NEW YORK -- Some 120 apparel and accessories firms were among the more than 1,200 companies hawking corporate gifts and marketing premiums -- from leather jackets with corporate logos to oversized umbrellas -- at a three-day trade show here last week.

The first annual Selling and Marketing Megashow, which was held through Thursday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, combined three shows that used to be staged separately: Meetings and Incentive Travel Expo, which highlights travel services; International Selling and Marketing Expo, featuring audio/visual producers and direct mail specialists, and the Premium Incentive Show, the largest of the three with a wide array of incentive and promotional products.

The event, according to show management, drew some 14,000 visitors, including executives from marketing agencies and broadly based conglomerates, here and abroad.

"We decided to combine the three shows because we wanted to make it more convenient for both buyers and exhibitors. Everything now is under one roof," said Bruce Bolger, the show's director. "It's also reflective of what's happening in the industry. For one, companies are downsizing and marketing and sales areas have been combined."

He added that companies are placing a greater emphasis on marketing and sales promotions, either to boost morale or to encourage teamwork.

Bolger added that such a demand from the corporate world poses a big opportunity for manufacturers, including apparel firms, given the still sluggish economy.

"Apparel makers can't just look at retailers anymore to boost sales," he said. "They have to really start looking at corporations' needs. The premium market is a huge opportunity that hasn't yet been fully tapped." Apparel and accessories exhibitors concurred, noting that they saw the exhibit as a way of boosting sales.

"We see the premium market as a big opportunity for us," said Charley Stone, sales manager of Jeff Hamilton Industries, a Los Angeles maker of men's and women's leather jackets whose premium business, including corporate gifts, accounts for 25 percent of its total volume.

He said the firm, a first-time exhibitor, started getting into the premium business three years ago, working with such companies as Ferrari and Nike. For Nike, he did 23 limited edition leather jackets with Michael Jordan's signature.Another first-time exhibitor was Elizabeth Arden Co., which displayed oversized fragrance bottles.

Others, like Janelle Bolen, private label and premium associate at watch maker Fossil Inc., had participated at the show in previous years and said the company created a separate formal department to handle premiums.

"We've been in the business for about 2 1/2 years, but last year we really focused in on it," she said. DuPont had a booth featuring jackets of Tyvek, the paper-like material of spunbonded olefin, used in Federal Express packages and floppy disk sleeves.

"This used to be an industrial application, but we launched it in apparel products last year," said Tom Keane, sales coordinator, noting that he is hoping to boost premium sales of these jackets at the Megashow. "It makes great promotional items because they are easily printable. It's also water-resistant."

Companies that have bought the jackets for giveaway promotions include Pepsico and Coca-Cola, he said.

Starter Corp., the New Haven, Conn., maker of men's and women's sports-licensed apparel, featured lightweight jackets with such corporate logos as Mountain Dew.

"Our premium business is so strong that we are turning customers away," noted Paul Kayaian, manager of special markets for the company, which entered the premium business five years ago. The category now accounts for 30 percent of sales.

However, he added, "You know, we have to protect our name. We just can't get into any program." Ralph Somerfield, sales consultant for E. Gluck Corp., here, which holds the licenses for Anne Klein and Armitron watches, was another exhibitor looking to develop more business in the corporate gift market.

"We sell a lot of watches to corporations, which use them as retirement gifts for their employees," he noted.

Nancy Linday, president of The Vicap Co., was passing out her company's "Vicaps" -- baseball-style caps that feature a removable Velcro strip band.

"It's perfect for putting company logos on, and you can remove it so easily," she said.

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