NEW YORK--The struggling Apparel Retailers of America may be folded into the National Retail Federation. If the ARA approves such a move, it would effectively cease to exist as a trade organization. Formerly the Menswear Retailers of America, ARA changed its name in 1993 so it could solicit women's and children's stores as members after its men's wear membership dwindled. According to Douglas Wiegand, executive director, only 30 "true women's stores" came on board, although 40 percent of ARA's members carry both men's and women's wear. The ARA has 606 corporate members representing about 1,000 retail doors, as well as 45 nonretail associate members. Five years ago, Wiegand said, ARA was about double that size. NRF is the world's largest retail trade association. The group boasts about 100,000 members, representing 1.4 million stores in the department, specialty, discount, mass merchandise and independent specialty store arenas. "Discussion [about a merger] is under way, but it would be premature to speak of a solution at this point," Wiegand said Wednesday. Tracy Mullin, president of NRF, was on vacation and unavailable to comment. Wiegand said any merger would be several months away. "The next step is for NRF to take a vote at its convention [which will be held in New York, Jan. 15-18]," he noted. Then ARA's board would have to approve the merger and vote to institute a "plan of liquidation" at its convention in Chicago, Feb. 4-6. "As of now, nothing is official or legal," he said, "but in the spring, we could have an alliance and be folded into NRF."
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