Do The Trade Show Shuffle

If 2004 is anything like 2003, the New York trade show calendar will probably spend more time in flux than some might like.

Retailers who must travel to New York to see the latest trends and restock their stores can often manage to make onlyone trip a season. Likewise, exhibitors also want to get their travel plans set in advance.

As the larger trade shows are in many cases necessary stops for retailers, organizers of smaller events sometimes find themselves in the position of jockeying for a venue if there is a last-minute switch at a major show.

It is important for trade shows to be an easy experience for retailers, said Britton Jones, president of Business Journals Inc., which puts together the Moda Manhattan, Accessories The Show and Fashion Avenue Market Expo.

“There’s so much going on in New York City during market for these retailers and the more convenient we can make it for them to come...the richer the experience for them and the more they’re going to feel like getting on a plane and traveling to New York,” Jones said.

The New York Fashion Council is aiming to get the trade shows on the same page. The not-for-profit group, which is focused primarily on promoting New York’s fashion industry, is also seeking to help coordinate event dates in the industry, including the timing of the events.

“The healthiest thing for our industry is to have a nonprofit organization that’s looking out for New York to set the trade show dates,” said the council’s vice president, Ed Mandelbaum, who is also co-founder of the Designers & Agents show.“I’m looking for it to be a group effort.”

The center of gravity for the New York shows is the Fashion Coterie, which earlier this month adjusted its show dates to Feb. 29-March 2 from earlier in February. The Coterie is put on by ENK International, which also produces the Intermezzo, Children’s Club and Sole Commerce shows.

ENK president Elyse Kroll said she has to keep an eye on other major shows throughout the world and plan accordingly, picking the best dates for buyers and exhibitors.“We try to make it convenient for the buyers, and if other shows are going on during the dates we typically use, then we try to move it around,” to avoid a conflict, she said. “I need to do it because I need to find the slot that’s going to help the majority. In the past, when people have asked me to sit on some committee, I’ve said ‘no’ because I can’t be held to a date.”

Kroll added that she has not been contacted by the other shows to coordinate dates.

— Evan Clark

Suit Sayers


An anticipated rebound for the ready-to-wear markets in 2004, with an emphasis on tailored career clothes, couldn’t come at a better time for the suit industry, where the major players have recently restructured — for various reasons — and are poised to build on the segment’s comeback.

While the overreaching runway trend for spring was toward a more feminine approach to dressing, vendors of classic tailored clothing are hardly concerned that women will walk away from suits in the core better-priced market. Rather, they are working within the trend to push more daring skirt suits or jacket and dress combinations that blur the traditional boundaries of suit departments, where sales have recently been up as much as 30 percent compared with last year.

Despite a drop of 8.3 percent in the women’s tailored clothing market for the year ended in September, according to the NPD Group, vendors remain bullish on the $14.6 billion category’s prospects. The dress and suit divisions of major brands such as Liz Claiborne, Jones New York and Tahari Arthur S. Levine all recently reported strong forecasts for the first half of next year.

“Suits are probably the hottest category at retail right now. I don’t see any slowdown,” said suit impresario Arthur S. Levine in a recent interview.

During the bankruptcy shake-up of Kasper A.S.L., Levine moved his well-known monogram into a new venture with Elie Tahari called Tahari Arthur S. Levine that is expected to have sales of about $200 million in its third year. Building on the momentum of the category, Levine is planning to open its first store early in 2004 in Las Vegas at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino.While Levine’s venture has targeted the same market share once dominated by the suit brand he created, Kasper is expected to solidify its position under new ownership by Jones Apparel Group, which won the company during an auction in bankruptcy court this fall.

With other recent developments in the market, such as Lord & Taylor upping its floor space for suits, Liz Claiborne moving its suit and dress license to Kellwood Co.’s Halmode division, Perry Ellis International licensing women’s suits to European Design Group and the introduction of Anne Klein suits within Kasper, most vendors are now predicting 2004 will continue another strong cycle for the sector, reversing the downswing the industry endured with the rise of casual career dressing.

Designers Paint New Coats

With a few designers teaming up with different outerwear makers, there will be a lot more designer coats to choose from next fall.

