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On and Off the Strip

POOL<br><br>The Pool show, held at the Alexis Park Hotel for the second year, is still running strong on the buzz it created among buyers last August. This time, the show opened a day before WWDMAGIC and drew approximately 800 buyers from such...

POOL

The Pool show, held at the Alexis Park Hotel for the second year, is still running strong on the buzz it created among buyers last August. This time, the show opened a day before WWDMAGIC and drew approximately 800 buyers from such trendsetting stores as Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Rolo in San Francisco, Canal Jean Co. in New York, as well as several boutiques in Japan.

Swelling from 75 vendors last August to 120, the show maintained its clubby downtown vibe with mid-century furniture, a loud DJ — and a full bar. “This is the place to be,” said Giovanna Decapua, a buyer for the Canadian chain Dex, which carries Fornarina, Paul Frank and Blue Cult.

The curated streetwear-focused show, organized by Los Angeles independent rep Ronda Walker, featured a handful of women’s lines including Elena La Bua, Buddhist Punk, Leroy’s Girl, Vitamin T, Scribe, Nisa, Gentle Fawn, Cybelle, Evil Genius and Geek Boutique. There were plenty of cropped pants, utilitarian jackets, screen prints and vintage trims.

Neely Shearer of Xin boutique in Los Angeles, attending her third Pool show, said she picked up five new lines including Harteau Skid Row, by Los Angeles artist Harteau, and Nikao, by a group of San Diego artist-designers. She also re-ordered the kitschy Canadian line Some Products. “The show is very specific. I know going in that I’m going to find real streetwear. Some of it is too street for us, but there are some great items we mix in.”

Many buyers were still ordering summer items, though most vendors also carried fall pieces. “I always cut extra immediates because I realize that with the economy not so good there are more gaps in retail,” said Leroy’s Girl designer Chi Kim. Walker said that the nature of the show is multiseasonal, as many buyers come from overseas and the Southern hemisphere, where seasons are reversed.

Pool will reconvene in Las Vegas during the August edition of MAGIC, when it also will take over Alexis Park’s second convention hall to host its first shoe show.

— Marcy Medina

This story first appeared in the February 26, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

OFF-PRICE SPECIALIST SHOW

Small specialty stores at WWDMAGIC are increasingly taking the short walk downstairs to the Off-Price Specialist Show to join the ranks of about 12,000 buyers in search of branded goods priced below market. The precarious state of the economy is making off-price goods more attractive to traditional retailers, according to show participants.

Spooked by increased risk of terrorism, foreign attendance declined and kept buyer attendance levels at 2 percent over last August, when the show first moved to the Sands Expo & Convention Center.

As usual, Ross Stores, Burlington Coat Factory, Big Lots, TJX Companies, Factory 2-U Stores, Foreman Mills, One Price & More, Costco and Wal-Mart routinely came to peruse 350 exhibitors occupying 380,000 square feet of space.

But newcomers, including Hot Topic, Gadzooks and some smaller stores “are taking us over the top,” said Bill Jage, founder and chairman of the Off-Price Specialist Center, the show’s producer.

Toni Lacy, owner of Los Angeles-based Low & Sweet, called this the best show in six years, noting an influx of small stores from the Midwest buying larger quantities of denim, embellished tops and track suits.

For Nicole King, owner of Somma This & Somma That in Alamo, Tenn., off-price buys are a way to give her customers rapper Jay-Z’s Rocawear line and other brand names at prices she and they can afford. “I try to keep the store stocked with what they want,” she said.

Even eBay solicited partners. “We’re seeing a disproportionate growth on the part of the liquidators versus what we’ve seen in the past,” said Lorna Borenstein, vice president and general manager of eBay Inc., in San Jose, Calif. “They are sitting on gems. If it’s branded and in top- quality condition, they’ll be able to move that on eBay.”

This year, the show has slated an additional Las Vegas run on May 13-15 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to coincide with the WomensWear in Nevada show.

— Kristin Young

ASAP

A brave new trade world in 2005 was the top concern at the ASAP Global Sourcing Show last week at the Las Vegas Hilton Convention Center. That’s when the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Clothing and Textiles will phase out quotas for its 145 member countries, and merchants and makers are bracing for the changes.

Already capitalizing on the changing trade direction is CIT Commercial Services, which announced plans to open its new Shanghai office March 31. With a population one billion strong and penchant for affordable labor, China is sure to benefit.

“We’re there to help Chinese exporters enter the U.S. market,” said Vivian Lee, CIT’s Asian business director, who will oversee the Shanghai office. “It’s very difficult without professional support to ascertain credit concerns of U.S. buyers.”

The new trading rules mean that American companies also need to stay on their toes.

Attorney Thomas Travis of Washington-based Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A. spoke at a morning seminar about the issue and urged U.S. companies to bone up on their sourcing knowledge. “The companies that are the most successful are those that take a balanced approach to sourcing and know where they can get the most for their dollars,” Travis said.

One example of a supply chain alternative was the African region. At the show, there were 12 countries in attendance —up from one last year — benefiting from the African Growth and Opportunity Act passed in 2000 offering duty-free, quota-free access to the U.S.

“We’ve been remarkably surprised about the volume of people here, though there are more sourcing agencies we’ve met than retailers,” said Rolf Andrews, an export agent for Swaziland-based New Biella Textiles, a first-time exhibitor that has created knitwear for Kmart and Fubu. “If only 10 percent of those companies that we met with come through with orders, we’d be extremely content.”

Though East Coast blizzards delayed travel plans for many, show organizer Frank Yuan said attendance was only off 10 percent compared with last year.

— Nola Sarkisian-Miller

WOMENSWEAR IN NEVADA

Exhibitors booking business at the WomensWear in Nevada trade event last week at the Rio Suites Hotel & Casino, which saw a 20 percent increase in attendance to 2,000 retail accounts, were those showing what’s to come, not what’s been. That meant a focus on fall.

“If you had fall, you did business,” said Lisa Lenchner, a Los Angeles-based sales representative for Destiny, Linda Lundstrom, Paradiso and Highpoint. “Paradiso didn’t have fall — they weren’t ready — and I think it was a mistake. I didn’t write as much business for it.”

She said buyers were selecting collection-driven looks, especially those by Lundstrom. Singed jersey pants separates, crinkled polyester dresses and fringed chenille sweaters were leading sales.

Sales rep Julie Vandevert said business was ahead 20 percent compared with last year, thanks to fall offerings. “People are having a hard time finding fall, so we’ve been a good resource,” Vandevert said. Buyers picked up Keylime Pie’s animal-print skirts and crinkled rayon quilted jackets and Weekend Traffic’s Tencel cargo pants and aqua-green thermal pants sets.

Some show highlights were designer An Ren’s swing coats in houndstooth prints with oversized Bakelite buttons and Spanner’s argyle-print turtlenecks and sleeveless cable knit sweaters with contrast stitching.

Mardi Bilsland, owner of The Clothes Tree in Corvallis, Ore., was scouting early fall trends.

“We’re taking notes and we’ll place orders when we return, but it’s been a good show,” she said. “Our business has been solid, so it’s nice to come to a show when your store is doing well.”

For buyers seeking immediates, they now have a later fall show to shop. WWIN will launch its third installment May 13-15 at the Mandalay Bay Resort with about 300 exhibitors, half the size of its current events. Show organizer Jeff Yunis said space was unavailable at the Rio, but he has booked it for the May 2004 run.

“We’ve had a lot of requests for it from buyers who want to buy closer to fall delivery,” Yunis said.

— N.S.M.