Byline: Marcy Medina

LOS ANGELES — Fresh styles and a new, buyer-friendly format at this year’s International Swim/Activewear Market gave retailers and exhibitors a much-needed boost about the trade show, which ended its three-day run at the CaliforniaMart Oct. 10.
ISAM’s new layout was the most noticeable change. Instead of vendors using temporary showrooms in the A and C wings, they showed their wares in traditional trade-show style, with rows of booths set up in the B wing.
On the 13th floor, normally quiet in comparison to the bustling eighth floor, where the spring 2002 apparel market was in full swing, buyers buzzed about with an energy missing from last year’s show. A CalMart spokeswoman reported that buyer attendance was up 3.5 percent from last year, a marked rise, given many buyers’ disrupted travel plans.
The setup allowed for customization and booths of varying size and created wide walkways and large open areas for buyers to congregate. “It’s a lot more like MAGIC and ASR, which I like,” said Kimberley Austin, a buyer for Body & Sol Tanning Centers and boutiques in Huntington Beach and Cypress, Calif.
“I think this lends a new cohesiveness to the show,” said David Burnett, president of Liz Claiborne Swimwear, who observed the action from a booth next to a bright corner window.
Buyers liked what they saw, namely Americana-themed suits, halter tops and shiny fabrications. And they came ready to spend, despite the current economic uncertainties. “I should be cautious, but so far, I haven’t been because I’m finding a lot that I like, even more so than last year,” said Penny Roberts, owner of Penay’s in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Like Roberts, many specialty-store buyers had previewed lines and placed early orders at WWDMAGIC and ASR, yet were ready to spend the bulk at the season’s final swim show.
Department-store buyers, who shop and view more consistently throughout the year, also got in on the action. “I’ve seen most of these lines five times already, and I’m narrowing in on key styles for 1,100 stores,” said Roger Taylor, a buyer for J.C. Penney Co. ” I think our customer is going back to the basic bodies like tankinis and one-pieces, with a new spin on them, like orange color, glitter or Americana.”
Aside from the current offerings, much of the buzz centered on ISAM’s future venue. The organization had been discussing since Oct. 1 a move from CalMart, which has hosted the show for 20 years, to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Its 81 voting manufacturer members will decide on e-mail ballots due Oct. 20.
Many members did weigh in early, including Susan Crank, chief executive officer of Lunada Bay in Anaheim, Calif. “I think swimwear belongs at the beach,” she said.
In contrast, Lisa Bhathal Vogel, executive vice president of Raj Manufacturing Inc. in Tustin, Calif., echoed the concerns of others: “A lot of companies send in their upper management to attend both the sportswear and swim markets. It’s an opportunity that might disappear for buyers and manufacturers if the shows split up.”

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