LA Market Calendar Schedule Disagreement

After the last orders were written at the recent Oct. 17–20 run of Los Angeles Fashion Market, showroom owners started talking about the long-argued, but never-settled, subject of market dates.

This year, the schedule changed for L.A. Fashion Market, which is held five times annually in the showroom buildings at the fashion intersection of Ninth and Los Angeles streets. The dates shifted from a weekend-focused show running from Friday to Tuesday to the current weekday schedule of Monday through Thursday.

Many showroom owners and workers cheered the new schedule because their weekends would finally be free. For some, weekend business has typically been negligible at best. Yet for others, the loss of weekend hours has taken major chunks out of their business.

Without official market support, important business opportunities are lost, said Don Reichman of Reichman & Associates, based at the California Market Center in Los Angeles. “Many buyers don’t realize that they can get a lot of work done on Sundays,” he wrote in an email. Without the promotion of official market dates, showrooms do not get onto buyers’ retail screens, he said.

Michael Gae of the CMC’s Rep et Trois showroom said he loses an estimated 15 percent of business because of the loss of official weekend hours, he said in an interview published Oct. 21 in California Apparel News.

Official building support can do much to drive retail traffic. The California Market Center supports L.A. Fashion Market by offering free parking for CMC buyers, as well as discounted hotel rates at partner hotels and complimentary shuttle service and showroom directories. At the larger Spring and Fall markets, the building produces runway shows and cocktail parties, said a CMC representative. The New Mart showroom building produces a directory of its showrooms and also negotiates hotel discounts.

Both buildings offer 24-hour access for tenants.

Many new tenants of the Gerry Building said they moved to the showroom building because the showroom owners are united in their support for weekend hours, said Renee Cohen of Renee Cohen Sales. “All of us at the Gerry Building are always open on Sunday before the show starts,” she wrote in an email. “We are always busy because the stores come in Saturday night and can work [with] all of us on Sunday.”

(Several CMC showrooms—particularly on the second and third floors—also open on Sunday for buyers who prefer to shop over the weekend.)

Ed Mandelbaum is co-producer of the Designers and Agents independent trade show, which produces events in Los Angeles, New York and Paris. He said he hopes official L.A. Market dates will find a compromise by starting on Sunday. Those who want weekend time off would get Saturdays free, and those who want to work Sundays would be able to work on that day.

A Sunday market commencement might be officially submitted to The Intersection, an organization of the Fashion District’s showroom-building management and trade show producers. Building managements decide on market dates through this forum. The Intersection mostly communicates through email, and the last time it formally met was in May, said Ethan Eller, general manager for The New Mart building. No future meetings are scheduled, but building managers are always polling showroom owners.

“My job is to listen to what my tenants want and to what the buyers want and to talk with the other showroom-building operators, both in Los Angeles and in other regions of the country, and to somehow help to build a consensus that will work best for everyone. As you can imagine, it is not easy,” he wrote in an email.

Most of the time, a consensus is reached. The only time in recent memory when a general agreement was not made was in 2005. That year, the Intersection could not agree on when to hold dates for the Fall contemporary market. Market dates were split, with a Los Angeles contemporary market held in March and a Los Angeles fashion market in April.

No one was satisfied with results, and by October 2005, the Intersection’s showrooms rallied around a unified schedule.

Weekday schedules are fine with New Mart showroom owner Eme Mizioch of the Joken Style showroom, who said she sees no discernible increase of business on the weekends.

“If there is no drastic change, I’d rather have time off,” she said.

Plus, Mizioch added, market-scheduling issues may be moot in a troubled economy. “It seems that every day is market. [Retailers] buy when they need to buy,” she said. “Majors used to buy six months ahead. Now they call and make an order when they need it. For specialty retailers, they don’t know if they are going to be in business in the next month. We’re all trying to regroup.We’re all relearning this new buying calendar.”