RETAIL TALES

MILAN — American retailers are standing up to be counted — some of them, anyway. As the Milan fashion collections draw to a close, more buyers have stepped forward to announce their presence at the shows and in showrooms. “We owe it to our staff and we owe it to our clients,” said Dominic Marcheschi, co-owner of Blake, a 3,000-square-foot shop in Chicago that carries such brands as Marni, Miu Miu, Viktor & Rolf and Balenciaga. “We just felt it was really important to keep it rolling.”
As reported, Bloomingdale’s, Janet Brown, Maxfield and Savannah have been the most visible American retail presences, since most major stores cancelled their trips in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Other North American retailers on a buying mission this week include Louis Boston, Weather Vane from Santa Monica, Calif., Toronto-based Holt Renfrew and Henri Bendel.
“I’m very pleased I came. Obviously, there’s a very strong press attendance, as well,” Bendel’s fashion director Anna Garner said as she took her seat at the Missoni show on Tuesday afternoon. “I went to London, and we’re covering Milan in the usual way.”
But with American retail presence dramatically lower than usual, that fact remains a chief conversation at the shows. “I think we all regret their absence,” said Yves Carcelle, president of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s fashion and leather goods division.
“Normally we have 60 appointments — this time, we had about 10 in total,” said Michelle Stein, vice president of sales and marketing for Aeffe USA. “All we have are the specialty stores.” Like other designer firms, Aeffe plans to get the balance of its orders in New York, with Stein stressing the importance of carrying European collections next season. Why? Hearing reports from specialty stores in the U.S., Stein said Americans who routinely travel to Europe for designer shopping each season to take advantage of a strong American dollar have canceled their trips and are apt to spend those dollars at home instead.
Meanwhile, a spot check of American buyers on Tuesday suggested that most who stayed home haven’t changed their minds about traveling to Europe and will skip Paris in favor of edited presentations in New York. Despite some complaints from designers that retailers weren’t showing up for the shows in Europe, executives from stores such as Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue said they weren’t changing their minds about not attending the spring collections in Europe, and were very satisfied by efforts European designers are making to accommodate U.S. retailers by showing their collections in New York showrooms.
“Everybody needs to go forward, stop the nitpicking, and let’s all work together,” said Ron Frasch, chairman and chief executive officer of Bergdorf Goodman, which he said is sticking to its plan not to travel to the shows.
“Our game plan is the same as we decided on Sept. 16,” said Sue Patneaude, vice president of designer apparel for Nordstrom. She did say that Nordstrom will be coming to New York the week of Oct. 21 to cover the market. “Vendors have been exceptionally supportive,” she added.