Trade Show Report

Bali Queen, Carol Munson and Jennie Munson of 5th Street Clothing, Carrie Martin and Wendy Sabins, Janelle Moore Sales
Fashion Market Northern California had an upbeat vibe this year at the San Mateo County Event Center. Clockwise from top left: Bali Queen, Carol Munson and Jennie Munson of 5th Street Clothing, Carrie Martin and Wendy Sabins, Janelle Moore Sales

Fashion Market Northern California Nurtures a Buyer-Friendly Vibe

By Dorothy Crouch Associate Editor
Fern Liberson Sales
Fern Liberson Sales

The recent Fashion Market Northern California saw a crowd of buyers ready to place orders for Holiday, Resort and Immediates. Many seasoned retailers were excited to see familiar brands, while show organizers worked to maintain an atmosphere allowing buyers to have fun while working to stock their shops.

“We’re bringing everyone together, and they are all important to form this lovely environment,” FMNC

Executive Director Mary Taft said of the June 23–25 show held at the San Mateo County Event Center. “We want to work with everyone to create a joyful experience.” Cultivating this “joyful” atmosphere has been a focal point of the show’s development. Organizers are increasing the show’s social-media presence, particularly on Instagram and Facebook, to spread the news of the event’s improvements.

Also, by incorporating more eco-friendly show operations, such as encouraging attendees to bring reusable water bottles, providing breakfast and snacks, and enhancing the buyers’ lounge, FMNC organizers are remaining competitive among larger trade shows. To relay their appreciation for attendees and exhibitors, FMNC staff organized a contest where buyers who placed orders totaling $500 or more were entered into a raffle to win $500. The booth that took the winning order received $100.

“We want our exhibitors to feel as special as our buyers. We’ve made so many changes to this show. There are strong, positive vibes here,” Taft said. “June is always a smaller show than April, but we are consistent with participation and attendance.”

There was also great appreciation for the seemingly small gestures made by event organizers to welcome buyers to the show, explained Dedra Bennett, who owns Zinnia’s, located in Scotts Valley, Calif.

“They really upped the game with the buyers’ lounge,” she said. “It might seem trivial, but it’s a big deal since I am coming from

Erin Turko of Erin Mavis Clothing
Erin Turko of Erin Mavis Clothing

Santa Cruz, which is an hour drive for me. Getting a refill on that coffee and a fresh bagel is always nice.”

These benefits prepared Bennett to shop for her clientele of women, who range in age from 40 to 80. The Zinnia’s customer typically spends $70 to $90 for clothing that is more traditional, but she also searches for a few pieces that can add unique options to her merchandise.

While searching for Holiday, Resort and some Immediates, Bennett saw trends in chartreuse and paisley.

Amy Waltz Designs
Amy Waltz Designs

For Chico, Calif.–based designer Amy Waltz, this was her first time exhibiting her line of handcrafted, California-made jewelry under her Amy Waltz Designs brand.

While she launched her ecofriendly collection online in 2011 and opened a bricksand- mortar location in 2014, Waltz wondered why she waited so long to exhibit at the event after having a successful initial showing.

“Sharing the experience with buyers so they can try it, touch it and feel it is critical. You don’t have that opportunity

online,” she said. “At the show, you can express the meaning behind your brand so they can share that with customers, which is extremely important.”

Many buyers were impressed with her reasonable wholesale prices, ranging from $6 to $35 for 14-karat yellow-goldfilled pieces and designs made with recycled silver. After this first experience at the event, Waltz is looking forward to the October show.

Rebuilding Northern California’s economy

In the small, wine-country community of Murphys, Calif., Sac à Main store owner Dana Milgrim sells a variety of goods including handbags, accessories and apparel for women and goods that fit the clientele for her Man Cave space, which caters to male shoppers.

A fifth-generation retailer who has been in business for 19 years, Milgrim has learned to navigate the changing retail landscape. She considers FMNC to be an invaluable resource to her business, despite the 150-mile journey to attend the show.

“The retail business is not what it used to be. I am not competing with Amazon because if it’s on Amazon I don’t want to carry it,” she said. “The people at FMNC are so nice. The workers who greet you are friendly, and I love my vendors. It’s comfortable. I like to shop locally, and FMNC makes me feel that I am shopping locally.”

Due to 2018’s devastating California wildfires, Milgrim noted that the economic downturn for many businesses in the state’s northern region was considerable. During the

Love Token
Love Token

show, she placed orders for Immediates and winter pieces, remaining hopeful that as these towns rebuild, businesses in Northern California will see a healthier retail climate.

As an event that is less hectic than larger trade shows, FMNC allowed Milgrim to enjoy a comfortable shopping trip with brands that she has come to trust. “I used to go to New York five times a year. I did Las Vegas and L.A. We really are lucky to have FMNC here,” she said. “Everything is under one roof. It’s not crazy, and the people are so nice.”

Sharing this hopeful sentiment at the booth for her eponymous Fairfax, Calif.–based showroom, Jacqueline Stone represented lines including Sympli, Mycra Pac and UBU. In a surprising change, she noticed a shift toward shorter jackets as buyers placed orders for Fall and Holiday but were already discussing Spring.

“It was encouraging. It’s a great marketplace,” she said. “There was a nice amount of buyers who came, and it seemed they stayed a little longer this time. It’s going to be a great end of year and a good Spring.”