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Posted by pbc_admin
on February 05, 2016

US Economy in 2016 – Steady As She Goes?

About this time last year, I wrote an article cautioning against the then prevailing over-optimistic posture of most of the financial and apparel industry press that 2015 was going to be the bumper year leading us all to prosperity.

You can read here:

The broad insistence of the enthusiasm was alarming. The fundamentals of the US economy didn’t jibe with the predicted boom. Jobs growth was slow and of questionable quality, wages growth non-existent, consumer confidence was lagging, the financial market was manic depressive. Where was this supposed surge going to come from? How was it going to be paid for? Was there to be another credit bubble?  Not again. Not another cycle of boom and bust. I could hear the words of the Credit Manager of the bank I once worked for echoing down from the barren post-1987 crash years, “This will never happen again”. Well, he has been at least 5 times wrong since. And the last one nearly saw the whole place circle the drain.

Twelve months on, we are thankfully getting a much more sober appraisal of the economic year ahead. The party line this year is that the economic trends of 2016 should mirror those of 2015. The US will see steady progress up an easy gradient of an estimated 2% growth while the rest of the world at best staggers along a flat path.

What can we expect during 2016?

  1. Weak Retail Sales – U.S. retail sales declined in December to ensure the weakest retail year since 2009. I bored everyone with the obvious in last year’s article (and ad nauseum elsewhere) by reiterating that the most significant driver of retail sales is disposable income. Right now, if people have it, they aren’t spending it. Rising healthcare and housing costs are exacerbating the continued weak wages growth for those who have decent paying jobs. Many people are scraping by. The jobs growth figures appear strong with an official unemployment rate of 5% which is technically full employment. No-one believes this number. But even if this were true, wages growth is lagging badly. If you are thinking of opening a bricks and mortar store, you better be a 1000% sure that you have the right product(s) at the right price for the right market and that you have a good quality, well targeted online presence, otherwise, don’t do it. I have retail clients and friends with retail stores in popular shopping districts in the greater Los Angeles area. Things are not good, and haven’t been for a while. The holiday season was a bust with a low year on year increase of 2-3% (below the National Retail Federation prediction, as usual), with early discounting, and with no last minute boost as experienced in previous years. We are waiting on January’s figures.
  2. E-commerce keeps clicking – web retail totalled more than $350B in the US for 2015. The US Commerce Department reports that internet retail accounted for 7.5% of total retail sales in 2015, up from 6.5% in 2014. For 2016, expect improvements in the functions of mobile online shopping such as slicker browsing and check-out processes, expect more relevant content coming your way than ever before through a more personalized online experience, expect more video content, and expect to see more social co-creation in 2016, especially in the apparel and accessory e-commerce sector where shoppers can drop their templates into existing designs and actually alter the designs of existing products and come up with personalized one-of-a-kinds.
  3. Careful with the plastic – there have been disquieting reports of the levels of household debt recently. a December 2015, article states, “Even after accounting for inflation, household debt has jumped 15% faster than income over the past dozen years.” They quote a new study by NerdWallet“After the significant dip following the recession, there was a lot of talk that Americans were using their credit cards better,” says NerdWallet credit expert Sean McQuay. “The numbers aren’t showing that. Americans are taking on more debt.” After the near meltdown of 2008 due to the overloading of debt, this news beggars belief.
  4. Continued social and political dysfunction – with a general election in November and with the delibitating influence of crazed nativists and religious militants both at home and abroad, we can expect continued social discord and political gridlock in the US. There is much handwringing in the US about the absence of legislation expected out of Congress this year as the Republican majority ensures no good and all bad for the White House and Democrats. There is not much to be done about this. With our rigged and corrupt political system and our polarized, irreconcilable social values, the best we can hope for is a Democrat to win the November election and at least keep the inmates from running the asylum.
  5. Which way the US housing market – most analysts believe the only way is up. Southern California saw a price increase of about 15% in 2015. The Real Deal website reports, “San Francisco prices are up 79.2 percent since 2009. Atlanta is up 53 percent. Phoenix, up 47.1 percent. Denver, 42.6 percent. Los Angeles, 49.7 percent. The magnitude of these gains rivals what we saw during the nuttiest portions of the 2000s bubble.”  The article goes on to state that “Don’t call this a bubble — mortgage borrowing is still low by historic standards — but things are changing. Consider a new type of mortgage San Francisco Federal Credit Union recently promoted. In response to “skyrocketing home prices” hampering affordability, the bank is offering a no-money-down mortgage with an adjustable interest rate and without requiring private mortgage insurance. Even 2005’s mortgage market would blush at those terms.” Prices will have to cool at some stage. Many analysts believe we are reaching that point.
  6. All eyes on China – some analysts believe that the China Syndrome the world caught in the last half of 2015 has passed while others are still concerned that a full blown contagion is still in the air. All agree that the Chinese economy will continue to slow. The positive take is that as China transitions both from a manufacturing-led to a consumer-led economy, and from a state-directed to a free market, it’s economic growth is hopefully slowing to a slower and more sustainable rate. A crash would be disastrous. China is such a big force in the global economy that the so-called “hard landing” that some predict would have a severe affect. Just last week, George Soros told an economic forum in Sri Lanka: “China has a major adjustment problem. I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.” Eek.

Soros isn’t the only doom and gloom merchant abroad. Some think the housing market in the US is overvalued by at least 25%. Others are, like Soros, think China’s convulsions are more serious than growing pains. Many think the US stock market is grossly overvalued. The Royal Bank of Scotland recently told their clients to “sell everything” because “in a crowded hall, the exit doors are small.”

