Byline: Kristin Young

LOS ANGELES--The International Swimwear and Activewear Market here attracted more buyers to the California Mart than it did a year ago, and unlike last year, most visitors had more than window shopping on their minds.
The majority of those interviewed said they attended ISAM to place orders, a far cry from last year, when many buyers had kept their money tightly in hand. But others said they were just there to get an overview of next year's styles.
Among retailers interviewed, many said their budgets were up between 5 and 20 percent, while several said their open-to-buys were relatively flat.
The three-day market ended July 12.
According to a Mart spokeswoman, buyer registration was up 5 percent from a year ago. As reported, last year's ISAM attracted 380 retailers.
About 100 resources were on display, including 30 lines from 20 exhibitors who rent temporary space in the Mart. Last year there were 102 resources at ISAM, including 25 lines from 25 temporary exhibitors.
Manufacturers seemed pleased with the turnout. Several reported a 10 percent increase in appointments over a year ago.
Market highlights included two fashion shows: the ISAM evening fashion show featuring swimsuits from various vendors and a Sirena fashion show. The runways featured styles ranging from mod halter tops and boy-leg bottoms to retro Marilyn Monroe-style one-piece suits, athletic-inspired gear and triangle tops.
Colors were more vibrant than last year. Texture was everywhere, from puckered and raised patterns to ribbed and rubbery overscreens. Plush velvet and satin and mesh fabrics rounded out the looks.
New ISAM resources included Ocean Quest, a contemporary swimwear line based here, and Competitor from Medina, Ohio, a new activewear line.
Buyers said they were generally pleased by the new styles, colors and textures. But some, like Lonni Hill, buyer for Saguaro Beach and Body Heat, two stores in Scottsdale, Ariz., said she wanted more conservative styles for her mature customers.
"I'm looking for contemporary-cut swimwear, more leg, more tummy coverage, higher-waisted bottoms, and bra tops that support D and double D cups," Hill said.
Some 25 percent of Hill's customers are over 50 years old. Hill said she was looking for suits from $35 wholesale and up. Although Hill said she found what she was looking for at Athena, Sirena and Too Hot Brazil, she said she'll wait until the end of August to place orders.
Nelleke Beerkens, owner of Just Add Water in Menlo Park and San Mateo, Calif., said her business suffered because of heavy spring rains. With a flat budget, she bought off-price goods--1995 styles that manufacturers were eager to unload. Shopping wholesale price points between $25 and $35, she had good luck with Kocacho Swim and Kiarah brands.
"I had them last time," Beerkens said, "and they did very well because of their different textures and fabrics."
Linda Rudd and Shelley Filip, two buyers for The Sea Barn in Avila Beach, Calif., have been in the swimwear business for 15 years. Lately, their customers have requested the boy-leg cut.
"We did it two years ago and nobody bought it," Filip said. "But now they want it. So we'll be buying it."
Although pleased with what they saw in the $30 to $40 wholesale price range, the two women decided to hold off their major purchases until next month. Spring rains had hit them hard, too.
Teani Summer, buyer for Swim In, a specialty store with 10 locations in Washington, Oregon and California, said she loved the new bright colors. Raspberry sherbet and royal blue topped her must-have list. She also liked sporty suits and mesh fabric. Shopping a wholesale price point around $30, she liked swimsuits by Daffy, Jag and Slimsuits.
"We're here to buy. Being a specialty store, we need newness," Summer said, adding that her budget had increased 10 percent this year.
Jinnie Falkenberg, a buyer for Ship to Shore, with two stores in Evanton, Alberta, Canada, also had 10 percent more to spend. And she planned on doing exactly that.
"I like the selection," Falkenberg said. "There's a much wider selection than we can get in Canada right now."
Shopping all price points, Falkenberg was especially taken with the Miracle Suit by Swim Shaper, a one-piece variation on the push-up theme.
Tom O'Hara, buyer for Gone Bananas--a swimwear store in San Diego--came to ISAM with a budget 20 percent higher than last year's.
"The simpler, the better," O'Hara said, noting he was especially high on bright basics and metallics. "The more junk and adornment on the suit, the less it sells. Once the suits get cleaned up, they start selling."

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