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Recession Lifts Off-Price Specialist Show

Trendy merchandise and better margins expected to lure retailers to upcoming Las Vegas edition.

If value is retail’s new catchphrase, off-price may be its new trade show.

The Off-Price Specialist Show, which bills itself as the largest marketplace for discount goods, is getting a boost from the recession as retailers seek less-expensive merchandise to help restore margins.

The 13-year-old show is expecting nearly a 30 percent gain in retailers shopping the event for the first time. Parent company Tarsus Group plc anticipates 1,400 new retailers will walk the show, slated to run Feb. 15 to 18 at the Venetian Grand Ballrooms in Las Vegas, 300 more than last August.

“Everybody is looking for a deal, even rich people,” said Don Browne, the show’s marketing director. “People are realizing that off-price is not just shoddy, discount merchandise, but good products with good value.”

Traditionally, the Off-Price Show, which generally sells goods at 20 to 70 percent below regular wholesale, has catered to big-box discounters, dollar stores and military surplus liquidators shopping the show’s jobbers and hawkers for misfits and overruns.

While that market still accounts for the bulk of the business, Browne said the show has worked to include more branded product and fashionable-but-chic merchandise. This year, vendors will be offering apparel from brands like Liz Claiborne, Ed Hardy, Columbia Sportswear, New Balance, Jones New York, Chip & Pepper, Steven Madden and Sean John, he said.

The move toward branded, fashionable goods, coupled with a consumer demand for discounted merchandise, has prompted some retailers to consider the show for the first time.

Kimberly Choma, who operates an apparel Web site that focuses on trendy denim and accessories for men and women, said she’s hoping to find specialty items at the show. “Even if it’s last year’s goods, I’m just looking for unique pieces,” she said. Her Web site, Hookedonfashion.com, sells contemporary brands like Ed Hardy and Nicole Miller, but Choma said she wants to offer her customers more value in this economy.

Angelo Petal, who owns a chain of streetwear-oriented, off-price shops in Canada, will be looking for bargains on hoodies, polos and men’s and women’s oversized goods at the show. “It’s all about cash today,” he said. “I think we can be pretty aggressive with our deals there.”