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NEW YORK — A smattering of out-of-town retailers managed to show up at last week’s market amid Election Day jitters.

Traffic was sparse and sporadic, with the exception of a few Madison Avenue showrooms that were busy on Tuesday, including Sara Lee’s Bali and Wonderbra, Maidenform Inc., Movie Star Inc., Richard Leeds International and Dana-Co., the licensee for Natori foundations.

Bob Pawlak, vice president of intimate apparel and coats at Milwaukee-based Carson Pirie Scott, who was spotted at the Movie Star showroom, sized up the turnout: “I’ve never seen anything like it. Usually traveling on Midwest Airlines is like a zoo during market week. There weren’t even any lines at the airport and I walked straight up to the ticket counter. I think some stores were scared to come to New York during Election Day.”

The busiest days were Wednesday and Thursday, said a number of manufacturers. They noted that the bulk of business continued to be completing spring buys and marketing campaigns, as well as merchandise for transitional selling and gift-giving programs for Valentine’s Day and, in some cases, Mother’s Day. And they expect the momentum to continue next week.

While business at retail generally continues to be difficult, daywear, sleepwear and robe makers in particular said they were pleased to see a big demand for plush robes and thermal daywear and underwear. This was an unexpected bonus considering the weather this fall has been generally mild, they said.

In contrast to warm and cozy items in which to sleep and lounge, sex topped buyers’ lists in the foundations arena for spring. Top-booking classifications included:

This story first appeared in the November 8, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

  • Overtly sexy boudoir fare such as highly embellished corsets with garters and coordinating G-strings.

  • Playful baby dolls, from layered sheer numbers to polyester charmeuse and animal prints.
  • The dual-purpose push-up bustier or Merry Widow that doubles as an evening top.
  • V-shaped undies, a fresh twist to low-rise thongs, string bikinis and tanga styles.

“It’s really been a much more calm market, and the action started on Wednesday,’’ said Sergio Oxman, co-owner and vice president of sales for Miami-based Cosabella. “But it’s also been an in-depth market and we got a lot accomplished. We were able to get projections for 2005 for fall and transitional selling and got a read on new colors.”

Sheer nylon daywear pieces in tropical brights with colorful contrasting trims were a top-booking group, as well as a romantic-looking line of daywear of elaborate laces inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Oxman said.

Tobie Garfinkle, senior vice president of merchandising for the licensed Liz Claiborne Intimates at Chelsea Group, said the bulk of spring goods was shown in August, but noted, “We have a smaller presentation of what we call margin-builders in average-figure and full-support bras.”

She singled out one bra group called High Tech as a success because the specialty strap styling has been translated for full-figures, which also features a “spacer” fabric in the cups — a polyester fabric that creates “loft and feels like foam.”

Todd Demakos, chief executive officer of St. Eve, said, “Lace is in big demand and we’ve been showing a lot more lace. The lace guys are very happy. We’ve also been selling everything from basics to fashion in soft plush looks in robes of Polar fleece and terry to softly brushed thermal daywear and underwear for women and kids. Last year was a decent robe year, but this year, robes are selling extremely well at retail.”

“We showed our collection in advance in August, which is a much more important market than November,” said Leigh Bantivoglio, designer of daywear, sleepwear and corsets that bears her name. “But unfortunately, I’m looking to see spring ’05 money in January. There still are stragglers. But my business so far is up 25 percent against a year ago.”

Bantivoglio said that, despite a “slim turnout” of major stores last week, she’s been able to counteract no-shows during market week by “creating look books and images that are e-mailed to customers because a lot of retailers are no longer coming to market.”

Designer Marci Sherry of Jillian Sherry agrees. “I’m finding that most of my stores will contact me through my Web site, jilliansherry.com, or through phone orders,’’ she said. “I don’t have a spring collection for this market. It’s a seasonless thing for me, and I’ve been getting lots of accounts from cities like Paris and London.”

A spokeswoman for Sara Lee noted, “Overall, it was a very good market, and we have a few appointments next week, including Kohl’s and Belk’s.” She said four product lines received “very strong” retail reaction: Wonderbra’s 10th-anniversary collection; a TGIF (Thank God It Fits) collection of sleek foam contour bras with microlining for the smaller-than-average figure, and two offerings from Bali — an Adjustable Comfort Strap bra that gives an additional 1 1/2 fit flexibility to the bra straps as well as clasps positioned for “hidden functionality,” and a Smoothing Panty, which give soft, comfortable control and support.

“Wonderbra was very well received and retailers were excited about the new products, new colors and the new campaign for the 10th anniversary,” the spokeswoman said.

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