Byline: Rose-Marie Turk

LAS VEGAS — With leather panties for the fetishists and matching gown and robe sets for more conventional customers, the many aspects of innerwear — from the daring to the demure — gave retailers plenty to pick from at the second edition of the International Lingerie Show at the Tropicana Hotel here last week.
Despite its name, nearly all of the more than 200 exhibitors were from the U.S., with some from Canada. Buyers, however, were from all over the globe, including Japan, Europe, South America, Saudi Arabia and Israel. On the first day of the show, its organizers projected buyer traffic at 2,000; by the time it ended, they said that’s about what it was.
Several retailers who specialize in moderate to better mainstream lingerie said closings of regional showrooms in some cities had driven them to the event. And many said they were discovering suppliers they never knew existed.
Rita Boston, owner of Spice for Life in San Dimas, Calif., for example, said she was looking for variety and had found at least six new resources, including Elegant Moments and Queen She Bra.
Boston, who already stocks merchandise from such suppliers as National Corset, Escante, Faris and Sharron Leslie, said she caters to an equal mix of men and women, generally aged 35 to 45. With business up 20 percent over last year, Boston said her business strategy was to carry “more erotic lingerie.”
The three-day show, which ended Wednesday, occupied about 25 percent more floor space than the first one, which was held in April, according to Jeff Yunis, show organizer.
He described the merchandise breakdown as 60 percent sexy and 40 percent “straight lingerie.”
“We’re trying not to have a sexy show. But quite honestly, there are certain things here that can’t go into Bloomingdale’s, Wal-Mart or Saks,” he said.
David Hunt, owner of Leather & Lace in Norfolk, Va., said he was at the show to do some hard bargaining.
“I think you get a better deal at a show, and you always find specials,” he explained, noting he was doing repeat business with Stormy Leather, where he ordered leather bras, panties and corsets. He bought jacketed teddies from Escante.
Hunt, who has been in business 18 months and caters to go-go dancers as well as middle-aged couples, said his volume has risen from $10,000 to $20,000 a month. “Leather fetish is the thing. It’s the fastest-growing segment of the market,” he said.
Brent and Pati Reid, owners of All for Love, Salt Lake City, said their store has massage oils and lingerie in front, and adult novelties, one of the store’s specialities, and sexy lingerie for plus-size women near the back.
Brent Reid said they had found a new distributor, Kiss of Leather, which was selling imported leather garments. Reid was shopping with a 50 percent budget increase and said business “was excellent,” citing shoppers who spend anywhere from $15 for basic panties to $250 for a leather teddy.
Customers often spend as much as $700 in one visit, Pati Reid noted.
The atmosphere is different at Kassie’s in Scottsdale, Ariz., an upscale lingerie store that carries labels such as La Perla and Lisa Charmel, noted owner Kassie Wilson. She was looking for “different, unique vendors,” and said she found at Carlton Hall robes and matching gown sets that she needed for immediate delivery.
She said she also placed robe orders for “great-quality chenille, made in Ireland,” at G. Kinnairds & Co. Calling the merchandise she found at Fourseasons Silk “refreshing as far as the price points,” Wilson said she placed an order for immediate delivery for “expensive-looking” silk teddies, chemises and robes, wholesaling between $25 and $40.