By  on November 20, 2007

Retailers, vendors and trade show organizers are scrambling to adjust after Fashion Coterie's decision to move its February dates about two weeks earlier than usual — bumping up against Project Las Vegas and other trade shows.

ENK International, which runs the contemporary New York trade show, said last week that Coterie would be held Feb. 10 to 12, after New York Fashion Week, to better accommodate international buyers. ENK also wants to avoid conflicting with the Paris and Milan collections.

Responding to protests from shared buyers and exhibitors, Project Las Vegas pushed its show back a day to Feb. 13 to 15, from Feb. 12 to 14. MAGIC remains Feb. 12 to 15 in Las Vegas, and Designers & Agents is Feb. 9 to 11 in New York.

"I have to fly to New York, fly home for a day, then jump on a plane to Vegas — it's a travel nightmare," said Ini Iyamba, president of the Minneapolis stores Ivy and Ivy Men's + Design, who attends Coterie and D&A for his women's store and Project for men's. "Plus, it's February, which is a tough travel time anyway, so if there's any type of delays with this schedule, the booths from vendors showing at Coterie may not even be ready to be shown at Project. And product shipments arrive in February, so I can't be gone like this. I have a store to run."

Iyamba and many other retailers and buyers were hoping the Coterie dates might change. But Elyse Kroll, founder and chief executive officer of ENK, said the dates were "completely cemented" and she has no plans to change them.

"Even if I could change the dates, which I absolutely can't, I don't even have an hour I could move," she said. "I can only get space when I can get space."

Coterie is held at the Show Piers and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. The event hosts an estimated 1,200 exhibitors and about 18,000 buyers. Kroll said she didn't have a sense of how many of those people also attend Project.

"If there are strains being put on people, we are very sorry about it, of course, but our goal is to be in the women's market," Kroll said, contending that "MAGIC and Project are men's shows. I'm a women's show and need to be driven by the women's market. We only have a window of opportunity. I can't create another weekend. We don't want to do President's Day weekend or go over Paris. Our goal is to follow New York Fashion Week, and it promises to be a very good international weekend."For Sari Sloane, vice president of fashion and merchandising for Intermix, the contemporary boutique, the new Coterie date is more convenient because she will be able to get to Milan in time for the shows. Sloane attends Coterie and D&A in New York, typically skips the trade shows in Las Vegas, and often waits to place her orders in Los Angeles — none of which will likely change this year.

Although a better fit for her schedule, Sloane sees some negatives from Coterie's timing. "For product, it's very early to see the contemporary market, particularly when deliveries aren't shipping until June," Sloane said. "Usually it's better to be able to buy after you've seen the designer market, and Los Angeles happens later anyway."

Iyamba disagreed. "They've been doing it one way for such a long time — why do they have to change it?" he asked. "I know they said this would be more convenient for international buyers, but they aren't taking into account those buyers in the States."

Genie Parada-Fishman, president of the New York-based Agent R.E.D. International, said the schedule was "an atrocity." Her brand management firm, which includes U.K.-based Chilli Pepper and BNX, among other lines, will have to find regional representation to send to Project while the New York staff works Coterie.

"If the show ends today, how can I be across the country tomorrow?" she said. "I can't understand how they could double-book the two most important shows of the season. Even if the vendors cram it in somehow, the retailers are faced with this time crunch. One show or the other will lose people, because my retail clients are now choosing one show or the other."

Project Las Vegas said last week it was changing dates "after an unexpected announcement that the New York Coterie event would begin nearly two weeks ahead of schedule." The biannual show at The Sands Expo Convention Center hosts about 1,000 vendors and 25,000 retailers.

Sam Ben-Avraham, Project's president and founder, said the show is incurring "significant costs," including rent and overtime, to make the change. He's also considering chartering two jets to run between New York and Las Vegas (with a round-trip ticket price "comparable to the norm"), plus shuttling between shows and airports, for exhibitors doing both Project and Coterie.Other shows, which anchor to Coterie, are also reconfiguring their dates. Moda is showing in February in Las Vegas, in addition to New York, for the first time this year. But planners said they have not firmly set the dates for either show, and are talking with their key retailers and exhibitors to determine the best date.

"Any split market is not good for the industry, and it's especially deplorable given the state of retail sales today," said Britton Jones, president and ceo of Business Journals Inc., which owns Moda and FAME. "It wasn't good for Atlanta and Dallas, and it won't be good for New York and Las Vegas."

D&A, moving its dates to wedge between fashion week and Coterie, only has one nonoverlapping date this season, as opposed to being free of overlap as it usually is.

"It's not just the overlap — it's more that one entity in New York controls the dates of the city, and that one entity posts its dates very, very late," said Ed Mandelbaum, D&A co-producer as well as vice president of the New York Fashion Council. "It holds the entire industry hostage, because buyers and exhibitors can't buy plane tickets or plan when you will be away, and other organizations like us can't book our space properly."

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