Fashion Market Northern California Runs Into Some Competition

SAN MATEO, Calif.—A confluence of trade shows and an early date for the apparel and textile trade shows in Las Vegas put a damper on the latest edition of Fashion Market Northern California.

The approximately 200 exhibitors that normally would have attended the Jan. 27–29 show at the San Mateo County Event Center dipped 10 percent over last year, organizers said. But there were 14 new exhibitors—mostly manufacturers—who signed up for the show.

“We felt we were slightly off from last year because of the proximity of all the other trade shows,” said Mary Taft, executive director of the five-times-a-year event where apparel, footwear and accessories representatives exhibit their latest collections. “I had some Southern California reps who said they didn’t want to drive up to San Mateo, then drive back to Los Angeles, break down their collection and repack to go to Las Vegas [where shows are scheduled to run Feb. 3–7].”

While Fashion Market Northern California took place, Las Vegas Market, a gift, home décor and furniture exhibit, was being held Jan. 27–31, attracting a lot of buyers that normally would go to Fashion Market Northern California. In addition, CALA San Francisco, a show for contemporary fashions and accessories, took place Jan. 29–30.

Consequently, buyer attendance, Taft said, was down a bit. In addition, an alarm on Sunday, the first day of the show, went off in the event center’s kitchen, causing the entire building to be evacuated between 2 and 2:30 p.m. It turned out that there was only carbon-dioxide gas escaping from a soft-drink machine, which turned out not to be dangerous, but firefighters evacuated the whole hall anyway.

“We got a little vitamin D by going outside for a half hour,” Taft said with a laugh.

Exhibitors had various feelings about this January’s show. Some picked up new accounts and saw existing customers. Some were reevaluating the show. “It has been worthwhile for us. This is a tricky time of the year,” said Jeff Gutmann, a sales representative for footwear manufacturer Fortune Dynamic Inc., based in City of Industry, Calif. “We did our homework and made it work. I called my accounts and sent out an e-blast. It makes a difference. You can’t just show up and say, ‘I’m here.’”

Gutmann said he acquired five new accounts, including from small towns that are difficult and time-consuming for sales representatives to visit. “Sometimes at this show you get people from the boondocks, which is a good thing because these are places that are hard to visit.”

Nancy Provda, who represents womenswear lines such as Fridaze, Dairi, Inside Out and Yasuko, had several existing buyers who attended the show and bought goods for the beginning of Summer and Fall. “The good news is I opened a few new accounts, one from Oregon and another from Northern California,” Provda said. “I had a pretty good show. There is a real loyal clientele who comes here.”

But she did admit that the Las Vegas gift show cut down on the number of buyers who would normally attend the San Mateo show. “The shows this year are condensed together a lot,” she noted.

Stuart Marcher, who with his wife, Julie, have a showroom at The Gerry Building in downtown Los Angeles, representing seven lines including Nally & Millie, Translation and Unwine Sweaters, said he is reevaluating how often he attends the show. “We have seen more than 34 stores, so I can’t say the show was terrible,” he said.

But he noted that packing up his collection to get to San Mateo and then coming back down to Los Angeles to get ready for the Las Vegas shows is challenging. “Normally we have a very busy Sunday, and this year we had an okay Sunday, which was not normal. But Monday was better. I think we are a little out of rhythm,” he said. “So I am going to reevaluate for next January.”