By  on October 5, 2007

MADRID — If the Spanish capital's SIMM trade event is a barometer of domestic market conditions as show organizers claim, the apparel sector here has apparently hit a snag.

According to official figures, the biannual fair drew 16,788 visitors, down 13 percent over last September's show. Foreign attendance dropped roughly 48 percent, to 2,010.

Exhibitor participation slid 7.5 percent to 811. Director Pola Iglesias attributed the lower numbers to continued Asian competition and coinciding dates with major French trade shows. In addition, some regular SIMM exhibitors have defected to Bread & Butter Barcelona, Iglesias confirmed.

On the other hand, she pointed out significant foreign buyer increases from such countries as France and Mexico.

The trade show's offering featured eclectic midmarket brands and loads of elaborate party clothes; casual daytime shapes, dresses and separates; novelty knits, including tops, jackets and coats, and carryovers from past seasons like animal prints, metallics, crinkle and organic cotton/linen.

The color story ranged from gray, silver, anthracite, black and white to brazen graphic prints in purple and turquoise.

"We've put together a very intelligent collection," said veteran exhibitor Joyce Antaki, Spanish agent for After Six, a division of Medici U.K., producer of eveningwear and special occasion dresses. "There is more emphasis on practical styling and wearability; women are tired of beads and Middle Eastern influences. Instead, they're opting for short, sexy, well-priced dresses with a matching shawl or jacket."

Core sellers were a short black number with a built-in pleated bra and a low back-draped black-and-white printed dress. Wholesale prices range from 88 to 125 euros, or $123 to $175 at current exchange.

"The fair's lack of visitors is obvious," Antaki commented. "We have been really busy and we're selling, but the orders are smaller, 30 pieces instead of 80."

According to Oscar Vargas, managing director of Fuentecapala, an upscale manufacturer of traditional women's and men's apparel, "Business is tough; the domestic market is in a strange transitional period." Political uncertainty based on next year's elections is partly to blame, he said.

"The fair needs a big energy injection," Vargas said. "Maybe we'll get it next year when show dates move up to July (for the first time in SIMM history). September is too late; it doesn't make sense."

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