NEW YORK — As apparel trade shows add up to a busy schedule for retailers shopping the New York market, each one looks for a different hook to interest buyers.
Two of the larger producers — Blenheim Trade Shows Inc. and The Larkin Group — are looking to expand their international scope in 1995 by making doing business in the U.S. more accessible to foreign buyers and vendors.
There are plans in the works to beef up the presence of young design talent — both domestic and foreign — and consideration of specialized categories, such as lingerie.
In addition to Mexico, the Latin American countries that show organizers are targeting for more growth next year are Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Chile. In Southeast Asia, key countries include South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
One idea show producers agree is clicking are seminars for foreign vendors and retailers attending the shows. The seminars generally feature a panel of speakers who specialize in marketing, distribution, banking, factoring and customs laws. Some show producers also are setting up business lounges with translators, where foreign retailers can get answers to specific questions regarding the American market.
Marshall Lester, director of Blenheim Trade Shows Inc., the U.S. apparel trade show division of Blenheim Group PLC, noted, “Seminars have been very helpful on how to approach the American market, especially for foreign vendors.
“It’s incumbent on foreign exhibitors to prepare ahead. They must prepare their collections, deliveries and pricing to accommodate the buyers,” said Lester.
Lester said Blenheim has been staging seminars at the Premier Collection here and the International Jeanswear Sportswear show in Miami, for the past 1 1/2 years.
He also noted many consumers in Latin America, and even more so in Southeast Asia, have big appetites for upscale goods.
“Cost doesn’t seem to be a factor to them, and the upscale merchandise shown at our shows sell very well to retailers from those countries,” he said.
Lingerie is one category that Lester said he is “investigating” to broaden apparel options in the future. He added that he is currently “negotiating with a group of young Brazilian designers” to be part of the Feb. 26-28 New York Premier Collection at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here. Blenheim also produces the International Jeanswear & Sportswear Show, which will be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center March 3-5.
David Larkin, vice president of corporate development for The Larkin Group, a trade show producer here, noted that it recently staged its first international business roundtable for the garment center.
The roundtable, which was held Nov. 16 at the Larkin offices here at 485 Seventh Ave., addressed issues challenging global trade in New York City.
Participants in the roundtable included Rusty Moore, executive vice president of the Garment Center Business Improvement District; Bruce Herman, president of the Garment Industry Development Corp.; Harvey Rubenstein and K.L. Frederick, international trade specialists for the Department of Commerce; Linda K. Gras, deputy commissioner of the New York City Commission for International Business and United Nations; Patricia Maffei, member services manager at The Fashion Group; Steve Eng, a vice president of Citibank, and Leah Kaplan, director of Fashion Exports New York.
“The topics discussed included the differences in international fashion exports counseling, and exactly who is providing advice to international buyers and exhibitors,” said Larkin. “We also discussed what kind of advice these people are getting and what they need to know.”
Larkin further noted that his firm will be setting up permanent business lounges for foreign buyers at each of the trade shows it produces. The first of these shows for next year are the International Fashion Boutique Show, scheduled Jan. 7-10, and the International Kids Fashion Show, Jan. 15-17, both at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
“I think Citibank will be involved in this project,” said Larkin. “We want to provide export advice all of the time, whether it involves letters of credit or containers.”
Smaller and more specialized show producers such as The Fashion Coterie, Showroom and Styleworks look to segmented markets to attract buyers.
The Fashion Coterie, produced by ENK Productions, attracts high-end vendors and buyers to its twice-annual show held at The Plaza Hotel here. It regularly attracts top names in forward fashion, such as the Todd Oldham line Times Seven and the British designer line Ghost.
In recent years, it has also added trend seminars and displays to help buyers pinpoint emerging looks and potential vendors.
According to ENK president Elyse N. Kroll, vendor attendance at the show has risen to 300 at the last edition, with steady double-digit increases in traffic at each edition. Its next edition is scheduled for Feb. 26-28, 1995.
ENK also produces the Accessorie Circuit at The Plaza three times a year, putting a similar spotlight on a range of upscale accessories.
Patricia Tubiana, creative director for the Showroom and HotLines shows, said her hotel shows put an emphasis on novelty in the contemporary to designer arena.
Each show has about 200 to 250 vendors represented, with the HotLines show produced between major seasons to allow buyers to fill in on key items.
Tubiana said that while her shows don’t offer seminars or trend reports, she covers that territory during the year with extensive mailings to buyers to announce new vendors. The next HotLines show is Jan. 8-10, and the next Showroom show is Feb. 26-28, both at Le Parker Meridien here.
Styleworks, produced by Debra LaChance, majority owner of Styleworks, Inc., will have its third edition Jan. 8-9 here at the Drake Hotel.
The show has grown from about 150 vendors at the first show to almost 400 for the third one, LaChance said. Two more floors for a total of five have been added to accommodate the increase.
LaChance cites the show’s close contacts with vendors and buyers and its knowledge of the market as distinguishing features.
“We operate a buying service, Stylepages…We are in the market every single day,” said LaChance.”We can really advise buyers about trends.”
The show focuses on contemporary and young designer lines, said LaChance, explaining, “Even designer stores need to find inexpensive T-shirts and hot items.”
The show also tries to bring West Coast lines to New York.
“Our L.A. following has more than doubled since the first show,” she said.
Also filling out the schedule of hotel trade shows are American Designers at The Waldorf and Designers at the Essex House, each showing four times a year with a small group of exhibitors. Each show has up to about 20 exhibitors.
According to Carla Jumonville, membership chairman for the Waldorf-Astoria group, buyer attendance has been fairly steady over the past few years. “We’re mostly designers from outside the Northeast, and buyers come to us because they know we’re here for a limited time only,” said Jumonville, who is also president of San Carlin, a designer eveningwear firm and one of the exhibitors.

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