Trade Show Report

Retailers Revamp Inventory at Fashion Market Northern California

By Deborah Belgum | Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Hobo handbag and accessories booth
The Hobo handbag and accessories booth

The Hom Venice booth

Retailers, stuck with cold-weather inventory during a soggy winter, were sticking their heads out of their doors and filling in orders for a better season brought on by fairer weather.

The last eight weeks have been drier in Northern California and temperatures are rising, prompting shoppers to frequent stores to buy lighter-weight goods.

“I found a lot of stores were looking for Immediate merchandise lately because business is better and they are filling in,” said Lisa Lenchner, whose Lisa Lenchner Sales showroom is in the California Market Center in Los Angeles.

Also, small local stores are getting a business boost as big retail chains have gone under or are carrying merchandise that isn’t as risky as in the past. “I think there is a regeneration of specialty stores since the majors are faltering. The consumers who actually shop bricks-and-mortar have no place to go.”

Lenchner was one of the scores of exhibitors who participated in Fashion Market Northern California, the apparel and accessories trade show held June 25–27 at the San Mateo County Event Center, which was billed as a Fall II show.

Lenchner—who represents such lines as Krazy Larry pull-on pants, Adore, Benares and JOH Apparel—said novelty items were selling well. “They don’t want anything plain,” she said. “It is all about embroidery, rhinestones and prints.”

The June show in San Mateo is often a quiet show. Many salespeople who represent European lines don’t attend because the deadline for placing Fall orders has come and gone. “As far as the June show goes, I had a better June show last year,” said John Walter, a salesman from Danville, Calif., who represents lines such as Samuel Dong, Tricotto, Alison Sheri, Scapa and Elena Wang. “I wasn’t unhappy, but the traffic was light.

Jesse Liu, whose Jesse Liu Collection is based in San Mateo, Calif., agreed that the show was not as vibrant as other shows in the past. “I think it is basically because it is in-between seasons,” she said. “The buyers have already bought Fall, and it is summer and some people are out of town.”

Walter said about 30 percent of his clients were still interested in purchasing Spring inventory. “Because I had a 20-foot booth, I had Spring lines with me,” he said. Other clients were coming in to add a few additional Fall items they didn’t pick up during the April show.

Fall clothing inside the space for Papillon

These days, Fashion Market Northern California has been drawing in more and more retailers from Oregon and Washington who are attracted by a number of things, including the wide aisles, easy parking and open exhibit space.

Handmade women’s apparel is part of the Scandal Italy collection.

“We are starting to see more Oregon and Washington stores coming to the Northern California market to find lines that are a little unique and that they can’t find up there,” said Kathy Franz, a sales representative based in Greenbrae, Calif. Her lines include Mary Frances Accessories, Paisley Road, Rising Tide and Samoe Handbags. “Our Sydney Love reversible handbags in gorgeous colors were a big hit and wholesale for only $41. And the Mary Frances [uniquely embroidered] handbag line was a show stopper.”

Franz noticed that retailers are feeling better after a wet winter and were buying more inventory and adding new items to boost business.

Price points were another buzz word for retailers, who are still being conscious about how much they spend. “They just love to be out the door for under a retail price of $100,” said Janice Farinella, whose Farinella Showroom is located in the CMC. Her lines include 3 Potato, Fashion Concepts, Margaret Winters and Parsley & Sage. “They stop and think if it is over $100.”

Although the weather has improved in Northern California, retail buyers were still worried about the general direction of the economy and the political situation in the United States. “The world is an unsure place is how retailers feel right now. It has nothing to do with clothing. It is a general uneasiness about what is going on,” Farinella said. “People have to feel like there is a future and they don’t have to conserve their money. All this infighting between the parties is to the detriment of everyone.”