Any one of these could occur. Who knows? For now, steady, sustainable growth is fine by me. The most important component of the “sustainable” is cash funded, not debt funded. We are in desperate need of more living wage paying jobs, and for more jobs with some wages growth. Until the population feels it has that bit extra to spare, it will not be shared around and the economy will continue to inch along.

My deepest concern is the outcome of the US presidential election. While I think Obama has been too lenient with Wall Street and the banks after their disgraceful and criminal activities leading up to the 2008 crash. And we don’t have a single payer health care or an expanded Medicare system, despite Obama explicitly campaigning and winning a strong mandate for health care for all. I believe he has done a remarkable job. Severely restricted by a bought and paid for Congress, he has run a pretty tight economic ship while paying for and winding down wars, keeping a gutted economy upright and ensuring the weakest and poorest aren’t completely forgotten.

He has also repaired some of the damage done by Bush and Cheney and their outlaws abroad. Obama’s “lead from behind” strategy in geo-politics is ridiculed in the US as weak but praised almost universally around the world as a relief. The world is done with the US bursting into the joint and blasting away like a drunken cowboy (or dry-drunk in George W’s case).

We are slowly gathering some positive momentum. A lurge to the right now by would be a disaster economically, socially and diplomatically.

Paul Brindley
Principal Adviser
paul brindley consults

Posted by pbc_admin
on January 13, 2016

Agenda Long Beach, January 2016 – More Partying Than Purchasing?

Last Thursday and Friday saw Agenda Long Beach open the US apparel trade show circuit IMG_20160107_111959for 2016 at the concrete cavern that is the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California.

Agenda Long Beach has been on a steady surge in size, popularity, diversity and activity since it’s inception in 2012. The show has expanded from a skate, surf and streetwear focus to include contemporary men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, outdoor, swim and lifestyle collections and industry services. I raved about the show in my review of the July 2015 show.

Last week’s show seemed off the boil to me when it came to foot traffic and overall energy. I didn’t feel the same buzz that usually runs through the rows of booths and on the open center concourse.

That said, there are some mitigating arguments for what I thought was a slower show.

By all accounts, the holiday season was slow for the majority of retailers. Many stores may not have had the buying dollars available for immediate goods to warrant attending the show.

It rained in Southern California last week. While most of the country would welcome our last week’s weather this time of year, locals could have taken the precipitation as a sign of the apocalyse, and thought that there wouldn’t be a season to buy for.

Agenda LB may be getting too diverse. The Long Beach show is by far the largest and broadest Agenda iteration. For instance, the Agenda Las Vegas is truer to the original core constituency with distilled street, skate and surf brand offerings. Long Beach attempts to be many things to many people. With contemporary apparel and swim trade shows spread solidly on the calendar in the first quarter, Agenda may have overreached by expanding to so many categories.

I had one industry veteran (who asked to remain nameless) opine that Agenda LB is becoming too much like the now defunct Action Sports Retailer (ASR) trade shows that had a 30 year run in San Diego until 2010. Why did ASR fail? Many reasons. One is thought to be declining clarity as to just what the show’s market was. As ASR diversified, did it cause confusion as to just what the show was about and who should attend? My contact thought that this could be happening to Agenda LB.

He also said that the show feels more like a party that a trade event. He noted how much drinking was going on in the booths. He also pointed to the skateboard ramp that made it’s debut at last week’s show, and said “it feels like just what happened at ASR”. By the way, I was nearly taken out by a skater flying off the ramp.

I don’t know about the drinking and partying bit. Agenda has always had a loose and fun atmosphere. I have seen many a 11AM beer being downed as buyers have been shown around the racks. Also I don’t know about the comparison to ASR because I never attended.

I didn’t see much that caught my eye. I did notice that some long time participants weren’t in attendance such as JanSport. The Australian women’s contemporary labels, Tiger Mist and Rise of Dawn also gave it a miss.

The contemporary men’s and women’s apparel and the accessories booths seemed quiet on both days.

There was one new brand that was fascinating. Cooperative of Photography (aka COOPH) from Austria has created it’s own category – Photography Wear or Photog Wear or Snap Wear or whatever someone cleverer than I can come up with.


COOPH from Austria at Agenda LB

They design and produce excellent quality and very stylish gloves, headwear, hoodies, jackets, shirts and t-shirts with clever, innovative extras for photographers. For example, the underside of the bucket hat brim and the cap brim are grey cards, the shirts have a lens cleaning cloth sewn into the inside of the bottom hem, the hoodies have a lens cleaning cloth in hidden, zippable pocket and buttons for folding the jacket into a camera wrap or pillow.

So that was Agenda Long Beach for January 2016. A bit quieter than usual. Not a lot that was outstanding. I am going to reserve judgement on whether the show has grown too diverse until after the July edition.

Up next is LA Fashion Market Week next week. See you there.

Paul Brindley
Principal Adviser

Posted by pbc_admin
on April 03, 2013

It’s Time to Talk About Fashion’s Poor Payors – BoF – The Business of Fashion

It’s Time to Talk About Fashion’s Poor Payors – BoF – The Business of Fashion.

This article is about the UK but it applies internationally.  As a fashion designer and manufacturer, you have to be very careful with the payment terms you accept from retailers.

