By  on April 4, 2005

NEW YORK — The ordering for fall was brisk at the Lingerie Americas trade show, but the tone of the March market was underscored by uncertainty over the pending merger of Federated Department Stores Inc. and May Department Stores Co.

The main topic of conversation at Madison Avenue showrooms and exhibitor stands was how retail consolidation will affect large and small suppliers. For the most part, manufacturers said they are trying to size up how they will fit into an evolving retail environment.

As Elaine Lee, president and chief operating officer of Richard Leeds International, said, “With the Federated-May merger, there is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unknowns out there. The question is who has the pencil to drive the business. So people are being apprehensive on how it will play out in the second half of the year.”

Todd Demakos, chief executive officer of St. Eve International, said, “There’s a lot of apprehension, especially when you start reading about raiders circling Penney’s. I don’t blame people for being cautious and not wanting to talk right now because they don’t know if what they say will affect their [retail] client.”

The traditional market week schedule was stretched into a three-week event, beginning here with Federated and culminating with visits to St. Louis-based May. Manufacturers said reaction was strong to new ideas, giftable items and to styles with a ready-to-wear look.

“The novelty business is good and we’ve had good response to holiday items with marabou and a lot of Lurex in our seductivewear category,’’ said Howard Radziminsky, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Movie Star Inc. “We’ve also added ballet-length gowns, bras and panties that coordinate with baby dolls and bustiers, and that’s been well received by customers who buy total collections.”

Radziminsky said three-piece folded pajamas for holiday selling was a strong area.

“We are doing a nice business with print-driven, three-piece folded pajamas which we did not do at department stores last year,” he said. “We’ve received orders for substantial quantities from six different retailers, mostly private label with a couple taking the Cinema Etoile brand.”

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