Byline: Jean E. Palmieri

CHICAGO — The Apparel Retailers of America is merging with the National Retail Federation.
The merger will take effect within 30 days when the ARA, formerly the Menswear Retailers of America, will be dissolved.
At its convention here Saturday, ARA’s board of directors voted unanimously to be folded into the NRF, the country’s largest retail trade association. ARA represents just under 600 stores while NRF has over 2,000 direct corporate members. Both groups are based in Washington.
Douglas Wiegand, executive director of ARA, said the terms of the agreement call for ARA to turn over responsibility for its life insurance trust and foundation to NRF. All other legal entities, including the MRA Buying Group, will be dissolved. The ARA offices in Washington will be leased to a new tenant and fixtures and furniture will be sold.
ARA members said they were pleased with the merger, but expressed concerns about how ARA would fit into the NRF, which has been criticized over the years as catering primarily to large retailers. Tracy Mullin, NRF president, said she was aware of the criticism but stressed that NRF serves retailers of all sizes and can learn much from ARA members, most of whom are small, independently owned specialty stores.
“We are encouraging the members of ARA to continue their own identity while getting involved with NRF,” she said, adding that the alliance underscores NRF’s commitment to smaller retailers.
“This helps us to fulfill one of NRF’s missions which is to expand our small store base,” she said. “There are tremendous synergies between ARA and NRF.”