Gone are the days of accepting Net 30 day terms just to get the order.  Do that, and you’re in big trouble, possibly fatal trouble.  I know a number of young designers who were forced out of business by returned orders.  Retailers can simply bounce the box if you don’t have payment before shipping.  It feels fantastic to write that order in September but it feels awful to sign for that returned box in February.  Cover your behind at all times.  It’s not “Trust No One”.  It’s more like “Trust Very Few”.

So what are some solutions?  Get references from buyers and check them, make sure your sales agent knows the buyer and trusts their payment history, get credit card details from the buyers at the time of writing the order, attempt to get a deposit from the buyers, insist on COD terms (if the references check out, do “COD hold 30 day” terms if required), and approach factoring and asset lending companies and explore your options.

Of course there are marquee retailers that will insist on terms; some will insist on up to Net 60 Days, and you may have to take back any inventory that doesn’t sell. However, the exposure and marketing cache of being carried by certain retailers can counterbalance the financial risk.  But remember these are the minority.

There is a big difference between sales volume and profitability.  A large part of that difference is cash management.  You have to get paid to have cash.  How will you pay your bills?  Pay for developing your next season?  Pay for sample lines?   Pay your sales agents?  Stand your ground and ensure that you are entering a transaction on fair terms.  If you don’t, you may not be around to write those orders next September.

Paul Brindley

paul brindley consults

Posted by pbc_admin
on April 03, 2013

Runway ready – Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia | The Australian

Here is an excellent preview of next week’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia in Sydney by Damien Woolnough in The Australian:

Runway ready – Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia | The Australian.

I’ll be there as usual.  I attend MBFWA each year to view the Spring/Summer collections and to meet with designers who plan to launch in the US or need assistance in the market if already selling here. For example, this year I will be following up with Watson X Watson, Toi et Moi, Manning Cartell, Roopa Pemmaraju, to name a few.

I will also be blogging daily from the show so keep an eye on this space.

Paul Brindley

paul brindley consults

Posted by pbc_admin
on March 21, 2013

Los Angeles Fashion Market Week Fall 2013 – Eyes Wide Shut

OK, I must have seriously been walking around with my eyes closed at Los Angeles Fashion Market Week last week in the downtown fashion district.  I just did not see the activity that industry newspapers and bloggers have been reporting.

Apparel News reported, “There was a certain buzz in the air at Los Angeles Fashion Market for Fall 2013, held March 11–14 at the various showroom buildings in downtown Los Angeles.” …… “For the hordes of retailers who flocked to Los Angeles Fashion Market, budgets were up even if shoppers were having to be nudged to make a purchase.”

The press release from the California Market Center had the same upbeat tone.

Hey, I’m all for upbeat.  In economics, many times, perception is just as important as reality.  But I just wasn’t seeing or feeling it.

My general feedback from showrooms, agents, designers and industry types was that the week was flat.

Many think that the trade show schedule at this time of year is so impacted that buyers suffer “trade show fatigue”, particularly if the buyers have done the Vegas shows, then gone straight to New York for Coterie, etc.d&a - paul brindley consults

Others think that out-of-state buyers are reluctant to come to LA for market week like they used to due to cost and a preference for getting their buying done in Vegas were they can have some fun at the tables or shows.

The international buyers don’t seem to be coming to LA in the numbers they used to. Between Paris, New York and Vegas, there is no need for them to.

I have also heard chatter that LA is not considered the fashion center it once was; that it hasn’t been a fashion destination for a while.  This might be true for now but is definitely cyclical.

It also has to be remembered that California has been hit harder than the east coast by the now 5 year old recession.  Despite glimmers of improvement, retail in CA has a long way to go.

Designers & Agents

Four times a year, on the usually vacant third floor of the New Mart, you’ll find the Designers and Agents showcase.  This is usually my first stop.  Being a destination booth show, Designers & Agents provides a good read on the energy and buyer activity of the whole week.

Known in shorthand as “d&a”, it was close to full with 120 booths and 130 brands of contemporary men’s and women’s basics, separates and denim, shoes, hats, bags, jewelry and accessories.  On Monday, there was excellent energy and buyer traffic.  It was quieter when I dropped by on Tuesday.Brooklyn Hat Co - paul brindley consults

One of d&a’s regular exhibitors, Christys’ London debuted their sharp new range of snap-back caps, Brooklyn Hat Co.  The caps come in full cloth crowns and trucker mesh backs.

New York based agents, Paper Mache Tiger were at the show for the first time.  They were showing the stunning Australian swimwear collection, We Are Handsome.

d&a was not as busy as usual for this time of year which pretty much sums up the vibe of the whole week.

The Showroom Buildings

The New Mart and Cooper Design Space buildings had reasonable buyer traffic but not what I expected.

The Coeur accessories booth show on the top floor of the Cooper Building had 50 booths with 60 brands showing.  I liked a lot of the collections.  Foot traffic was slow.

The California Market Center contemporary floors were quiet when I was there.

The Park Showroom in the Lady Liberty Building was busy when dropped by.  Park are now representing one of my clients, the artist designed, limited edition eyewear collection from Australia, COLAB.

COLAB are going to be a huge hit in the US.  COLAB is a unique eyewear experiment. Every season they collaborate with 5 fresh artists, musicians, designers and/or creatives to concoct a completely experimental look for a range of limited edition, high quality eyewear. You might have seen their Anthony Lister Campaign taken up by blogs and magazines around the world. They have worked with some incredible people including Stefan Marx, Kill Pixie, Geoff McFetridge, Jonathan Zawada, Eboy, and The Presets just to name a few. The integrity and always evolving nature of the brand concept has already opened doors such as Colette Paris, Conran Tokyo, Grandpa Stockholm and many more.

