By  on March 14, 2005

MADRID — Bigger isn’t always better.

There were 1,100 exhibitors at the SIMM show, held last month at the Juan Carlos I fairgrounds here — the largest vendor participation in the fair’s 26-year history, and a 14 percent hike over the previous February edition — but quantity did not necessarily translate into increased sales.

“There isn’t much joy in the [Spanish] market lately,” said Mireia Bisbe, a second-generation producer of special occasion dresses whose eponymous label is based in Barcelona. “Generally speaking, brands have taken over and the winter season was a tough sell. Retailers are overstocked and they’re paying close attention to price. They are not in a buying mood.”

Buyer interest focused on slim, feminine silhouettes like a daring above-the-knee gold lace party dress with stitched satin bra and a wholesale tag of $325, or 249 euros at current exchange. “It’s sexy but not provocative,” Bisbe added.

Her line is distributed through 600 domestic sales points. Italy, where the firm has four showrooms, and the U.K. are her strongest foreign markets.

“We had lots of visitors but not many orders,” confirmed Yolanda Moreno Ruiz of Madrid-based shirtmaker Mirto.  “There’s a certain disheartenment out there and buyers are reacting with caution.”

She said retailers were shopping for feminine styles in stretch cotton and shiny fabrics with satin “number one” for detailing. Hot colors for fall are solid orange and a range of greens including pistachio. Wholesale prices are around $78 to $85, or 60 to 65 euros.

Mirto’s men’s shirt line is carried in more than 100 U.S. doors, and based on its success, its four-year-old women’s line continues to target American shores, Moreno Ruiz said. “Despite the soft dollar, the U.S. is doing better and sales are up.” She cited Puerto Rico and Mexico as “important emerging markets.”

The biannual SIMM show, which closed Feb. 14, is Europe’s second largest apparel fair after Düsseldorf’s CPD. Vendors from 43 countries spread over slightly more floor space than February 2004 — about 409,000 square feet in six pavilions.

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