NEW MARKET DATES RANKLE BRA MAKERS

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Major bra manufacturers are bristling over the new innerwear market schedule put together by the Intimate Apparel Council, specifically the prospect of a February market.
As reported, the IAC, at a meeting last month, voted to cut innerwear market weeks from five to four by combining the January and March markets into a February market. The other markets continue to be in May, August and November.
The new schedule fits in well with the needs of many sleepwear manufacturers. It also seems to sit well with several retailers, who like the idea of one less market. Others don’t appear to feel strongly one way or the other — even though some major buying groups would have to replan their own buying schedules at corporate headquarters.
However, the bra makers, who traditionally present their major fall programs at March markets, say that after the holiday-shortened schedules of December, a February market simply does not give them enough time to get fall lines and marketing campaigns in order.
Also, innerwear firms that have designer licensees — whether they are in sleepwear or bras — expect to feel squeezed by the calendar, as specs, markings, fabrics and colors generally are worked out with the schedules of ready-to-wear designers, whose fall lines don’t ordinarily make their debuts until March or April.
Some complain they don’t understand why the IAC scheduled the market changes to begin in 1998, since a majority of bra companies have already set their 1998 calenders.
Asked whether the IAC would consider changing the February market back to March, the council’s two top officers had different responses.
“Let them approach us, and let’s talk about it,” said James Mogan, IAC chairman and the new president of the Olga division of Warnaco Group. “We’ll have to get the feedback and weigh it.”
However, Charlie Komar, IAC vice chairman and chief executive officer of Charles Komar & Sons, a sleepwear firm, said, “We plan on going to four markets a year as the IAC has voted — and we’ll support it.”
But the major foundation firms are unhappy. Lee A. Chaden, president and ceo of Sara Lee Intimates, which includes such powerhouse brands as Playtex, Bali and Hanes Her Way, said, “We agreed internally that we are not going to do a February market. The next step is to go back to the IAC and try to convince them not to do it. The vote was driven by the sleepwear people. It just doesn’t work for us, or other leading bra manufacturers.”
Chaden added, “We don’t want to be insensitive to the IAC’s needs. We would let it slide if it wasn’t an important issue, but it is important.”
Chuck Nesbit, president of Sara Lee’s Bali Co., added, “We feel the appropriate time is the second week of March — as it has historically been. It makes the most sense.”
“I’m tempted to say the same thing,” said Marvin Bienenfeld, chairman and ceo of Bestform Foundations Inc. “We’ll have to think of something, because this is impossible for us. I don’t see how it will work.”
“I’m blown away — in total disbelief. It makes no sense at all,” exclaimed Maurice Reznik, president of the Warner’s division of Warnaco Group. “Our calendar is set for 1998. Right now, everything is geared to business as usual. Why not start this in 1999?”
John Bowman, corporate vice president of sales, marketing and merchandising for Wacoal America — and the licensed Donna Karan Intimates collection — stated, “I’m not thrilled either. We can’t control Donna and her time frame. This is going to put us under a lot of pressure, and quite frankly, I don’t know if February market will work for us. We may have to continue doing March.”
One vendor from a major foundations corporation, who did not want to be identified, said, “This is fine for sleepwear makers, who just have to produce a few samples and can work off a numbered line list.
“We need to have marketing support finalized, and present myriad groups of bras, each of which have 30 components. Sleepwear has what — three components?”
Retailers, however, frequently gave a thumbs up to the new schedule.
“I’ve been pushing for four markets a year for eight years now,” said Diane Paccione, general merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Sears Roebuck & Co. “Number one, I just don’t think we need five markets a year; there’s been such an overlap of January and March. It will be much more effective.”
‘I think February is fine, it’s workable,” said Margaret Crandall, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and juniors at Jacobson Stores, Jackson, Mich.
“I really don’t see the point of coming back to market to see the same fall merchandise twice. I’m assuming, though, that February will be for August, September and October deliveries,” she said.
Crandall had an additional word of advice for manufacturers, “If the industry can think in terms of seasons, not markets, that would be great…think in terms of a consumer’s point of view, not a production point of view.”
Michelle Vlahoyiannis, sleepwear buyer for Macy’s West, noted, “I’m happy about it, because at Federated we do our private label [off-shore] programs in January. We’ll continue to do that, so [for branded programs] it works out very well for us.
“I do feel that as a result November will become a more important market. Vendors will want to preview fall ideas then,” she said.
“Finally!” exclaimed Polly Berg, owner of the lingerie boutique that bears her name in Edina, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul. “I’m so glad. Now, I’ll be able to evaluate Christmas business, and have time to think — to say nothing of the fact that each market has become so costly.”
Taking the change in stride, Robert Pawlak, divisional vice president of intimate apparel coats and furs at Milwaukee-based Carson Pirie Scott, said, “It doesn’t affect me personally. I travel every month for coats, regardless. I’ve cut down the number of my buyers’ trips, because we do a lot of work here. Many vendors come to see us.”
Dennis Warden, vice president and general merchandise manager of the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog division, said, his buying schedule for New York vendors will continue to be October for the spring catalog, January for the summer book and April for fall and holiday.
Amanda Diaz, foundations buyer at Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog, said she believes the May market should have been “axed.”
“We never come to May market. I think it’s absolutely retarded that buyers — most of whom are women and mothers — are expected to be at the New York market in May, when they could be home on Mother’s Day with their families. It’s inhumane.”
Some underwear makers are endorse the new schedule. They say they won’t miss the January market, which is usually pretty quiet for them, and they feel their back-to-school business, usually done in March, could just as easily be wrapped up in February.
“I’m all in favor of a February market,” said Thomas A. Garson, the new executive vice president of sales and marketing at Wundies Inc. “Retailer turnout isn’t very strong for us in January.
“By 1999,” he added, “the market calender should be adjusted, and it will save money for both retailers and manufacturers.”
Reflecting the general opinion among sleepwear firms, Peter Gabbe, IAC treasurer and chief operating officer of Carole Hochman Designs Inc., said, “I’m all for it. It’s a move that will be ‘cost-effective’ for both vendors and retailers.”