NEW YORK — Children’s wear retailers are getting two new reasons to travel to Las Vegas: two trade shows, one sponsored in part by the Childrenswear Manufacturers Association, and the other by The Larkin Group, which puts on four children’s shows a year in New York.
The CMA, in partnership with the Children’s Trade Expo, will be sponsoring a trade show for the first time, and it will result this fall in what CMA president Stan Birken calls “a children’s wear super show in Las Vegas.” Birken, who also is executive vice president of Girls Will Be Girls, here, made the announcement last week at CMA’s annual Retail Awards dinner. Some 285 manufacturers and retailers attended the dinner, held at the New York Palace Hotel and sponsored by the fibers division of Wellman Inc.
Birken said the children’s apparel industry needs a show that unites the East Coast with the West Coast and the big manufacturers with the smaller ones.
Children’s Trade Expo has been producing a children’s wear show twice a year in Los Angeles since October 1991. While the show has been lauded for presentation, marketing and promotions, seminars and public relations, its exhibitor and retail attendance has been significantly less than that of New York’s IKFS show.
“We are excited that CMA is going to endorse our show,” said Kathy Browning in a telephone interview. Browning, along with her partner Candace Cohen, will continue to produce the show. “It has always been our goal to create a national show that caters to all types of manufacturers and retailers. Now with CMA’s participation, we feel even more strongly that we will reach that goal.”
Browning said the specialty store segment of the children’s wear industry is being addressed by current trade shows, but she says the new Children’s Trade Expo will enlist department store and mass merchant trade as well. Manufacturers will be encouraged to have a corporate presence, and reps handling smaller manufacturers will also be welcomed.
For its upcoming March 14-16 back-to-school show, CTE has changed its venue from Los Angeles’s Convention Center to the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. “Vegas is the place to be if you want a truly national show. It is affordable, accessible and appealing to a lot of people,” said Browning.
The agreement with CMA begins with a spring show to take place in Las Vegas on Oct. 3-5, 1994, at the Sands.
The International Kids Fashion Show (IKFS), the show put on in New York since 1979 by independent trade show producer Larkin, is currently the premier trade event for children’s wear. Its larger editions feature some 1,000 exhibitors and are visited by retailers from 32 states, according to Jonathan Larkin, vice president of the firm.
Now, because of the success of that show, the group is planning to produce a children’s show in Las Vegas, said Larkin. The first is scheduled for Aug. 20-22 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and will feature “a little bit of everything — holiday, resort and immediate goods.”
The next Larkin show in Las Vegas is expected to be held next year for the fall-winter 1995 season.
Meanwhile, when it came to the retail winners at the CMA awards event, partnerships was the operative word in each acceptance speech. Robert Braunstein, president of the seven-unit Childrenswear House based in Manhasset, N.Y., said small manufacturers and retailers have to better communicate with each other if they are to survive and thrive in the Nineties.
“We have to share information regularly about merchandise, fashion trends, deliveries and consumer trends. To share it costs practically nothing, and the rewards can be very consequential,” said Braunstein, adding that he had a message for the big guys, too.
“Most of you believe in the 80/20 principle…some even believe in 99/1,” he said, referring to the ratio of selling large stores to small ones. “Essentially your accountant says a lot of your profits are coming from the big guys, but it was the small retailer who helped get many of you where you are today. And a lot of creative insight and suggestions comes from us.
“If you cater only to the request of big business, many of you will loose the unique identity that brought you to the heights that you currently enjoy. There is the danger of becoming a branded contractor for a retailer, and eventually instead of being your client, he will become your competitor,” warned Braunstein. “Give more attention to the smaller accounts when you do your long-range strategic planning.”
Single-unit specialty store retailer The Kiddie Shoppe in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was also honored, and Eugene Sims, whose mother started the business in 1928, said he believes the store was selected because of the very close relationship it has had with vendors over the years, and because “we pay our bills.”
Burdines was the department store winner, and chairman Howard Socol says children’s wear has always been an important part of the Miami-based store’s $1.2 billion business. “We have always put our best people in the kids’ area, because it is a very successful area that we believe in. We also understand that the kids’ business is a ‘fashion’ business.”
Mervyn’s, which reportedly does 17 to 18 percent of its business in the children’s wear area, received the mass merchant award, and Joe Vesce, chairman, asserted: “There is tremendous opportunity for us to grow.”
Vesce said he plans to become the value leader of trend-right children’s apparel by properly balancing national brands with private labels; turning inventory more often to better serve customers; making the stores the easiest place to shop and truly being partners with vendors.
This year’s CMA honorees also include: Playclothes, a Disney catalog with sales of over $120 million in 1993; The Navy Exchange, which does close to $50 million in children’s wear sales annually, comprising 25 percent of its total apparel sales, and BJ’s Wholesale Club, whose 52 clubs boasts $2 billion in sales annually.