MIAMI — Southern Apparel Exhibitors, a division of the National Bureau of Wholesale Sales Representatives here, returned to the Miami International Merchandise Mart and filled the main trade show floor with a 40 percent increase in exhibitors March 28-30.

SAE expects to add more vendors in August, taking an adjacent exhibition hall, as well.

SAE held its Florida Fashion Focus shows at the Merchandise Mart and adjoining Radisson Convention Center for 20 years before leaving in 1998, because of a disagreement with venue management. SAE moved its five annual shows to other South Florida venues, but lost offshore buyers and exhibitors in the process.

Last October, SAE organizers announced the return to the Radisson, with a five-year contract for its five annual shows. As a condition of SAE’s return to Merchandise Mart, George ZacZac, president of the Orlando-based South Florida Hotel Group, which owns the mart, closed the mart to cash-and-carry business during the Florida Fashion Focus show and closed off the escalators between the mart and the Radisson’s trade show area.

"We are very pleased to be back in Miami," said Larry Sonin of ZB Sales in Weston, Fla., and SAE’s secretary. "Latin American buyers are more comfortable doing business in Miami, and the on-site hotel and nearby Miami airport make Miami very convenient for international, bilingual business," he added.

Sonin predicts buyer attendance will be up for the summer shows and exhibitor participation will increase to more than 250 at the upcoming August show in Miami, citing the stronger selling market and the inclusion of some Swimwear Association of Florida members to "bump up" the resort niche.

SAE’s 300-member group represents mostly moderate to better coordinates, eveningwear, cocktail, specialty items and accessories. The group relies on Caribbean and South American resort business, as well as regional business.

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