Byline: Lisa Bertagnoli

The Windy City is gearing up for trend-hungry buyers to breeze in next year and swarm the Merchandise Mart and the Apparel Center in search of the latest looks.
The first show of the year is the summer-fall preview for the women’s and children’s markets, slated for Jan. 25-29 at the Apparel Center. Susan McCullough, vice president of apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., said that, as in years past, the show will be cross-marketed with the Chicago Gift & Home Market, slated to run Jan. 23-30 at the Merchandise Mart.
Scheduled for the duration of the preview are seminars, including: “Turning Trends Into Profits,” “The Trendmeister’s Guide to Anticipating Trends” and “More Flash for Cash: Store Promotions.” On Jan. 27, a fashion show including Canadian knitwear company Spanner will be staged.
A couple of months later, the fall 2002 edition of StyleMax, scheduled to take place March 23-26 at the Apparel Center, will be staged and feature an expanded outerwear section.
“Great leathers will continue to be important, and we will expand that section,” said McCullough.
StyleMax also will house a larger number of junior and contemporary lines.
StyleMax will stage two fashion shows on March 24; and the night before, a retailer appreciation cocktail reception is scheduled. The first fashion show, slated for the morning, will showcase accessories, lingerie and contemporary resources. The second show, scheduled for the evening, will feature better and bridge collections.
Because some Midwest buyers are opting not to travel to New York, StyleMax organizers are promoting the show as a one-stop-shopping experience.
Another important show for the region is the National Bridal Market, taking place April 6-9 at the Chicago Apparel Center and the Merchandise Mart.
The bridal show will include a cocktail reception April 6 at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza’s 14th-floor ballroom and seminars to discuss ways to boost bridal retail sales. Fashion presentations and seminars will be cosponsored by the National Bridal Market Association, Modern Bride magazine and the Bridal Marketing Association of America.
McCullough said she would like to see the geographical diversity of its attendees expand beyond Midwestern states. She is particularly interested in drawing retailers from the South.
“We think we have a better concentration of lines than other regional markets,” said McCullough, who expects attendees to hop in a car, not jump on a Chicago-bound flight. “When you’re talking about a two-hour wait for an hour flight, then all of a sudden, Chicago is drivable.”
As for how the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks affected business, McCullough said: “Tough question. We’ve gained by people who don’t want to fly to New York, but we’ve lost by people who don’t want to fly, period.”
Despite a sluggish economy, McCullough said she expects buyers to continue to place orders with vigor.
“If stores want to stay in business, they have to shop,” she said. “We hope people heed the president’s advice and get back to business. [Business] has to start somewhere, and that’s with the wholesale end,” she said.
She added: “It’s a touch-and-go thing. We would all like to think business is getting back to a healthy state, but tomorrow could change everything.”
Nonetheless, McCullough expects an increase in attendance at the mart, particularly for StyleMax.
“We’ve had nice increases at every show, and we hope that trend continues,” she said.

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