CONTROVERSY SWIRLS AT ISAM SHOW
Byline: Katherine Bowers
LOS ANGELES — It appears ISAM is in troubled waters here.
The International Swim and Activewear Market, which ended a four-day run Friday in the CaliforniaMart, capped a long string of swim-related trade shows and left some participants questioning its timing and viability.
At the ISAM membership meeting Oct. 3, members debated whether July’s Miami Swim Show, organized by the Swimwear Association of Florida, in particular is pulling business away from ISAM’s October expo, which has traditionally been the strongest of the ISAM markets.
“Some accounts are questioning the importance of this show,” said Peter Rubin, the president of New York-based Mainstream and a member of the ISAM members association. “Miami continues to gain prominence and that’s the show retailers are talking about.”
The Miami show has been reporting a steady 15 percent growth every year since its inception, while the July ISAM market was discontinued last year. ISAM’s members association president Amanda Read said the July ISAM show had become “relatively meaningless.” The discontinuation of the July edition leaves only October’s show and a small market in April.
Members also raised questions about show marketing — should the show target major department stores, or make new efforts to court specialty stores?
Several members argued in favor of focusing on specialty stores.
“Miami didn’t become strong because they catered to the majors,” said John Wengarten, vice president of sales for New York-based Huit America. “It was a bohemian specialty store show and the majors joined. The department stores will come if there’s something going on.”
But Toni Holmlund, sales director with Cape Coral, Fla.-based coverup manufacturer Matteo International Inc., said the company joined ISAM this year because of the show’s reputation for drawing buyers from major department stores.
The issue was left unresolved, as was a decision about when to hold ISAM. At stake is whether the ISAM show would part company with the junior market, which is typically held concurrently and helps draw traffic for ISAM.
Barbara Brady, the show’s organizer, said the show does not track exhibitor or attendance numbers. However, the show’s program listed 63 exhibitors.
She responded to exhibitor complaints by saying that retailer consolidation and the timing of the show made comparisons with Miami or past ISAM shows moot.
“I don’t think [Miami] is competing. I never worry about what Florida is doing,” she said.
Despite the behind-the-scenes tensions, exhibitors reported that they had a steady stream of appointments. Overall, they were optimistic that newness in print and silhouette would mean a better retail season. The industry struggled last year with too many solid-colored swimsuits, and cold, rainy weather on the East Coast.
Arnie Gale, a senior vice president at Carson, Calif.-based Beach Patrol, said the company was having success with the plus-size range of its Jag line. The company introduced sizes 16 to 24 after running three suits in last year’s Eddie Bauer catalog and doing 30 percent of sales in sizes 16, 18 and 20.
“I looked at that and thought, there’s an opportunity here,” said Gale. “We’ve got a younger consumer in plus sizes today and stores are looking to fund [the category].”
Sirena is also finding a booming business with bigger sizes. According to chief executive officer Brian Zientek, this year’s bookings have already met last year’s volume for its Elisabeth swimwear line, the plus-size license of Liz Claiborne Inc.
“There is definitely a taste level [for this consumer] that has not been addressed in the market,” said Zientek, adding that the company will do about $3 million worth of business for Elisabeth this year and projects $7 million to $8 million next year.
Los Angeles-based Apparel Ventures showed its take on the Anne Klein license, which Sirena held until last year. The debut line coordinates to the sportswear prints, with sophisticated reds, blacks, golds and browns on the palette. A halter plunge suit that references Eighties glamour was getting good response, said president and chief operating officer Lynne Koplin.
The company recently spun off its Nautica separates program into a small junior line, Nautica Blue. The line, wholesaling for about $20 a piece, includes provencal prints and chevron stripes. Koplin said the company plans to offer a full junior line next year.
Howard Greller, executive vice president of Monarch Knits, was touting colorful chevron stripes as the next big thing, and said, “We’ve got our disco ball running for this one.”