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LOS ANGELES — Taking a cue from the changing Las Vegas apparel trade-show scene, the Los Angeles market is betting on the lure of satellite shows to showcase its fashion wares.

This story first appeared in the December 10, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Anchored by a handful of showroom buildings — the California Market Center, the New Mart, Cooper Design Space, the Gerry Building and the Lady Liberty Building — the market landscape has added more than a half-dozen temporary shows, including Coeur and Brand Assembly.

Coming on board in 2015 is Factory Direct, a new sourcing show that aims to introduce smaller and emerging brands to production options, including technological support; it will launch at the New Mart on March 2 to 4. Shape, a new ath-leisure event, focuses on activewear and lifestyle items, from candles to body cream; it kicks off at the market center on March 16 to 18.

“These shows are helping increase the strength of the buyer footprint,” said Brittany Carr, director of events and trade shows at the CMC. Temporary shows include the Select contemporary show, the Transit shoe show and the Los Angeles Men’s Market. “If you’re not a local buyer, you want to see as many options as possible. The more shows, the merrier.”

The moves are a reaction to the changing marketplace. Women’s apparel sales have barely budged, up 1 percent through September to $116.2 billion, compared to the year prior, as apparel brands and retailers have struggled to recover from the Great Recession of 2008.

As buildings continue to recover attendance figures and fill vacancies, temporary shows, along with building perks for potential tenants, are a way to create critical mass during the markets. Ethan Eller, property manager of the New Mart, said 2008 “created upheaval in the industry, and I don’t think all of it is coming back. It will be something else instead, and we’re working toward that and staying ahead of the curve.”

Most industry players said they’re coming off a strong October market — the New Mart had its best attendance in six years — and credit the spurred growth to the growing economy and digital marketing. Designers and Agents, a curated contemporary trade show at the New Mart, saw a 6 percent increase in exhibitors to 124 brands, according to cofounder Barbara Kramer. With the implementation of its social-media efforts and a new e-mailed buyer newsletter, the New Mart expects attendance to increase 10 to 15 percent next year and is exploring the idea of adding a trade show that offers e-commerce solutions for companies.

The strategy sits well with apparel brands that have adopted the same marketing approach. Z Supply, Irvine, Calif., which recently opened a showroom in the New Mart, has seen sales climb 50 percent in the past year, and 2015 bookings are already ahead of 2014, said Greg Garrett, co-owner of Z Supply, an umbrella brand for four lines.

“We really push social media, as we focus more on digital and bloggers than print,” Garrett said.
LAZR, a footwear, apparel and accessories show that has hopscotched venues since its launch in 2012, is now at the Vertigo Building. The brand is planning to grow its show count to five in 2015, and it is trying to woo the Internet-savvy shopper by opening the show to consumers, as well.

“Our brands are already marketing to consumers with their stores, so we’re trying to organize a show that meets their needs,” said John Ruffo, founder and director of the show, which has attracted retailers such as LF Stores and Nasty Gal.

Also reaching out to consumers is Coeur, which launched more than three years ago as an accessories and lifestyle show and takes place at the Cooper Design Space. With two shows each in Los Angeles and New York, Coeur will soon launch a shop online that will feature its exhibitors, said Henri Myers, cofounder of Coeur.

At the Los Angeles International Textile Show, set for March 2 to 4 at the CMC, Factory Direct will serve the growing interest in sourcing locally and the need for quick-turn merchandise in a fickle selling environment. Another aim is to help smaller factories better market themselves.

“Smaller and midtier brands need a lot of help, from factoring and asset lending to finding factories that can produce small minimums,” said David Dea, founder and president of the show.

Earning buyer loyalty is the name of the game at marts in Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas.

Coming off a solid year, marts are catering to specialty stores’ more diverse product mixes and wooing them via online look books and blogs. They are expanding hot categories such as accessories, gifts and spa and encouraging crossover buying.

“We are really looking to enhance the overall buyer experience,” said Gina Kwok, executive director of apparel marketing at AmericasMart Atlanta. “We are looking to build more memorable events and programs they can’t find elsewhere.”

The initiative launched in October, when the company e-mailed a women’s and kids’ look book to buyers and threw a Zen-themed runway show at market. To step up the show, Kwok flew in models from across the country, laid out a non-traditional runway and scented the air with eucalyptus.

Contemporary apparel, footwear, social occasion and children’s wear are growth categories at the downtown complex, according to Mary Sullivan-Harper, senior vice president of leasing. In addition, the venue introduced 11 members of the Accessories Council at its June show and expects to expand its gallery next June.

Over the past five months, the center has seen an uptick in buyers from its traditional territory as well as the Caribbean and Costa Rica, Kwok noted.

Keeping it fresh is also a priority at StyleMax at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

“With so many shows for them to choose from, there has to be a reason for them to come,” said Susan Glick, vice president of women’s apparel.

In March, StyleMax will reconvene “Exclusive in Chicago,” a section dedicated to premium denim and upper-contemporary labels like Trina Turk. Launched as a two-day event in October, it will grow to three days in March, she noted.

The Merchandise Mart also plans to overlap the National Bridal Show and StyleMax in March to boost the accessories business.

It’s all about product at the Dallas Market Center. Cindy Morris, chief operating officer, said, “We see the retailers catering to lifestyles — contemporary, Western or another — and trying to serve all the needs of that target customer and not just be a vertical apparel or gift store.”

Morris figures that the DMC’s diverse mix, which includes large assortments of Western boots and togs, has broadened its traditional draw from contiguous states to include Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri and New Mexico, plus other Midwestern and Western states. She hit the road this year, visiting 200 stores of all types in seven states.

“Texas continues to be a region with significant growth,” Morris added. “Consumer confidence is 94.5 percent, which is 31 percent higher than a year ago.”

The Fashion Industry Gallery, which specializes in contemporary fashions and accessories, features 48 showrooms and a 20,000-square-foot booth area.

“We had our best year ever this year, so we’re really focusing on trying to accommodate the demand,” said Matt Roth, chief executive officer. “We’re 100 percent leased, and there are quite a few people waiting and calling me wanting space. Attendance was up every market over 2013, which was up over 2012.”

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