I am looking forward to hearing how the Fall 13 selling season progresses.  Let’s hope the optimism expressed by some about last week is real.  I still have my doubts that the industry is sustainably improving as much as reported.  Then again, my financial background and the false dawns of the past few years have made me a skeptic.  Like I have said so many times in these blogs, I’ll believe it when I see it.  But when I do, I’ll be just as happy (and relieved) as everyone else.

Paul Brindley

paul brindley consults


Posted by pbc_admin
on March 12, 2013

Las Vegas Fall13 Fashion Trade Shows Wrap 1 – Not So MAGIC

The morning of Monday, February 18 saw me heading off for my semi-annual immersion into the Las Vegas fashion trade show week.  The February editions of the showsWWDMAGIC host the commercial debuts of Fall/Winter collections of designers across the spectrum of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories categories at 17 different showcases.  After an easy 4 hour drive, I arrived in a chilly Sin City.  My first stop was the Sands Expo and Convention Center at the Venetian Hotel.

Yes, there are 17 different showcases in total if you include the sub-shows under the same roof. Let’s count them:

At the Mandalay Bay: Project, The Tents @ Project, Project MVMNT, Project Mens/Wear, ENKVegas, PoolTradeShow

At the Las Vegas Convention Center: WWDMAGIC, Platform, Sourcing, ISAM.

At the Sands: Stitch, MRket, AccessoriesTheShow, CurveNV, Capsule, OffPrice.

At the Rio: WWIN

The shows were staggered over 4 days starting Monday, February 18. Most run 3 days.

I was greeted by new locations, new names, lots of foot traffic and a good deal of confusion.

The MAGIC Group of shows

The driver of the week is the MAGIC group of shows split between the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.  “MAGIC” is the shorthand that a lot of people use for the week.

The LVCC shows were set up as usual with Platform shoe show and Sourcing resource show in the South Hall, and WWDMAGIC in the Central and Northern Halls.

The Mandalay Bay CC configuration (which has been tweaked a number of times in recent years) underwent a complete overhaul.  The result has caused considerable dissatisfaction with agents, designers, manufacturers and buyers.

The trouble really began when ENKVegas was acquired last year by MAGIC parent company, Advanstar.

Tents & ENKVegas

ENKVegas was previously a stand-alone show at the Wynn Hotel.  ENK always put on classy, professional and well-appointed trade shows. Some veterans of their Intermezzos and Coteries in New York thought the Vegas show was their best.  The Vegas show had an intimate vibe that was appreciated by agents and buyers.  ENK did that bit extra – from the setting and layout, to the food at the complimentary buffet, through to the highly anticipated stewarded drinks they served at the end of each day.

Contemporary and better contemporary men’s and women’s sportswear collections, denim, dresses, accessories and footwear brands were spread over two adjacent function rooms.  Agents and designers thought that buyers were motivated into writing orders and leaving paper by the exclusive atmosphere and juried mix of collections.  There were more men’s than women’s collections.

Those days are over.


ENKVegas is now an exclusively women’s show.  It has become just another another sea of booths housed in a enormous white tent on the carpark of the Mandalay Bay.  The booths are basic. The floor is a thin carpet right on the carpark tarmac and the designers and agents working the show are forced to use porta-potties – and not the high end ones at that.  From the first morning, there were grumblings.  To add to the dissatisfaction, the other new show, The Tents at Project which took up one quadrent of the tent, is a curated mix of upscale men’s collections.  This section had a plush carpet, more constructed booths, and more open space in general.  It is easy to see why the women’s collections wereInside ENK not happy.

By the way, this was the February show which is the least challenging of the two when it comes to weather.  What’s going to happen in August when it’s 110F, you spend all day standing on a carpark tarmac in a tent (despite it being air-conditioned), and you have to go outside and use a porta-potty!  From the extensive feedback that I got both during and after the show, I can see a lot of collections dropping out of ENK between now and then.

The change in location and intimacy of ENK and the moving of the previously inside Project women’s section to the tent had a real effect on the business done during the week.  Many sellers felt  that buyers were doing more walking and looking than writing business.  Some felt that buyers had trouble finding them.  When I was there on the first morning, the foot traffic was moderate.

There was a strong showing of Australian brands including Ladakh, One Teaspoon, Estilo Emporio, Helen Kaminski, Australian Luxe Collection.  I will see many of these collections again in Sydney in April at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia.

I had a chance to catch up with one of favorite designers and industry people, Charlotte Tarantola at her booth.  Charlotte is a perpetually positive person and really didn’t have anything to say about the new digs.  The booth was busy from the get-go as it always used to be at the Wynn.  The collection is a reflection of Charlotte herself: bold, vibrant, positive and ever-evolving.Del Toro Shoes

Some of the stand-out men’s collections at The Tent’s at Project were the hip, colorful shoe brand Del Toro Shoes, the eyewear collection Linda Farrow sunglasses, and the Namaste Showroom represented Chippewa.


Comfortably inside the convention center were all Project’s men’s and unisex brands.  The space where the women’s collections had been was occupied by Project Mens/Wear, a traditional menswear showcase and the newly branded MVMNT, MAGIC’s new street and skate section that used to be known as Street and Slate, and housed upstairs (then again, I heard MVMNT was moved downstairs only because there was an unrelated conference upstairs. But it looked like a designed move to me).  PoolTradeShow had been shipped off to it’s own ballroom space down the hall.  The fashion forward Workroom section was organized out of existence.

