NEW YORK — With most Seventh Avenue firms feeling the effects of a slow economy, Manhattan show organizers are gearing up for the season ahead with subtle, but necessary changes to draw in buyers.

Elyse Kroll, president of ENK International, which produces the Fashion Coterie, Intermezzo and Accessories Circuit shows at the Show Piers on the Hudson River, stressed the important role trade shows play in both strong and weak economic times. She said that in rough times, buyers have to attend trade shows to find the best merchandise in order to boost business, and when business is booming, exhibitors take more space to expand their presence.

“I’m doing a lot to make sure this is an atmosphere where the buyer is finding something new,” Kroll said. “Without these new things, customers have no reason to stop in the store.”

For the Fashion Coterie, ENK’s largest show, Kroll said she is fine-tuning it and filling in gaps where needed. Kroll said she is adding an extensive amount of international companies not represented in the U.S. in the past. She is planning to section them in their own groups to make it easy for the buyers. The Coterie, which runs Sept. 30-Oct. 2, will still display just as many U.S.-based designers, but she plans to add sections with Australian, Turkish and Japanese designers.

Last Coterie, ENK redesigned the buyer lounges and added more coffee and ice cream stations. Kroll said she will continue to update the designs and food offerings at the show. She also noted the growth of the Accessories Circuit, which will run alongside the Intermezzo show from Aug. 3-5. “There is so much growth in accessories, so the show has really grown,” she said.

Among the crop of shows hitting town starting in early August are Accessories The Show, Moda Manhattan and FAME, followed by Industry 212 and Designers & Agents in September.

Each show has its own focus and look, and retailers are quickly learning their niche. Many prefer to hit all of the shows so they don’t miss out on finding new products.

“Shows continue to be the primary way for exhibitors to reach retailers,” said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals, Inc., which produces Accessories The Show and Moda Manhattan, taking place at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Aug. 3-5.The company also produces FAME, which starts a day earlier on Aug. 2.

“Thankfully, all of the three shows will be larger than they were last August and we should have more than 2,100 lines,” Jones said.

Jones said what his shows are known for is “newness,” with ready-to-wear being Moda Manhattan’s focus, an edited assortment of accessories at the Accessories show and moderate and better sportswear being the strength at FAME.

Ed Mandelbaum, producer of the D&A show along with Barbara Kramer, said, “We’re a niche show and focused on the better contemporary young designer market.”

The next D&A show is slated for Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at The Starrett-Lehigh Center at 601 West 26th St.

“We don’t need massive traffic to get results,” Mandelbaum said. “The retailers that are here and the exhibitors that are here are all about the same thing. It’s easy to find everybody. You can have 10,000 visitors, but if only 2,000 are right for you, what’s the point?”

Presenting a tightly edited mix of apparel and accessories, D&A will feature roughly 100 exhibitors with about 200 lines spread over a bilevel, loftlike space. About 2,000 to 2,500 retailers are expected to attend.

But Mandelbaum and Kramer said more than having a successful trade show, they try to create the right atmosphere with “good vibes,” where real business partnerships can be formed. Part of this involves having a DJ on hand who can adjust the tempo to the mood, plus free coffee, breakfast and snacks.

“Foundations are formed and businesses are developed. D&A is more than just a trade show,” said Kramer. “It’s more than a means to an end. We really think about everyone who participates in this show and ask whether they will bring something to the table. And we have reserved the right not to ask somebody back. We deliver the buyers, the framework and the backdrop, but it’s up to each individual company to show up [and be ready to do business].”

Kramer said they have plans to expand the show into Europe, but one step at a time. “Competition [among shows] is so healthy and it brings about changes. But we think we’re no longer just the little kid on the block,” she said.Much larger in scope, Industry 212 is expecting to draw some 7,500 to 8,000 retailers at its show running Sept. 21-23 at the Javits Center, according to Marilyn Harrington, general manager of East Coast Fashion Group at Advanstar Communications. The show also expects to feature about 700 exhibitors representing some 3,000 lines.

“We specialize in contemporary, young contemporary, casual lifestyle, accessories, junior, junior accessories, streetwear and better sportswear...it’s sort of a one-stop shop,” Harrington said.

Industry 212 will continue to feature an informational fashion show during lunch for retailers, as well as seminars featuring guest speakers. The company is also sponsoring a store tour of NoLIta on the Saturday before the show starts for about 25 to 30 retailers, Harrington said, as a way to learn how these boutique-type retailers merchandise their stores.

“It’s an educational experience and we’re doing NoLIta because it’s a hot New York neighborhood,” she said. “The retailers can talk to these stores and learn how they pick products.”

To Be Confirmed is planning its fourth foray into the U.S. market with the largest show yet.

Originally from London, TBC was known as a streetwear show for the men’s market. That was until the women invaded. Set for a three-day run for the first time, it will begin on July 20 at a 60,000-square-foot loft space at 601 West 26th St.

As of now, designer participation is up 30 percent from the fall 2003 show held in January. Over 120 designer brands from around the world, including 55 DSL, Diesel Style Lab, Adidas Originals, Nike White Label, Fred Perry, Oliver Spencer and Aem Kei, will showcase their spring-summer 2004 men’s and women’s collections.

“TBC is an invite-only show to protect our exhibitors,” said show founder Markus Klosseck. “We have chosen exhibitors that make something a little bit more risky, different and progressive. For taking that risk, we reward them by inviting them to display in our show to a very select audience.”

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