By  on February 24, 1994

WASHINGTON -- The Commerce Department is sponsoring an American Pavilion at the fall edition of Igedo Dessous, Germany's big intimate apparel trade show, to be held Sept. 11-13 in Dusseldorf.

It will mark the first time the government has done such an exhibit at Igedo Dessous since 1985 and reflects the upward trend of U.S. exports to that market.

Exports of U.S.-made intimate apparel to Germany are expected to grow between 10 and 15 percent in 1994 against 1993, according to the Commerce Department. Germany is the fastest-growing export market for robes and dressing gowns, reaching $259,000 in the year ended Sept. 30, 1993, compared with $187,000 in the prior 12-month period, according to Commerce.

Germany also buys more made-in-America sleepwear than any country other than Canada and Mexico, with purchases totaling $2.5 million in the year ended Sept. 30, compared with $1.6 million a year earlier.

Swimwear is also planned for the U.S. exhibit. Although small, the volume of swimwear exports to Germany also is growing fast, reaching $128,000 in the year ended Sept. 30, compared with $47,000 in the prior 12 months.

The export figures include all types of innerwear and swimwear -- women's, men's and children's. Separate figures are not available.

The plans for the American Pavilion recognize that U.S. firms can do more in the overall prosperous German apparel market, said Maura Kim, an apparel trade specialist with the Commerce Department. American companies now have a 5 percent share of that market, she said.

"Germany has the highest per capita consumption of women's wear in the western world," said Kim, who added that since 1985, much of the Commerce Department's export focus generally has been on textiles.

As for Igedo Dessous, only a handful of American companies usually participate.

"It's so big that it's very, very challenging. They might get passed by," Kim said.

To help businesses find their way, Commerce and the U.S. Embassy in Germany are offering exhibitor booths measuring 10 by 12 square feet in the U.S. pavilion for $5,000, and 20-by-24-foot booths for $7,500.Applications are being accepted by Kim at the Commerce Department until Monday. The exhibit is set up for 20 spaces, but more space can be obtained if needed, Kim said.

The price includes advance promotional work, including catalog mailings to 3,000 German retailers, buyers and distributors; a reception with buyers and distributors, and individualized advice on doing business in Germany.

Josie Natori, president of Natori Co., New York, noted that her innerwear firm has been participating in Igedo Dessous since the mid-Eighties. The company also shows at the Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris.

"To penetrate the domestic German market, you have to go to Igedo Dessous," Natori said.

Germany is the Natori company's second-largest European market, following France, she said, noting that the firm expects sales there to improve with the help of a recently hired full-time distributor.

"I think the distributor will allow us to be even more effective, because they'll be there to deal with [the German customers] all the time. It's already making a big difference," she said.

Natori characterized the European market as "more advanced" than the U.S. in terms of underclothing, but more traditional when it comes to sleepwear. She observed that Germany is an easier market to get into than some other European countries because of its many department stores.

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