The effect of all this was to make Project seem even more massive than ever.  I heard from a number of highly respected veterans of the show that it was just too big, that buyers said they couldn’t find them, that collections were not clustered with similar or complimentary brands, and that many of them will be reconsidering their commitment to the show.

One of my success stories, Wood Underwear was exhibiting – Wood is Good!  Terresa Zimmermann, the owner/designer has done an incredible job of developing and promoting the collection over the past 2 years.  I was match-make an excellent partnership between Wood and Namaste Showroom.

Terresa said, “We had a great location, right in front of the DJ and bar.  Great exposure generally.  We were showing our new line, Hermosa Beach Collection, composed of 3 styles of underwear and 2 undershirts, all in 9 collegiate inspired colors.  The color block really grabbed attention.  We were also showcasing our new display units and merchandising options.  Stitched Lifestyle in the Cosmopolitan took delivery of the first new display.  We had quality traffic all 3 days, from the very established like 42 Saint, to the very new like Unscruff.  The next couple of weeks’ follow up should prove interesting and give us a better idea how to judge the success of the show.”


Pool was fun as usual.  More than 100 emerging and independent contemporary brands showing the full range of clothing, shoes, bags, hats, jewelry, accessories of all kinds.  There was also an expanded cash and carry section of very interesting stuff.

Due to the reconfiguration of Project, Pool was shunted off to it’s own ballroom space.  It was previously attached to the women’s section at Project.  Pool was separated into it’s own space a few years back which caused a severe drop in foot traffic and waves of complaints from exhibitors.  This time the separation only seemed to make the heart grow fonder because the energy was high, buyer traffic was brisk, and buyers were leaving paper.

The eco friendly watches of Sprout were doing good business.  These sporty watches are made with materials that are easy on the Earth but last as long as their more polluting competitors.

I also liked the accessories collections: Paradise Metal Art, Flea Market Girl, Hj Designs, GREENOLASTYLE, and Ornamental Things.Magnet Showroom at Pool

The fine and funky Franco Nakagawa of Magnet Showroom was showing all his vendors: Adeen, Golden Bears, Relik and Coveted Society. Franco represents those eye-catching collections that push the fashion envelope but are still wearable, stylish and affordable.

Pool is well worth a look.  You’ll find labels that will eventually transition on to the main floor at Project.


WWDMAGIC at the Las Vegas Convention Center seemed busier than in recent times.  I am never quite sure just how buyer-busy the show is.  There are so many people in the space, from sales reps to booth staff to vendors to industry folks to media, and, yes, to buyers, that is it hard to work out who’s who.  But this time around I had a sense that buyers were active.  My feedback confirmed my suspicions.Kita-Ku at MAGIC

My first stop was to visit the Australian plus-size label, Kita-Ku who were showing in the North Hall.  I had given the label some advice prior to their trip to the US.  I think they are better suited to the WWIN show at the Rio.  They were generating interest with buyers and sales agents who wanted to represent them in the US.

The feedback from the industry veterans that I spoke with was good.  I am withholding peoples’ and brands’ names under instruction but here are some quotes:

“Having a great show.  We are seeing stores with multiple doors.  Buyers are looking for something new because everything looks the same or is hanging everywhere.”

“I think foot traffic has been a little off but I’m still happy with business.  Retailers are reporting a good second half to January after a weak Xmas and New Year selling period.  They are writing deeper orders.”

“We had a great Tuesday.  I wrote enough business on Tuesday to cover my whole show.  We are showing Fall sweaters early and stores are booking them.  The Fall sweaters are selling as strongly as our Spring styles.  Buyers are looking for that bit extra: texture, detail, a little embellishment, and are still buying the architectural shapes that can be worn with leggings.”

ISAM was small as usual at this time of year.

I had a walk through the Platform show show in the South Hall.  It is massive.  As with most accessories at present, anything goes with shoes.  I did see a lot of color in leather, suede, and synthetics.  The athletic shoe continues to be popular as do boots of all kinds.

I skipped the Sourcing show. No time and nothing to see there for me.  I’ll catch the trend forecast seminars at LA Textile Week.

Modern Assembly

The negative feedback from Project and ENK has continued over the past month.  Advanstar will have some serious rethinking to do before the August round of shows.  Many brands I have spoken to are looking to the new Liberty show that will debut at The Venetian/Sands Expo in August.

Project founder Sam Ben-Avraham has announced plans to launch Liberty with 250 men’s and women’s contemporary brands.

Agenda, a Los Angeles-based action sports and streetwear show that currently runs in NYC and LA, will be debuting in the Las Vegas market, and joining Liberty and Capsule in a troika of shows to add to the current BJI Fashion Group produced AccessoriesTheShow, STITCH (the former MODA), and MRket, the menswear trade show, to form a strategic alliance called Modern Assembly.

The partners will consolidate marketing efforts, streamline attendance for one another’s shows, and join in direct competition against the Advanstar shows.

It will be intriguing to see how all this shakes out.
Paul Brindley
Posted by pbc_admin
on February 01, 2013

US West Coast Fashion Trade Show Wrap, January 2013

With a busy trade show January already behind us and Fall/Winter13 collections debuting in Las Vegas in February in front of us, let’s take a look at the trade season so far.


