By  on September 19, 1994

LAS VEGAS -- With buyers in search of every accessories look from flashy to classic, variety was the key word at the second edition of the Fashion Accessories Expo here.

The three-day show, which was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center and ended Sept. 11, featured 400 exhibitors, some 50 more than showed at the February edition.

Total attendance was 5,328, according to show organizer Conference Management Co., Norwalk, Conn. According to first-day figures, 2,700 buyers registered, up from 2,300 in February.

Those shopping the booths were in search not only of diverse looks but a wide span of wholesale prices. Shelley Root, owner of Shelley's, a specialty store in Youngstown, Ohio, was targeting a $5 to $100 wholesale range. Top on her list in terms of trends were "tons of crystals and rhinestones." "What my customers want is glitz," she said."It makes them smile. They become like kids in a candy store."To this end, Root ordered metallic mesh and vinyl handbags from Comeco, as well as any sparkle jewelry she could find. Among the key items on her list were big-button and dangling earrings.

Root added that for the first time in three years, her store is posting gains. Her year-to-date sales were up 20 percent, she said.

"People are not as tight with their money these days," she noted. Her only complaint about the show was that there weren't enough exhibitors carrying sequined jewelry.

"That's a huge void in the market," she said. "It's what all the young girls want."

Deborah Jordan, owner of Diva Las Vegas, a plus-size apparel and accessories boutique here, said she wanted "big, bold and gaudy looks." Specifically on her list were items such as jewelry made of sequins or fuchsia and purple Austrian crystals, necklace and earring sets, goldplated chain belts and large constructed handbags that could double as briefcases.

Shopping price points of $10 to $70 wholesale, Jordan reported year-to-date sales increases of 65 percent and noted she had raised her buying budget the same amount. She attributed her gains to a recent decision to feature purses and western-style hats in the store.Ramona Eastburn, buyer for Winning Colors, a boutique at a horse racing track in Hot Springs, Ark., was in search of horse-and-jockey themed earrings, pins and necklaces in the $2 to $200 wholesale range. Her preferences in such jewelry ran to goldplated and studded with simulated topaz, garnet and amethyst.

Eastburn added that in anticipation of a state amendment legalizing gambling in November, she was also looking for casino-motif accessories -- contingent upon passage of the amendment. At least one exhibitor, Adagio, was carrying such merchandise, she said.

"Business is getting better every year," she noted, adding that she was increasing her budget by 20 percent.

Barbara Zobell and Pam Allison, buyers for Encore, a La Jolla, Calif., boutique specializing in designer apparel for resale, also reported strong results.

"Sales and our buying budget are both up about 25 percent," Allison said. "We're building a following and going higher-end."

Small scale was the big trend for the Encore buyers.

"Instead of big earrings, we're looking for small ones for evening in amber-silver mix or jet-gold mixes," Zobell said. Long necklaces and chokers were also on their list, along with metallic scarves. They found the necklaces -- in gold and sand-blasted glass -- by Daisies. The two buyers were also impressed by jewelry done in the mode of Chanel from the Parallel Lines booth, and constructed handbags and pavé minaudieres in the Greenwood Imports booth.

Kim Stone and Dale Pratt-Wilson, co-owners of Foster's Rage, a new teen mail-order firm based in Chapel Hill, N.C., shopped the show for ideas in the $10 to $30 wholesale range. Backpacks made from recycled inner tubes, baseball caps with no bills, rolled beanies, belts decorated with soda caps and high-tech-style watches were a few of the items they went after.

Debra Flanagan, a consultant with Retail Data Systems, Cranford, N.J., was also shopping for ideas. Working to start a mail-order catalog and open in-house boutiques for General Cinema, a movie theater chain, she was in the hunt for large earrings, baseball caps and bags that would appeal to women from 15 to 30."These items should generally wholesale for under $10," she said. "We are trying to promote impulse buying. People don't go to the movies to shop." Although she found plenty of new resources, Flanagan said she found the merchandise selection repetitive.

Buyers attending the FAE and the Ladies Apparel Show Vegas, in another part of the exhibition center, had another complaint. Many said they preferred February's arrangement, when the shows were held in the same space.

Management for both shows said that due to logistical problems, they could not combine their setups this time. Both sides added that they would meet soon to discuss future floor plans.

FAE did share space with Splash, a new swimwear show, and VM West, a visual marketing and store design show.

"The other two shows enhanced our traffic," said Steve Levine, show director for the FAE. "And if all the shows are committed to being here in the future, it makes Las Vegas more of a place to come."

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