There’s a renewed hope among producers of apparel trade shows in New York heading into 2010. After a lackluster year, they say momentum began to pick up during September’s shows.
This story first appeared in the December 1, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
ENK International produces the largest chunk of shows, including ENK Children’s Club, Jan. 10 to 12 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center; ENK’s Intermezzo and Accessorie Circuit shows, Jan. 5 to 7 at The Show Piers, and its Coterie and Sole Commerce shows, Feb. 21 to 23 at the Javits center.
Elyse Kroll, founder and chairman of ENK, said September’s Coterie garnered “excellent traffic from high-quality stores. We’re expecting even more come February. We’re hearing good reports from retailers — they’re feeling good, they’re selling, so they’re buying.”
She added, “People will be buying differently. Will some retailers will write extensive orders? Absolutely. But for the most part, they’re testing things as they go. More than ever, retailers have to know what’s going in their shops and what the customer is looking for.”
New this year to Coterie, the largest of all the New York shows, will be names including Sonia Rykiel, Lacoste, G-Star and RLX by Ralph Lauren.
“We will also be providing a huge online presence for our program,” said Kroll. “We get a lot of international retailers, and considering the dollar, it makes sense for them to come. I don’t care if you’re talking Serbia or Japan, Russia or Dubai — they’ll be there.”
Susan Summa, director of Atelier Designers, which primarily pairs small design houses with specialty store buyers, also saw positive indicators at her show in September.
“The mood of buyers and designers showed a remarkable upbeat shift in September, after a year of severe stress,” she said. “Buyers said it had taken all year for them to adjust their expectations and form strategies to address changes in the marketplace.”
Atelier unfolds Feb. 20 to 22 at the Doubletree Times Square.
Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., which produces Moda Manhattan, Fame and AccessoriesTheShow, concurred, “People were nervous and anxious last year. But as 2009 unfolded, the feeling was that things were getting more positive. We were moving through the worst of it, and while everyone remained cautious, buyers were becoming more optimistic, as traffic began improving in their stores.”
He added, “We actually had an increase in retailer attendance in 2009. The retailers were really out there, and they’re trying to be diligent and find items that set them apart from their competitors.”
Jones said reaching out to buyers before the show starts, and keeping them connected with exhibitors once the show has ended, is critical.
“It begins with a push to reach buyers early, by relying on marketing tools like direct mail, e-mail, and our Web site — we end with a huge telemarketing push right before the show. This is more than just a three-day event on cement,” he added. “And postshow, we want to keep the buyer community in touch with the exhibitors: Buyers can utilize the Web site and research companies of interest for further follow-up.”
Business Journals’ shows will run Jan. 5 to 7 at the Javits center.
Joanne Feinstein, producer of Nouveau Collective, slated for Jan. 4 to 6, feels the change in her show’s venue will provide a refreshing boost. The show has moved to the Penn Plaza Pavilion, which features 50,000 square feet of open space, accommodating the whole show on one floor.
“It was time to find a new home, something that made the entire experience easy for the buyers,” said Feinstein. “The venue is near Penn Station, and buyers can devise their pattern of getting around the city efficiently and affordably. We’re all adjusting to this climate, and everything is about efficiency and value now.”
Designers & Agents, which runs Jan. 5 to 7 at The Starrett-Lehigh Building, is also trying something new.
Barbara Kramer, cofounder of D&A, which also saw attendance spike at its September show, described one of her show’s new initiatives: “We’ll be hosting the Scandinavia project — about 25 fashion and accessories brands from the Scandinavian region will be selected to represent a cultural snapshot of what we see as the best designs coming out of that part of the world.”
Kramer added, “We’re also taking the lead on supporting sustainable fashion. It’s become an international thing. People are asking to participate in our green leaf program, which acknowledges those exhibitors who are at least 25 percent eco-friendly. Sustainable fashion has become huge to buyers. They are acknowledging the importance and like to see the exhibitors who are eco-friendly.”
And as buyers await what the shows have in store this season, producers are working to lure them in with creature comforts.
“Without amenities, you’re dead,” said Jones of Business Journals. “So we offer an extensive array of high-quality perks. You want the buyer to feel welcome, appreciated and taken care of. We have an accredited massage therapist on-site each season. We’ve stepped up offerings at our cafes and provide complimentary meals, along with a Wi-Fi lounge.”
The producer will also place oversize screens throughout its Fame and Moda shows as part of its new “Network” initiative, so buyers may view collections of the shows’ exhibitors while they’re eating or networking.
Nouveau Collective has added late-night shopping into its program, along with runway shows and cocktail hours, so buyers feel relaxed and not rushed.
“One of the greatest things to witness at the end of a long day of shows is someone still doing business,” said Feinstein.
D&A has teamed up with First Corporate Sedans to offer discounts on car service to D&A exhibitors and attendees. The Strand, a new boutique style Hotel in the city, is extending discounted rates to D&A participants, ranging from $189 to $239. Jet Blue offers a 5 percent discount to all those traveling to both New York and Los Angeles D&A shows throughout the year.
“Every little bit helps,” said Kramer. “You always want to look for ways to make this experience easier on the buyers, in order to help them keep up their hectic travel schedules.”