Agenda is a streetwear, surf, skate and fashion show mostly for men that was held on Friday and Saturday, January 4–5 at my adopted hometown Long Beach Convention Center in lovely downtown Long Beach, California.  All is revealed in my post, 2013 off to a cautious start for US Fashion Industry.

Los Angeles Fashion Market Week

January 14-17 saw an expected quiet market week in the downtown fashion district.  Collections were showing new Summer styles and writing immediates goods for fill-in.  There were bursts of buyer traffic in the different buildings.

Designers and Agents

The D&A trade show on the 3rd floor of The New Mart was steady on Monday.  As usual the show was small compared with the peak times of the year with only 33 booths showing 35 brands.

D&A vet, Ben De Luca of Christys’ London hats had already worked Fred Segal, LA Style and when I caught up with him on Monday afternoon.

Gabriela Shultz of Adornthyself Showroom was showing Fluxus and American Colors by Alex Lehr.  Gabriela was very happy with Monday.  She had met her expected order totals in one day having worked retailers, Girl Boy Girl, Laguna Supply, Jill Roberts and Cupcake Clothing.

Whitney Gardner of Nyali Showroom in the Cooper Building was showing 4 of her lines.  Whitney said they were having a great market, writing lots of immediates.  For the first time, they were doing some cash and carry, moving some past season inventory of En Shalla.

The New Mart

The New Mart building in general had some steady traffic in spurts on Monday and Tuesday.  The upper floors were busier on Monday afternoon and lower floors seemed to have more activity on Tuesday.

Tami Smith of T. Smith & Co on the 10th floor was busy on Monday but things had quietened down by the time I was in the showroom on Tuesday afternoon.

The 4th, 5th & 6th floors had plenty of foot traffic on Tuesday.  Showrooms like La Rue, Charlotte Tarantola Leila Ross and Joken Style were doing good business.  Eme Mizioch at Joken Style had buyers in from, and

The Cooper Building

Like the New Mart, the Cooper Building had it’s moments of activity.  While generally experiencing slow traffic, Brad Jaco, owner of the highly regarded Namaste Showroom had seen buyers from along the west coast, such as Wrights, American Rag, Shop Adorn and Tumbleweed.  Brad is excited by Wood Underwear, a hip, new line of men’s trunks and boxer briefs that I had referred to him.  Wood is creating some serious buzz.  Buyers were also drawn to Tulisan, a collection of handmade, limited-edition illustrated prints that are applied to bags, totes and household accessories out of Indonesia.

Ellen Cope of Lefties Showroom thought the week progressed well for them.  “Buyers were filling in for Summer”, commented Ellen, “We built momentum during the week”.  Lefties had seen buyers from Ron Herman, Revolve, Fine & Funky and Nasty Gal.

The California Market Center

The contemporary floors of the CMC were very quiet when I was there.  Paige at Showroom Five21 told me that Tuesday had been OK.  The showrooms on the 4th floor were deserted.

Swim Collective

Unfortunately, I was too sick to attend Swim Collective.  Apparel News described the show as solid:

“The mood was upbeat and productive at Swim Collective, held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa in Huntington Beach, Calif., Jan. 23–24.  On the first day, most returning brands had appointments booked back-to-back to take early reorders for Spring and unveil new Summer deliveries.  Key specialty swim stores in attendance

included Diane’s Beachwear, Molly Brown’s, Jack’s Surfboards, Tilly’s and HSS Huntington Surf and Sport.”

West Coast Trend Show

I paid my first visit to the West Coast Trend Show which is a hotel suite based trade show held at the Embassy Suites LAX North in January and August.  The ran from Saturday, January 26 to Monday, January 28 – Saturday is appointment only attendance.  The show is owned and operated by independent men’s sales representative, Ken Haruta.  Ken started West Coast Trend as a better men’s contemporary showcase four years ago.  The show is getting bigger each time, and definitely trending more contemporary.  Ken has been fantastic to me over the past couple of years by providing referrals to his vendors for my clients who are looking for sale representation.

The show takes over floors 4 to 6 of the atrium style Embassy Suites. Ken arranges for all the rooms to be used by collections or buyers creating an exclusive environment. The 7th floor is for buyer accomodation.

Brad Jaco from Namaste Showroom had 4 lines in his suite.  The above mentioned Wood Underwear was showing new leg lengths in boxer briefs and new cotton viscose tees in 8 colors. Wood Underwear Wood had attracted attention from Stitched Lifestyle in the The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno, and Boca Man in Pacific Palisades.

Brad shared the room with Sid Stumacher who was showing the brilliant sunglasses collection, Randolph Engineering.  Like Rayban, Randolph were originally made for the US Air Force.  The sleek styling and quality construction are evident as soon as you try them on.  At retail price points from $130 – $200, they are incredible value for money.  If I didin’t already have 8 pairs of sunglasses, I’d buy a pair today.

It was good to catch up with the NZ collection, Rodd & Gunn.  I always catch up with them in Vegas during the trade show weeks.  The collection continues it’s contemporary evolution.

I was very impressed by the vibe and activity of the show.  The vendors that I spoke with were impressed by the quality of the buyers.

The next West Coast Trend Show will be August 3-5.


It is only 2 weeks until the Fall Winter 13 edition of the Las Vegas fashion trade shows.  I’ll be there as usual.  It is going to be very interesting to see how busy it is.  Will we finally see the industry pull out of this 5 year funk?  Or will the falling debt ceiling crush any optimism?