Big names are a selling point with shoppers who have been more interested in stylish options to the basic winter coat. Designer labels also help stores limit discounting, which has plagued the outerwear sector.

“Designer brands are the reason for department stores to be around,” said Donald Levy, president and chief executive officer of the Levy Group. “There’s lot of competition at the J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart levels. What else do department stores have to sell if not designer labels?”

The company produces licensed Liz Claiborne, Dana Buchman and Esprit coats, house brands Braetan and Donnybrook outerwear, as well as Wildlife sportswear and licensed Bonjour jeans.

Michael Kors Inc. has joined forces with Herman Kay Bromley to launch the first license for its new Michael collection of women’s coats. S. Rothschild & Co. has sealed a new licensing deal with Donna Karan International to develop and distribute DKNY women’s outerwear. Marvin Richards has landed the coat licenses for Calvin Klein and CK Calvin Klein, following the demise of Fairbrooke Enterprises, once the king of the outerwear business for designer labels. At the Utex Corp., a Montreal-based company, William Calvert has designed its newly licensed Perry Ellis outerwear line that will debut at retail for fall 2004.

Barry Kay, co-president of Herman Kay, said, “Clearly, designer labels are becoming more important. To be competitive, stores need brands. Designer brands are more fashionable and right for today.”Herman Kay Bromley, which holds licenses for outerwear under labels including Anne Klein, Albert Nipon, London Fog and JLo by Jennifer Lopez, has been named licensee for the Michael women’s outerwear category for the U.S. and Canada. Michael Kors is looking to launch its lower-priced Michael brand for fall 2004 retailing in a broad array of product categories, with complete lifestyle offerings for women and men.

Designer labels also result in better merchandising and reduce promotions, he said. A new JLo shop at Macy’s flagship has helped boost holiday sales, Kay said. Last week, 3,000 JLo coats were sold in Macy’s stores nationwide.

“You need key doors to set the stage in the big doors,” Kay said.

Herman Kay also is looking for more licenses, but is proceeding somewhat cautiously.

“We want to do it wisely and not from the hip,” Kay said. “It has to make sense for us.”

Levy noted that it has become increasingly important for department stores to raise their exposure of designer brands. It also enables them to distinguish themselves from their competitors, while improving margins and business.

Dana Buchman, for example, has seen outerwear sales increase by 100 percent since it was launched last year, Levy said. The Levy Group also is closing in on a new licensing deal for outerwear, he added.

Fairbrooke’s decision to shutter its business earlier this year put a few designer names in play. Through the Rothschild deal, DKNY coats will debut for spring 2004 and will be sold in the U.S. and Canada. Marvin Richards will debut its Calvin Klein licenses for women’s coats in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Steve Blatt, founder of Searle, a retail and wholesale operation that has been producing coats for more than 25 years, said, “As in everything else in the industry, designer labels are the most significant. There’s not a heck of a lot of other business being done at the better level beyond designer brands.”

Despite the spate of designer labels being introduced next year, Searle is not buying into it, opting to focus primarily on its private label.“What I think is amazing is that even though the outerwear business has been so difficult for the past 10 years, more people are getting into it,” Blatt said. “There’s no floor space in department stores and no open dollars. A number of outerwear companies think they can sell more product with someone else’s name, and I’m sure they can. They hope to cut someone else out.”

Cinzia Rocca and Max Mara have made inroads in the outerwear business “more so than any sportswear designer labels,” Blatt said. “You can’t make a coat today without some kind of label in it.”

“On the other end, people should buy to the product and not to the name,” Blatt said. “But I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way.”

Outerwear sales have picked up at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, which moved its coat department from the ninth floor to a larger space on the heavier-trafficked eighth floor near the store’s cafe earlier this year. For the second year there are also designer coats on the second floor. Shoppers in Saks Fifth Avenue’s designer coat department are making more impulse purchases, according to Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising.

“It’s not a destination purchase. They’re not thinking, ‘Now I have to go buy my winter coat,’” Lividini said. “Novelty coats with much higher price points are doing very well.”

— Rosemary Feitelberg

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