Election Looms Over Market Week

INNERWEAR: Some major out-of-town retailers may not be in a big hurry to complete spring plans at this week’s market because of Election Day.

NEW YORK — Some major out-of-town retailers may not be in a big hurry to strategize and complete plans for spring 2005 at this week’s market.

The reason: Tuesday is Election Day and a major concern is not being able to vote at a designated polling place, according to innerwear manufacturers, a majority of whom say many buyers and divisional merchandise managers are forgoing appointments until next week.

While market week traditionally is staged during the Election Day period, industry executives said this year is different because of the tight presidential race, the volatile political climate and the Iraq War. A few makers said they have heard concerns about being in New York because of possible terrorism.

Victor Lee, president of NAP Inc., said, “Actually, we are going to be very busy Nov. 8, 9 and 10, and I’m hearing from retailers the election is one of the reasons for that. It’s either because the retailers didn’t do their absentee ballots on time, or they’re going to stay home and vote and come the following week…this election has a lot more buildup than I can remember.”

Marcia Leeds, chief executive officer of Richard Leeds International, said, “A lot of retailers are coming in the week after market week. Maybe the election is a reason people are staying away, or it could be an excuse. However, I am hearing some people are afraid to come to New York the week of the election.”

The bulk of appointments for the second week of November were with major midtier stores, she said.

Howard Radziminsky, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Movie Star Inc., said the official market week has expanded to two weeks over the past year, but he noted there is a “difference” this year.

“One major retailer told me they were forgoing their trip to New York during election week,’’ he said. “I don’t know if it was that they wanted everyone to vote or if it’s for security reasons, or both. Everybody has their own fears.”

Maurice Reznik, president of the Maidenform brand at Maidenform Inc., said one important midtier retailer had postponed its market week appointment until the week after the election. But he noted, “This is a big market for us, and we’ll have big introductions in every one of our brands, like Extreme Push by Maidenform, which gives a dramatic level of push-up cleavage.”

This story first appeared in the November 1, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Reznik said the Flexees brand will introduce firm control lace shapers by Instant Slimmer, The Perfect Underwire bra by Lilyette for full-figures and “the biggest pant launch by Maidenform called One Fabulous Fit,” which will be supported by a major advertising campaign in spring 2005.

Lingerie executives said they were optimistic about overall retailer turnout even with the political uneasiness and despite November being among the smaller of the five seasonal markets. Sleepwear specialists, in particular, based their optimism on two classifications that have generated healthy sales over the past six months: traditional sleepwear and dual-purpose items that have a young contemporary look.

“I think this will be a very positive market,’’ said Greg Holland, executive vice president of sales at The Komar Co. “Retail sales in sleepwear across the board have been strong. I think retailers are pretty optimistic about current sales and about the balance of the year.”

Holland added that an additional July in-store delivery will be scheduled for the first time to “avoid delivery issues” because the bulk of merchandise comes from the Far East.

“November for us is a strategic market,” said Jessica Mitchell, senior vice president of sales, marketing and merchandising at Natori Co. “We’ll be previewing warmwear for next year in all collections, but it’s really a time to look over the year and opportunities for next year.”

Gail Epstein, co-owner and designer of Hanky Panky, said she has seen no difference with market appointments, but noted, “Some specialty stores from Florida aren’t coming because of the aftermath of the hurricanes.” Regarding new product, she said two groups will be expanded for spring-summer: a group of Cotton Lycra Lite basic undies, tanks, spaghetti-strap camis and unconstructed bandeau bras, as well as new colors for a signature stretch lace thong including watermelon, orange, lilac and bluebird blue.

Also expanding assortments for spring-summer is sleepwear and robe designer Ying Li, who will be showing a full range of bras and panties for the first time. “I previewed a few bras and panties in August, and retail reaction was strong, even from ready-to-wear boutiques that buy my camis,” said Li.