Paul Brindley

paul brindley consults


Posted by pbc_admin
on January 31, 2013

National Retail Federation reports less than expected sales for 2012 Holiday Season

As I predicted, retail sales for the 2012 holiday season came in under the projections. With so many people still out of work and so much uncertainty about where the economy is headed, I think consumers did the prudent thing in pocketing their cash.  It didn’t help that all we heard about during November and December was that the debt ceiling is falling in, that we were about to jump off a fiscal cliff, and that heavily armed demented sociopaths lurked around every corner.  Add a Hurricane Sandy to this melancholic mix, and it is hardly surprising that holiday sales could be best described as tepid.

Following are 2 articles that give an excellent summary of the seaon. One is from the National Retail Federation (NRF) website that covers retail sales in general. The other is from California Apparel News that is specific to the apparel world.


Holiday Retail Sales Up 3.0 Percent to $579.8 Billion – NRF website

NEW YORK, January 15, 2013 – Solid consumer spending in the month of December helped retailers finish the year with a healthy holiday shopping season, however economic uncertainties sent a cautious consumer to the stores. According to the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, December retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from November and  increased 2.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Total holiday retail sales increased 3.0 percent, below NRF’s projected forecast of 4.1, to $579.8 billion. Additionally, non-store holiday sales grew 11.1 percent. in October forecasted a 12.0 percent growth in online sales in the months of November and December.

“For over six months, we’ve been saying that the fiscal cliff and economic uncertainty could impact holiday sales.  As the number shows, these issues had a visible impact on consumer spending this holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We can’t expect consumers to continue to carry the burden of growing our economy—Washington must put political differences aside and do what it takes to get our country growing again and Americans back to work.”

December retail sales, released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail and food services sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 4.7 percent adjusted year-over-year.

“While non-store retail sales increased a hearty 11 percent this December, total December sales could not make up for shortfalls in certain categories like electronics,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Heading into 2013, consumers could continue to think twice about their discretionary purchases as they face decreases in their paychecks and other concerns with their household budgets.”

Other findings from the December retail sales report include:

•    Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales increased 1.0 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 0.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 1.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 3.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    General merchandise stores’ sales were unchanged seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 1.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 0.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Nonstore retailers’ sales increased 0.5 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 9.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

After Tough Christmas, Retailers Squeeze Last Business Out of Season – California Apparel News

December 27, 2012

The initial reviews of this year’s holiday retail business were mixed.

The season saw last-minute shopping, which had retailers biting their nails for the weeks leading to the end of the holiday, said Fraser Ross, owner of the Kitson chain of specialty boutiques headquartered in Los Angeles.

“We were on pins and needles,” Ross said. Many retailers were on edge debating on whether to offer more promotions. But relief came on the last Saturday before Christmas, and consumers crowded stores. “It beat Black Friday,” Ross said.

The manic highs and lows of the season affected retailers across the nation, according to ShopperTrak and other leading economic-analysis groups.

Chicago-based ShopperTrak said foot traffic for the week ending Dec. 22 skyrocketed 32 percent over the previous week.

But compared with the same week last year, retail sales declined 2.5 percent and foot traffic dropped 3.3 percent, ShopperTrak found.

An index tracked by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs also found mixed results. For the week ending Dec. 22, ICSC found retail sales increased by a wan 0.7 percent over the previous week. However, compared with the same week last year, sales increased by 3.2 percent, the ICSC index found.

Retailers and analysts hoped the last week of the year would be a shopping spree when consumers equipped with gift cards had the means to splurge on themselves, said Matthew Shay, chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation. “The week after Christmas is one of the biggest weeks of the year, and given the bargain-hunting mentality we’ve seen these last few weeks, we could see some strong shopping levels over the next few days,” he said.

Revenue from the last week of December can make up from 10 percent to 15 percent of holiday sales activity, said Adrienne Tennant, an analyst with Janney Capital Markets, in a Dec. 27 research note.

She also found that the 2012 holiday discounts and promotions did not give away the store. They were even with last year or, in some cases, less, she said. However, the promotions could still be generous. Abercrombie & Fitch offered discounts of up to 50 percent from Dec. 21 to Dec. 24. At Chico’s, one sale offered up to 60 percent off and an extra 30 percent off of already-reduced merchandise.

However, promotions could cut into retailers’ profits, said Jeff Van Sinderen, an analyst with B. Riley & Co. Even if 2012 promotions were even with last year, Van Sinderen argued that this year’s promotions lasted longer than the previous year and got more aggressive the last few days before Christmas.

This season’s shopper procrastination should not have been a surprise, Van Sinderen said. “The consumer has been trained by the retail industry to wait until the big sale and wait until the last minute,” he said. “They took advantage of aggressive Black Friday promotions, then went into hibernation. Then they took advantage of increased promotional levels the final weekend before Christmas.”

This year’s business was made tougher by the still-sluggish economy and national tragedies, which dominated headlines around the globe. Across the board, economists forecast that anxiety over the “fiscal cliff” would put a damper over holiday shopping. The fiscal cliff refers to a series of federal tax hikes and spending cuts that will go into effect in 2013 if current tax and budget laws are not changed.

Devastation from Superstorm Sandy reverberated throughout the national economy after the storm hit New York City on Oct. 29 and created more than $65 billion in damage on the East Coast. A national outpouring of grief after a massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 also took a heavy toll on consumers, Ross said. “They didn’t want to shop after that,” he said. “The shooting and Sandy had a giant emotional effect on people. You do not buy for yourself when you see hardship on TV.”

