BIGGER BUDGETS COME TO FLORIDA’S CRUISE ’95

Byline: Georgia Lee

MIAMI — Buoyed by brisk business, retailers are shopping the Swimwear Association of Florida’s Cruise ’95 show here with increased budgets and a responsiveness to new looks.
The interest in surface effects continues in high gear, with retailers dyeing an array of textures, from metallic treatments to chenille, corduroy and velvet. Details, such as metallic trims, beading and wooden ornaments, are contributing to an overall direction toward ethnic and novelty looks.
Swimwear is also taking a cue from ready-to-wear, in small prints, plaids, gingham and preppy schoolgirl looks. Neutral and earth tone palettes are still abundant, but muted brights, jewel tones and silver are new attractions. Athletic and streetwear influences are plentiful in stripes, sporty silhouettes and thermal cotton and denim fabrications.
As in lingerie, the bust continues to get emphasis, with almost every line featuring push-up bras and removable padding.
The seven-day show runs through Friday at the Miami International Merchandise Mart. Through Monday, it had drawn 530 buyers, compared with 540 last year.
“We expect to be about even with last year, which was a very good show,” said Jerry Fleisher, president of SAF and a sales representative for Gabar, Calvin Klein and Cazimi.
Fleisher added that the total number of lines had grown to 250 from 200 last year.
“We still think of ourselves as a regional show for Florida and the Caribbean,” said Fleisher. “But it is destined to become bigger, as our out-of-territory business increases each year.”
A Monday night fashion show drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500, and showrooms appeared crowded throughout the weekend.
The show’s healthy activity reflected what manufacturers and sales reps describe as a rebound for the industry.
“Business is surprisingly healthy,” said Tristene Berry, merchandising manager for intimate apparel/swimwear at BASF Corp., which co-sponsors the show. “Manufacturers are listening to the consumer and giving them a reason to buy, with a tremendous amount of fabric innovation, which also shows a commitment on the part of the mills.”
Peter Rubin, president of Mainstream Swimwear, and president of the Swimwear Industry Manufacturers Association, noted: “Manufacturers are clean and lean now. They aren’t stocking in hopes that retailers will buy but instead are very careful with product.”
Rubin added that his company’s appointments at the show had increased to 110 from 70, with a sales increase projected at a minimum of 15 to 20 percent.
Howard Greller, executive vice president of Beach Patrol Inc., a Carson, Calif.-based junior and contemporary swimwear firm, described the show as “beyond expectation,” with appointments up 25 percent.
“The Florida market is extremely healthy,” he said. “Swimwear is a way of life here, and retailers always find a way to be successful.”
Specialty store retailers were upbeat about what they described as a focus on novelty looks, which their customers demand.
“I used to have to really dig to find novelty, but now it’s become available in mainstream lines,” said Stacey Siegel, owner of Everything But Water, a 25-store nationwide swimwear specialty chain based in Orlando, Fla. “The market has finally come to me.”
Siegel shopped with a budget up 20 percent, based on what she said was “booming business everywhere.” She bought rich colors, such as burgundy and forest green, rather than the new brights and bought ethnic and schoolgirl-inspired looks from a wide variety of vendors including Too Hot Brazil, Citrus, Sessa, Beach Patrol and Baja Blue.
Jeanette Calderon, owner of Jolie Boutique, a swimwear specialty store in San Juan, Puerto Rico, shopped for rich color, European styling and good fit. Calderon concentrated on a handful of lines, including Gottex, Gideon Oberson, La Perla and Darling Rio.
“Our customers are a different body type than Americans, and they demand perfect fit,” she said. “Also, as a year-round resort climate, we need all the color we can get.”
Calderon also bought sportswear coverups, including pareos, short sets and crop tops. “Customers don’t want anything basic,” she said. “Everything must have a story.”
Denise DeBartolomeis, owner of Pacific Motion, a swimwear specialty boutique with two locations near Denver, applauded the market’s focus and direction, citing its completeness and representation of smaller, unusual lines.
DeBartolomeis bought lines such as See Jane Swim, Darling Rio, Kocacho, and Keiko for fashion statements, such as lingerie looks. She also bought corduroy, chenille and burnout fabric treatments from Shok and Raisins.

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