Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg with contributions from Rusty Williamson

NEW YORK — Some New York-based manufacturers have a cutback in the schedules of regional markets on their wish list for the new year, but it’s unlikely that key regional marts will oblige.
The idea was broached at a recent meeting of the New York Fashion Council at the Victoria Royal showroom here. About 40 manufacturers were represented.
With market weeks scheduled five times a year at the California Mart in Los Angeles, the Chicago Apparel Center, the International Apparel Mart in Dallas and the Atlanta Apparel Mart, Alan Sealove, who is president of Victoria Royal as well as the Fashion Council, said there is an “overkill” of market weeks.
The out-of-town markets detract from the business that could be done in New York, he said, and also often conflict with the markets being held in New York.
Sealove noted he had even sent a letter on behalf of the Fashion Council to Maurice (Corky) Newman, general manager of the California Mart, asking him to consider holding markets only three or four times a year as opposed to five.
Gloria Gelfand, president of Louis Feraud, recommended mailing questionnaires to council members to determine how important each market is for each respective company and develop a consensus as to which of the five markets should be eliminated.
Since then, The Fashion Council has followed up and is polling some 2,500 industry people about their feelings on the regional shows.
Ruth Finley, publisher of the Fashion Calendar who also serves as executive director of the Fashion Council, said that so far, based on a return of about 10 percent, indications are that many would prefer to see only three or four seasonal markets be held a year.
Several respondents also indicated they would like to eliminate one day from each of the regional markets. The out-of-town markets usually run five or six days.
Survey results will be mailed at the end of this month to the directors of the major market centers in Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago. Meanwhile, the idea of cutbacks is not being welcomed by the marts’ managements. They offer strong arguments as to why they shouldn’t.
In a telephone interview last week, Newman of the California Mart said he plans to stay with the present schedule of five general markets annually.
“We do business 52 weeks a year,” he said. “Our building is 80 percent occupied. Our tenants demand five shows a year.”
Newman said, however, he plans to coordinate market week dates with the New York manufacturers.
“I don’t foresee a problem in accommodating them. Everyone wants the industry to grow,” he said. “I’d be happy to work out the dates with them. They’re an important part of our business.”
The Atlanta Apparel Mart also has no plan to shorten its market weeks or to eliminate any of them, according to Peg Canter, executive vice president and general manager. The Atlanta Mart is controlled by the needs of the retailers who attend its shows, she said.
“How else is a store going to see new merchandise five times a year? Retailers dictate what we do,” she said. “Why would we agree to force a retailer to go to New York?”
The International Apparel Mart in Dallas has no plans to eliminate any markets and wouldn’t do so based on what a portion of the industry suggests, according to Cindy Morris, executive vice president of marketing for the parent Dallas Market Center.
“We’re a marketplace, not a trade show,” she said. “We have a number of exhibitors that may have only two or three line breaks per year. They still show here each market because they know they can continue to reach customers.”
More than 30 percent of the retailers shopping Dallas are out-of-town buyers, Morris further noted.
With more retailers buying closer to need and spending cautiously, buyers’ spending habits have changed, she said. “Some exhibitors have even proposed having more than five markets per year,” Morris said.
Dorothy Fuller, vice president of the Chicago Apparel Center, said eliminating regional markets won’t guarantee gains.
“A lot of [New York] manufacturers don’t realize they won’t capture more small specialty stores by cutting out a regional market. Each regional market serves the small specialty store, which is a shrinking base,” she said. “They won’t necessarily force people to go to New York by cutting out a market.”
In addition to women’s apparel, the Chicago mart, like the other marts, showcases other categories such as accessories and children’s apparel. Management routinely surveys retailers about their needs, according to Sheila McCullough, vice president of marketing.
“Our market weeks need to service more than one group. Looking at only what one category has to say doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of all our tenants,” she said. “But we certainly would consider what they have to say.”
At the Fashion Council meeting, some manufacturers had plenty to say on the question.
Richard Warren, vice president of the Warren Group, said New York sales account for 80 percent of his annual volume. Despite this hefty New York business, Warren said eight of his employees usually attend the Dallas and Atlanta markets five times a year.
In addition to travel expenses, the company often loses the opportunity to write orders in the showroom since the collection samples are out of town, he added.
Richard Shaw, president of Sully Bonnelly Ltd., said he sends salespeople and collections to the Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles markets five times a year despite the growing cost. Combined, the regional markets account for 15 percent of the company’s annual volume, he said.
By staying away from at least one of the five regional marts in each city annually, New York manufacturers would cut back on expenses while simultaneously strengthening business here with greater availability of samples, Shaw said.
“There’s a big difference between a market and an industry,” he said. “We’re not trying to close down those markets; we’re trying to get a better balance.”
When the Fashion Council polled members a few years ago, the results were inconclusive, Finley said.
Bruce Krull, executive vice president of corporate sales for the Warren Group, also suggested decreasing the length of the markets by at least one day to cut down on costs. Another topic discussed at the meeting was the proposal to develop a Created in New York label, a proposal that has been discussed for about a year. If the industry made a push for it, government funds might be appropriated, according to Bud Konheim, president of Nicole Miller. Stressing that the apparel district represents 200,000 voters, he said a collective effort would cause politicians to take notice.
“If we make ourselves a voting bloc, and stay with it for a year, then it has value,” Konheim said.

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