However, December remains one of the top months for shopping. At Citadel Outlets, near downtown Los Angeles, parking lots were full throughout the month for this mall of off-price retailers, said Nicole Arend, a mall representative. Some boutiques, such as Harper’s boutique in Corona del Mar, Calif., also reported profits even though no discounts were offered. Fred Levine of Agoura Hills, Calif.–based contemporary chain M.Fredric said his business increased 20 percent compared with the 2011 Christmas season. “[We’re] hoping the consumer remains upbeat,” he said about 2013 business.


Paul Brindley

paul brindley consults


Posted by pbc_admin
on January 14, 2013

2013 off to a cautious start for US Fashion Industry

I don’t want to tell you that I told you so but …

I ended my review of the final 2012 Los Angeles Fashion Market Week in November with a “I’ll believe when I see it” about the optimism heading into the holiday retail season.  With so many people still out of work and so much uncertainty about where the economy is headed, I think consumers did the prudent thing in pocketing their cash.  It didn’t help that all we heard about during November and December was that the debt ceiling is falling in, that we were about to jump off a fiscal cliff, and that heavily armed demented sociopaths lurked around every corner.  Add a Hurricane Sandy to this melancholic mix, and it is hardly surprising that holiday sales could be best described as tepid.  I’ll have more to say on this in a post later this week.

So after a limp holiday sales season, it was energizing to bowl up to the first domestic trade show of 2013, Agenda.  Agenda is a streetwear, surf, skate and fashion show mostly for men that was held on Friday and Saturday, January 4–5 at my adopted hometown Long Beach Convention Center in lovely downtown Long Beach, California. The 10-year-old show was the biggest I have seen.  There were more than 550 brands, up from 450 brands this time last year.  I was there Friday afternoon and it was humming.


Registration at Agenda

It is obvious that the show is growing beyond it’s original target audience of young contemporary stores and surf and skate retailers.  The offering of product is broad.  From the expected logo tees and caps, surf and skate apparel and accessories through contemporary denim collections, quality eyewear like Raen and Mosley Tribes, premium footwear fashion lines (Onitsuka Tiger, Puma), contemporary menswear (e.g. Astronomy), watches (G-Shock), headwear, headphones, and on and on.  A full list of exhibitors is available on the Agenda website.

I caught up with Adam Redhead, the LA Showroom Manager at The Park Showroom.  The Park is a highly regarded young contemporary/contemporary men’s agency with showrooms in NY and LA.  The Park were showing 3 of their collections – Athletic Recon, Australia’s Zanerobe and the hip accessories of M. Cohen.  Adam was having a busy show.  I cruised past the booth a couple of times to speak with him but kept going because he was with buyers.  Adam thought the show was “big and busy” and “was very happy with the quality of the accounts and buyers they were working with”.

Adam echoed some of the feedback I received from the vendors regarding the new Friday and Saturday scheduling.  Many thought that moving to a Saturday didn’t work.  I’m told that a lot of vendors have requested a return to the Thursday and Friday format.  Adam also thought the 8AM was way too early.  I agree.  I doubt buyers need the early start. Plus it makes it an awfully long day for vendors in the booths.

The Australian-owned fashion wholesaling and marketplace technology innovators, NuORDER were exhibiting.  It is definitely worth your while to take an extensive look at the website, and take advantage of free demonstration if there is a fit.  The technology facilitates easy and efficient product ordering and follow-up, and smooth communications between buyers and manufacturers and agents.  NuORDER is pointing the way to the future of technology within the fashion industry.  The scope of automation within the industry is vast.  It may scare some of the players in the market who see these technological advances as pushing them to the margins, and on to obsolescence but as with other sectors, it is unstoppable.

NuORDER booth at Agenda

NuORDER booth at Agenda

The fashion industry has been slow to embrace technology and thereby innovate within the industry.  The entrenched way of doing business has been in-person and hands-on which is understandable on some levels, such as the need to see and feel a garment before ordering.  However, the technology available to, say, view and order product remotely is making the need to travel to trade shows or spend your store open hours on the phone to vendors and agents less crucial.  There are many other examples.

And these changes are picking up steam.  Heath Wells, one of the owners of NuORDER, told me, “In just over 12 months over 1 million styles have been ordered and independent research has shown an average increase in sales of 17.6% per order. We have 45,000 registered retailers and some amazing brands including, Helmut Lang, Citizens of Humanity, Elizabeth & James, Ted Baker, Parker, Alternative Apparel, Hurley, Adidas, Supra/Krew, Hudson Jeans & LEVIS.”

It would seem Agenda’s status as a required show is growing.  If you are looking to sell into the men’s young contemporary streetwear or activewear demographic, you should seriously consider doing the show.  I’m not sure I would do the show if I was a true contemporary collection but that may change as the mix of contemporary labels continues to grow.

This week is Los Angeles Fashion Market Week in the downtown fashion district.  The showrooms I spoke with last week aren’t expecting much.  If a label has short turnaround on production, you’ll see some new styles for Summer delivery starting at the end of April. Otherwise, buyers will be filling in with immediate goods.  For a lot of buyers, the focus will shift to the Fall collections debuting in Las Vegas next month.  I’ll be downtown tomorrow and Wednesday speaking with as many people as possible.  I’ll get you a full report by the end of the week.

By all accounts, 2013 fashion retail has gotten off to a cautious start all around.  It will be interesting to see how the coming months unfold.

Paul Brindley

paul brindley consults