BUYING BEGINS AFTER THE STORM

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Ever give a party and nobody showed up?
Well, that was almost the case at last week’s fall-holiday market, as innerwear retailers scrambled to catch flights that were canceled, waiting in crowded airports while vendors endured some quiet showrooms.
Some major retail groups such as Federated Merchandising Corp., Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom began previewing the week before, avoiding a number of no-shows at Madison Avenue showrooms and the Intimate Apparel Salon last week.
As Terri Meichner, vice president of intimate apparel at Federated Merchandising put it, “Fifty percent of our divisions made it into town and 50 percent didn’t. They’ll have to work it out together.”
Many manufacturers said they plan to reschedule appointments for this week, and some will travel to regional stores to finalize buys. As usual, key destinations this week will be St. Louis-based May Department Stores and Dillard Inc. in Dallas, which typically finalize buys on their home turf.
At the Intimate Apparel Salon, Carol Bigman, the show’s organizer, said, “We did extremely well considering the media frenzy over a so-called blizzard. Unfortunately, the media contributed to the problem — it was so dramatized that it upset retailers. But the exhibitors were good sports about it, and so were the retailers who showed up.
“Traffic on Sunday was generally heavy until about one o’clock,” Bigman said. “Then, retailers started to get tense with the news of a blizzard. It didn’t give them time to browse and shop the show. On Monday and Tuesday, traffic was moderate.”
Meanwhile, Bob Pawlak, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and coats at Carson Pirie Scott, noted that reaction to the newly launched Liz Claiborne sleepwear has been “exceptional.” The line, which is produced under license by Charles Komar & Sons, was introduced at retail this spring.
“We are moving Liz Claiborne sleepwear up from 35 doors to 73 after only two weeks of retailing — and that’s without advertising,” said Pawlak. “This is one case where I’ve received very high management support. They literally jumped on it.”
Pawlak further noted that Carson’s is planning a “major increase in women’s sizes” — sleepwear for fuller figures. Key resources include Carole Hochman, Miss Elaine and the licensed Jones New York label at Madison Maidens, he said.
“We also are expanding Playtex’s Only You bra for fall. It’s been phenomenal,” said Pawlak, referring to the bras that feature a patented heat-sealed process that has an allover seamless effect.
Donna Wolff, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Bloomingdale’s, said, “I’ll continue seeing the market next week because I haven’t yet seen 60 percent of the market. But I did think that Calvin Klein Underwear looked terrific, and DKNY Underwear looks great, especially the bra portion. I really liked the Asian influence in the Natori and Josie collections. It looks very refreshing. Overall, I liked the return to a little more femininity and all of the embroideries.”
Wolff added that On Gossamer, a Miami-based foundations specialist, “also looked great in bright colors like candy apple red, purple and a new twist on camouflage in purple.” Ann Cox, foundations buyer at Neiman Marcus, said she was “very happy” with the plethora of fashion assortments and colors for third- and fourth-quarter selling.
“Chantelle and Hanro looked great, La Perla looked amazing, and anything by Cosabella continues to look wonderful,” said Cox.
Cox, who was at the Cosabella booth at the Intimate Apparel Salon with Neiman’s vice president and divisional merchandiser Amy O’Connor, said several items were key: a champagne bustier and coordinating thong with ruby red lace overlay, plisse daywear pieces in hot pink and purple and a textronic engineered lace full slip in textured bright colors.
“It’s the younger, contemporary items that have been selling well for Neiman’s, like Cosabella’s iridescent double-mesh bodysuits and La Perla’s hip-sling slip,” said Cox.
Charles L. Nesbit, president and chief executive officer of the Sara Lee Intimate Apparel unit of Sara Lee Corp., said three new bra seasonal introductions by three brands are “huge hits.” They are an ongoing program by Playtex called Only You, an allover seamless underwire bra by Barely There, and the Air Wonder Bra by Wonderbra — which of course, features bra cups filled with air pads.
“Also well received has been our Bali brand full-figure bra that’s very smooth and sleek,” said Nesbit, noting that Sara Lee has “upped the ante for ad campaigns for fall” and is using photographer Bruce Weber and advertising guru Sam Shahid for Sara Lee’s national ad campaigns, as well as point-of-sale materials.
Maryann Kraker, senior vice president of merchandising for the Cruz sleepwear and loungewear collection and private label at the Natori Co., said, “The Cruz line was very well received in January. Our strengths are in the printed satins and our color sensibility. We’ve also had good reaction to our printed cottons.”
For August through November deliveries, Kraker said retailers responded positively to “large-scale floral prints accented with small delicate florals and balanced with some graphic prints in satins, as well as cottons.”
The August line will focus on tartan looks in red and gold georgette, satin and flannel. A key silhouette is the baby-doll. Kraker said September will feature glam looks, such as large Victorian rose prints of georgette and satin and a reptile satin print with lace. There also will be lots of metallic satin shades in gold and silver accented with reds and dark pinks.
Kraker further noted that October deliveries will highlight “very soft, feminine and delicate looks with sweet floral georgettes.”
“Key colors will be soft pinks and corals,” she added. “November will make a ‘stronger statement’ in blues from periwinkle to denim in florals, stripes and ginghams.”