specialty boutiques and out-of-town retailers. However, the reality was it ended up a smaller market than usual, even though vendors generally insisted they were pleased with bookings.

Also coming into play was a complaint from several resources, who privately blamed a rocky election year and angst over the Iraq war for impacting the buying habits of consumers and the decision-making of some retailers when it came to trends, product and styles.

Sizing up the overall mood of the market, Kim Scheffler, intimate apparel business manager at Invista Inc., observed there was a general uncertainty on the part of some retailers who showed up, while others hadn’t lost their focus.

“There were some retailers like Soma at Chico’s and Gap Body who had a clear image of who their customers are. Then there were others who seemed to be trying to be all things to all people. To that extent, they weren’t sure what they were looking for,” said Scheffler.

From a retailer’s perspective, Mary Krug, vice president and general merchandise manager of intimate apparel and hosiery at Neiman Marcus, said: “We came after Election Day because we wanted to be here [in Dallas] to vote. I assumed it would have been very busy the second week because the first week wasn’t. But it actually was very quiet and we got lots of attention, which we liked.”

Regarding the effect of the political climate on buying patterns, Krug said, “I think there’s been a lot of uncertainty before, during and after the election, and the dead heat between the two candidates. It might have affected business a little. But you can’t be everything to everybody. You have to zero in on your customer.”

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