Trade Show Report

Loyal Retailers Shop the FMNC Show in Northern California

By Deborah Belgum | Thursday, September 1, 2016

Business was busy at Stan and
Alyssa Morris’ booth.

The show floor at the Aug. 21–23 run of Fashion Market Northern California was not as full as the April and October events, but exhibitors said a faithful following of Northern California retailers shopped the floor and placed orders at the event, held at the San Mateo Event Center.

One factor helping attendance was that the biannual San Francisco International Gift Fair—held in February and July—at the Moscone Convention Center was canceled this summer because renovations are going on at the event space. The gift show will return after remodeling is completed.

“August is a wonderful fill-in show, especially for accessories,” said Cynthia Zahm, who represents several accessories lines that include jewelry and scarves. “The fact that there was no gift show hopefully means it will bring some of those people to our show, especially those who buy accessories and fashion items.”

Zahm, who is based in Corte Madera, Calif., opened some new accounts and noted that retailers were a little more upbeat about the economy. “I have been out on the road, and the first half of the year was tough,” she said. “But the retailers who came to our show were ready to buy.”

The August show, where Holiday/Resort collections are displayed, always occurs one week after the big apparel and accessories trade shows in Las Vegas, which means that fewer vendors are at the market. But buyer traffic was up this August compared to last August, said Mary Minser, who is the spokesperson for FMNC as well as a Los Angeles showroom owner who represents several lines.

Cynthia Zahm

The San Mateo show is a must-attend event for salespeople representing European lines, which have earlier cut-off dates for orders than American-designed lines. That was one of the reasons that Melody Fast was exhibiting at the August show.

“Because of those European lines, we do really well,” said Fast, whose Melody Fast Sales showroom is at the California Market Center in Los Angeles. Her European lines include Transparente from Germany, Grizas from Lithuania and Luukaa from Turkey. “August is not as big of a show as our other shows, but we get to spend more time with buyers. We were three people at the show, and we were constantly busy.”

Northern California retailers at the show were in an upbeat mood, but Alanna Unkovich, the Western-region sales manager in Los Angeles for Mododoc, a lifestyle collection of casual clothing, said buyers seem to be shopping around more. “They are not necessarily cautious, but they are trying to make the right buys for them,” she observed.

Buyers were placing orders for mostly Holiday and some Spring, which Mododoc will officially debut in October.

Nancy Prickitt and Jessica Moore

Patricia Muller, a sales representative in San Carlos, Calif., for Janska, a line of fleece outerwear and accessories, noticed that stores are not planning ahead like they used to and are relying more on closer-to-the-season orders. “A lot of people were still buying for Fall delivery after seeing what the summer brought them,” she said. “Also, the buyers like to walk the show instead of setting up appointments. They will set up appointments with vendors they need to see to get their production orders in, but they like to walk the aisles.”

To keep the show more interesting for those browsing buyers, FMNC organizers rotate vendors’ locations so that they are not always in the same place. “All the different reps move to different areas at each show so it is a new show for us and for the buyers,” Muller explained.

Nancy Prickitt, who represents several accessories lines, went into the show with modest expectations but was surprised by the number of retail buyers who attended. “The health of the stores is very strong in Northern California,” she said.

Orders for her jewelry line, Liquid Metal, were up 25 percent over last year and sales jumped 45 percent for Rapti, her line of Nepali-made cashmere scarves, which wholesale for $19.

Sales for her Hobo bags and wallets inched up slightly even though the Spring collection doesn’t debut until October. “I didn’t expect a lot from the August show, but I was pleased,” she said.

Kathy Franz, whose Kathy Franz Collection represents several fashion accessories lines, said she picked up 15 new accounts at the show. “The stores were fairly upbeat, and we saw a lot of them,” she said. “Every buyer who comes into the show is really a buyer. Paisley Road scarves turned out to be my No. 1 line.”

Michael Farrell, a sales rep in San Rafael, Calif., who has never skipped a show, agreed that buyers are shopping more cautiously and placing orders closer to season. That is why three years ago he started his own line, Michael Farrell, which does a lot of Immediates orders for its tops and dresses, whose wholesale prices range from $18 to $36. “I always have a good show there,” he said.