Trade Show Report

Fashion Market Northern California Starts 2014 with A Big Buzz

By Andrew Asch | Thursday, January 30, 2014

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A piece from the “Wooly Dots” series by Berkeley, Calif.–based Susans
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ORDERS! Retailers placed orders for merchandise at The Crayola Sisters booth at Fashion Market Northern California.

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Judy Wexler of Mystree at Fashion Market Northern California [/su_column]

SAN MATEO, Calif.—The first Fashion Market Northern California trade show of 2014 buzzed with business during its Jan. 26–28 run at the San Mateo Event Center in San Mateo, Calif., which is a 20-minute drive south of San Francisco.

“It’s bigger, better and has more enthusiasm,” said Suzanne De Groot, executive director of Fashion Market Northern California, of the show, which is held five times annually.

Show management estimated that buyer-attendance records were broken for the first day of the show, when more than 300 buyers worked with 200 vendors, who represented 2,000 collections of sweaters, sportswear, activewear, coats, dresses, eco fashion, lingerie, maternity,
eveningwear, denim, footwear, jewelry and gifts.

The show’s bustling energy was a shift for the typically easygoing event, said Holly Hill, owner of her self-named Holly Hill boutique in San Carlos, Calif. “You have to make appointments or you don’t see vendors,” she said. “This market is really busy!”

The show fell at a time when consumer confidence is on the rise. On Jan. 28, it was announced that the influential The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index increased, said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumer confidence advanced in January for the second consecutive month,” she said. “Looking ahead six months, consumers expect the economy and their earnings to improve but were somewhat mixed regarding the outlook for jobs. All in all, confidence appears to be back on track, and rising expectations suggest the economy may pick up some momentum in the months ahead.”

Many exhibitors showing at Fashion Market Northern California sell apparel designed for women aged 45 and up. Apparel sales for that demographic have been climbing, according to market-research company The NPD Group Inc. In the 11-month period from December 2012 to November 2013, apparel sales for women 45 and up increased 1 percent to $49.8 billion, compared with $49.3 billion spent by this group in the same time the previous year.

Many retailers were shopping to fill empty stores, said Lynne Andresevic of The Crayola Sisters showroom. Retailers sold their last bit of Christmas-season inventory and needed to fill their stores again. “They want merchandise as fast as they can get it,” Andresevic said.

For Don Reichman, co-owner of the Los Angeles–headquartered showroom Reichman Associates and treasurer for the board that runs Fashion Market Northern California, buyers were placing orders for later deliveries rather than requesting immediate goods. “They’re ordering for summer,” Reichman said. “April, May and a little June.”

Sisters Holly Hill and Shelley Hill, owners of the Holly Hill boutique, were ordering winter fashions, anticipating some cool weather in the next few months along with summer. For winter looks, they were searching for red and citrus colors to be interspersed with the season’s grays and blacks. For summer looks, the Hills forecasted that women will be wearing neutral colors and some pinks.

Currently, women shopping at their stores were buying tunics and skirts. “People are not so pant-oriented unless it is leggings and skinny jeans,” said Shelley Hill, the store’s manager.

Despite the busy atmosphere at the show, retailers still considered the show an easygoing alternative to the unrelenting pace of the biggest trade shows on the calendar, such as MAGIC, which will run Feb. 18–20 in Las Vegas. “This has been a very important market for me,” said Barbara Wiggins, who is scheduled to reopen her The Mustard Seed Clothing store in Napa, Calif., in April. “A lot of my Los Angeles reps come here. I won’t be able to see them in Vegas,” she said.

The overwhelming majority of retailers attending the event were independent boutiques headquartered in Northern California. They included retailers such as Phyllis in Palo Alto, The Great Acorn Co. of San Anselmo, Napa Valley Casual of Napa, Girlfriends of Pleasanton, Gitane of Menlo Park, Madison of Tiburon and Pacific Trading Co. of Santa Cruz. [/su_column]