FMNC: 2016 Starts on Optimistic Note


NEW YEAR: The Jan. 24–26 run of Fashion Market Northern California in San Mateo marked the show’s first edition of 2016. Above left, a meeting at the booth for Walls & Associates. Pictured right, a booth run by vendor Lori Markman.

Many vendors felt optimistic about 2016 business after Fashion Market Northern California wrapped up its Jan. 24–26 run at the San Mateo Event Center in San Mateo, Calif.

“There is a lot more confidence,” said Jacqueline Stone, a veteran Fashion Market Northern California vendor and owner of the Jacqueline Stone showroom, who also served on the board directing the trade show. “[Retailers] were spending.”

It was the trade show’s first event after a holiday retail season that disappointed many businesspeople and Wall Street analysts. The optimism of the New Year and the doldrums of the winter holiday retail season made for a range of opinion on the forecast for 2016 and the show’s business. FMNC focuses on clothes for the “modern woman,” a category that has been called misses, but the show also includes international brands, contemporary labels and juniors lines. The number of booths exhibiting at the show and the number of attendees was even with FMNC’s January 2015 show, said Suzanne De Groot, the show’s executive director.

Although most retailers shopping FMNC are headquartered in Northern California—including Molly B of Berkeley, Rabat of San Francisco, Yum Yum Tree in Los Altos, Yasuko of Healdsburg, Vita Collage of Point Reyes and Morning Glory of Burlingame—buyers from Oregon, Washington and Montana also were spotted during the show.

Brands exhibiting at the show included Johnny Was, Karen Kane, I V K O, Fabrizio Gianni, Sympli, Staples, Equestrian, Salaam Clothing, Weston, Citron and Kiyo.

Stephanie Harris, owner of Stephanie Harris Sales, described the show’s traffic as busy. Don Reichman, another veteran Fashion Market Northern California vendor and a former board treasurer, said retailers were feeling a cautious optimism. “If you were a multiple-line representative, you might be able to introduce new lines. Most retailers wanted to expand on the vendors that they were doing well with,” Reichman said. He is founder of Los Angeles–headquartered Reichman Associates.

For Lynne Andresevic of the Crayola Sisters showroom, with offices in Vallejo, Calif., and Los Angeles, the trade show’s buyer traffic was steady. “It wasn’t busy, it wasn’t slow,” she said. Although the focus of the January show was on Summer 2016 fashions, Andresevic said buyers were still looking for Spring goods. “People wanted Immediates.”

Holly Hill is the owner of the Holly Hill boutique in San Carlos, Calif. The retailer said she shopped for Summer and later deliveries at Fashion Market Northern California. “We buy from a lot of vendors and not that much from anybody. It keeps our store fresh,” she said.

She said she thought wholesale-priced clothes dipped and some lines were being sold at more moderate prices than before. She said retail prices at her 4-year-old boutique are moderate, with sweaters retail priced under $200 and dresses retail priced below $320.

During the show, athleisure clothes seemed popular as well as tunics and leggings, Hill said. She shopped the show with her sister, Shelley Hill, who is a buyer for the boutique.

Other categories becoming more important at the show included accessories, hats, footwear and shapewear, De Groot said.

The El Niño weather system, which has been forecast to soak California with rain this year, was a topic at the trade show, Andresevic said. “People were concerned about El Niño. They don’t know how it will affect retail. People won’t shop for clothes when it is pouring rain,” she said.

Hill, the boutique owner from San Carlos, said she believes anxiety about the weather has been exaggerated. “It doesn’t get real hot or real cold in Northern California. It won’t impact buying this year,” she said.

However, 2015 was the hottest year on record, and Hill said last year’s warm temperatures influenced her to become more conservative in ordering outerwear.

January also was a time of change for FMNC. A new board was named. New officers are Sheryl Draper as the board’s chairperson, Ute Wegmann as its president, Stephanie Harris as vice president, Mary Taft as secretary and Nancy Provda as treasurer.

The show’s directors also are veteran exhibitors at the show. De Groot will continue working as the show’s executive director. The next FMNC is scheduled to run April 3–4.