EVEN THOUGH NUMBERS ARE EXPECTED TO BE LOW, A STRONG TURNOUT IS ANTICIPATED.
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — With the troubled global economy and political turmoil wrecking havoc on the retail environment, a poor turnout might be expected at the Jan. 25-28 Salon International de le Lingerie and Interfiliere textile trade fair in Paris.
A majority of executives said they believe there will be an outpouring of retailers, distributors and manufacturers at the fall-winter 2002-03 lingerie extravaganza, all eagerly looking for the next big idea, item, brand or fabric that will help put business back on track by mid-2002.
The number of employees in the retail and merchandising crews sent by companies may be smaller this year, but show director Jehan Quettier, as well as exhibitors, said they feel optimistic about strong attendance.
Another major factor that could pump up attendance at the Eurovet-organized show is the lackluster turnout at the spring-summer 2002 innerwear market in New York in November. The terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center were said to intimidate scores of out-of-town retailers, particularly merchants from the Mideast whom a number of vendors said were uncomfortable traveling to the United States following the tragedy.
But the Mideast contingent — typically big lingerie spenders from a consortium of Arab nations — are expected to attend the Paris fair in record numbers, and resources whose businesses are anchored in exports said they anticipate sizeable orders to fill the November-January gap.
Additionally, a major draw will be the focus on new technology at companies such as Italian seamless knitter Santoni and global giants like DuPont with its sprawling Lycra and Tactel booths, where new generations of microfibers and new concepts and techniques incorporating Lycra Soft will be previewed.
From a retailer’s perspective, Barbara Lipton, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel, hosiery and fashion jewelry at Saks Fifth Avenue, said: “I think the Paris show is one of the most important lingerie and textile shows in the world — that’s the main reason we’re going. We see a lot of vendors in Paris that we are not able to see in the U.S., so it gives us the opportunity to place orders for new, exciting merchandise, see fall 2002 trends for sleepwear, and even preview spring ’03.”
Charles Nesbit, president and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Intimate Apparel and a newly appointed vice president of Sara Lee, said: “The Paris show and the Lyon, Mode City show are important for identifying trends and personal networking, so I expect the Paris edition show to be attended by all major and most minor players in the worldwide industry. Technology in garment construction and fabric is becoming more important, and I expect most attendees will be trying to see how technology is evolving.”
Maurice Reznik, president of the Maidenform brand at Maidenform Inc., noted, “We view the Paris fair as an opportunity to interface with our international customers and distributors. We will also be meeting with suppliers that are not based in the U.S.A. The retail environment and general travel concerns may hamper attendance, but nevertheless, we are very, very excited to unveil our new product offerings.”
Victor Lee, chief operating officer of NAP Inc., the exclusive distributor in the U.S. for Princesse Tam Tam, a French foundations line, said, “We will be at the show because business has to go on and we have to be available for our customers, some of whom are doing quite well in the U.S. We need to grow the business. We have yet to see how many American customers come to Paris, but we are preparing for an economic turnaround. We are optimistic the retail action will pick up no later than the middle of next year.”
For the immediate moment, though, Lee added, “We don’t have high expectations. Some of our customers will be going, but some others haven’t committed to Paris this time. It’s not about flying issues, it’s about the function of their business, expenses and the ability to see the product in U.S. showrooms.”
Alan Fisher, vice president of merchandising at Wacoal America, the U.S. unit of Wacoal Japan, said: “The Paris show is a real plus for us at Wacoal, and we’ve put it into the annual budget because it’s become so important. It’s funny because a few years ago, it was a show I had decided didn’t need attending, especially with the Lyon edition. One reason I love this show is because it’s smaller than Lyon and therefore much more workable, and I see more new textile vendors in Paris than I do in Lyon.”
As Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of the Lily of France and licensed Natori foundations at the Bestform unit of VF Corp., put it: “We are hoping to come up with something new and exciting, whether it be a new fabric, style or trim. It’s more important now during these trying times than when everything is going swimmingly well.”
Garfinkle, who will be attending the Paris edition with other VF and Bestform executives, including Berna Goldstein, Bestform’s new product merchandise manager, said, “I think the Paris show is important and it’s extremely important to attend the Paris and Lyon shows every year to really get a global perspective. Otherwise, we have a very limited perspective and we need newness to excite consumers.”
Jeanette Cantone, senior vice president of merchandising and design at Natori Co., said, “By the time we attend the Paris show, we will already be well into our spring 2003 product development. This show will give us what we already do not have in terms of design direction. It will allow us to continue to search out the newest and most innovative trends, whether it’s fabrics, trims, color and designer detail ideas. I think this show is a great indicator of what’s going on in our industry trend-wise globally.”
Tristine Berry, merchandising manager of apparel at BASF, noted: “I usually go to the Lyon, Mode City show in September and Paris in March, but I’ve never attended the Paris fair. I haven’t yet committed, but it might be worth my while. There might be some little undiscovered jewels.
“There’s a lot to be said about sending someone who’s never seen the show before. There are no preconceived ideas, and they come back with fresh ideas and the best stuff.”
Marcia Leeds, president of Richard Leeds International, said January is not a good time to go to Paris, primarily because all of the stores are in a markdown mode.
“But the Paris show — which we typically don’t attend — looks like it’s something special and a really good show to go to,” Leeds said. “I’m going to send designer Jennifer O’Connell and Susan Pink, senior vice president of sales for our French Jenny division.”
Mark Kimmelman, vice president of sales for the Bodyslimmers and Lejaby brands, as well as the mass business unit and exclusive apparel division for Sears and Target at The Warnaco Group, said: “We’ll be showing Bodyslimmers [shapewear] in Paris. We are very optimistic about Bodyslimmers as a creative resource. Retailers are not looking for duplication of product, styling or looks.”
Kimmelman said a new control group by Bodyslimmers called Wonder-Wear that includes sexy capris and bike shorts will be introduced for the first time to the European market at the Paris fair. The tag line for the product is “Wonder-Wear by Bodyslimmers does for your body what foundation does for your complexion.”
“I think it will do very well in the U.K. because what performs well in the U.S. sells well in the U.K., like a group called Elegant Control,” he said. “We’ll also be capitalizing on our launch of the Belly Band, which accounts for 23 percent of our Bodyslimmers business in the U.S.”
Regarding the point of view of a French foundations firm, Patrice Kretz, president of Chantelle, said: “The economic situation is difficult, but the lingerie market is not really affected, especially in Europe. Our sales continue to grow compared to last year. We are quite optimistic for 2002 since the trade in these times of uncertainty tends to concentrate on their best resources, and we are definitely one of them.”
Sizing up the export angle, Marvin Backer, ceo of Flora Nikrooz Lingerie and a longtime exhibitor at the Paris and Lyon fairs, said, “I look at these shows through a different scope because we are an upscale niche company. We do about one-third of our business in exporting, mainly in the Mideast. I think Paris will be a very good venue for us, especially since very few foreign buyers attended the November market in New York after the World Trade Center disaster.”
Backer said retailers from Arab nations in particular did not want to “deal with the trauma of coming to New York; they just didn’t fell comfortable.”
“But many have told me they will feel a lot more comfortable flying to the Paris show,” he added.