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Las Vegas Swimsuit Splash Scores Points with Buyers

LAS VEGAS -- A new swimwear show called Splash made its debut here this month to a general nod of approval from buyers but a mixed reaction from vendors.<BR><BR>Many retailers said they were able to get some worthwhile shopping done at the event....

LAS VEGAS — A new swimwear show called Splash made its debut here this month to a general nod of approval from buyers but a mixed reaction from vendors.

Many retailers said they were able to get some worthwhile shopping done at the event. Several of the show’s 65 exhibitors said traffic and bookings surpassed expectations; others, though, said they were disappointed by the lack of serious buying. One problem, they noted, was that with several other trade shows going on here at the same time, many buyers did not seem to have the time to visit more than one or two key resources.

Splash, which ran for three days through Sept. 11, was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in conjunction with two other relatively new trade shows here: Fashion Accessories Expo (FAE) and the Visual Marketing & Store Design Show (VM West).

It attracted mostly specialty store buyers, shopping with varied budgets and often citing durable fabrics as a top priority. Tops and bottoms merchandised separately was another idea getting a lot of play.

Ginger and Ward Noland, owners of Flotsam of California, a swimwear store in Santa Cruz, Calif., were in search of goods for immediate through November delivery. Shopping for misses’ suits at about $30 wholesale, the husband-and-wife team was impressed by Jantzen.

“It offers full coverage and support,” she said. The couple also liked De Weese suits in what she called “spa-safe” fabrics that will hold up in hot tubs.” The Nolands opted for preppy-style, conservatively cut suits in green, navy and their best-selling color, black. Plaid and mini-floral prints as well as solids caught their fancy. Although sales are trending upward, the duo cautiously lowered their open-to-buy 5 percent.

Sharon Slade, owner of Beach Nuts in Santa Barbara, Calif., also sought swimwear in durable fabrics. Shopping the $15 to $40 wholesale range, she favored Jag suits made of Cordo kinetic fabric — a strong new nylon and Lycra spandex blend.

The retailer was also excited by the firm’s separates division, Choice. “How many women are there who are proportional in tops and bottoms?” she said.

Suits that cover women with large busts and pad women with small busts were important to the buyer, as were bandeau styles, which are staging a comeback in the industry. Slade ordered jewel-tone as well as eggplant and copper-colored suits. With year-to-date sales enjoying a 10 percent rise over 1993, she hiked her buying budget “slightly. I think the state recession is lightening up, but there have been so many ups and downs in our six years of business,” she said.

Katie Markus and Patti Braunberg, owner and buyer respectively for Carousel Boutique, a women’s boutique in Whitefish, Mont., were placing test orders for swimwear at market.

“It’s a new and very seasonal business for us because it’s usually too cold for swimwear where we are,” Markus said.

Braunberg said the two looked for resources offering January through June 1995 delivery but found mostly firms exhibiting swimwear for immediate through January 1995 shipment. One line they favored was Ann Cole. The two ordered suits at an average $44 wholesale from the nautical-themed collection.

Rio and Desiree Locatelli, a mother-and-daughter team who own It Suits You-Rio Swimwear here, looked for small prints, lace details and neon colors.

“We’re seeing a lot more fun coverups, too,” Desiree Locatelli said, “such things as sheer tops and pull-on shorts.”

The most important trend they found at Splash, however, was swimwear separates, she said, adding that they are her best-selling items. Shopping price points of $30 wholesale and up, the two ordered tops and bottoms from Sunsets Separates and Ritchie. “Business is excellent,” Rio Locatelli said. “We have more than doubled our 1993 [year-to-date] sales. Through word of mouth, people are finding out that we carry a variety of swimwear, including custom-made suits for women who have undergone a mastectomy and suits at up to size 46. We also have a seamstress who custom-tailors the suits that we sell.”

The buyers’ only complaint was that the show ended too quickly. “We felt we needed more days here to see all the lines,” Locatelli said.

Another edition of Splash is scheduled for August 1995, to coincide with the WWD/Men’s Apparel Guild in California show (WWD/MAGIC) at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center. Exact dates, site, and whether Splash and FAE will team up again are details yet to be determined, said Barbara Brady, an organizer of the show along with Gary Abeyta.