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Attendance Up at West Coast Trend Menswear Show in Los Angeles
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February 04, 2011
by Deborah Belgum, Senior Editor

BLOWN AWAY: Italian ties and scarves provide a colorful accent at Geoff Nicholson Neckwear.

What a difference a season makes.

TRENDY GUY: Ken Haruta is the organizer of the West Coast Trend Show, which saw a 9 percent jump in buyer traffic.

There was a certain buzz in the air at the recent West Coast Trend Show, where about 175 registered menswear buyers visited three floors of suites centered around an airy courtyard at the Embassy Suites LAX North, near Los Angeles International Airport.

The Jan. 29–31 trade show saw a 9 percent uptick in specialty-store buyers, while participation by sales representatives held steady at 89, said the show’s organizer, Ken Haruta, a menswear sales rep himself.

“I think the retailers are more positive and are replenishing their goods,” Haruta said. “They have kept their inventory levels lean, are coming back with better attitudes and have more open to buy.”

The encouraging turnout was a good sign that the menswear business is slowly digging out of its deep economic hole after sales plummeted by double-digit figures last summer over the previous year.

Retailers visiting the biannual show weren’t as nervous as they were last summer, when men seemed to have taken a season-long vacation from spending. But menswear is still on a tricky trajectory to navigate.

“It’s still tough. It has gotten better, but it’s not great,” said Gordon Schwartz, who owns Finn, a men’s specialty store opened in 2005 in Portland, Ore. “At the end of last year, you felt it was stabilizing.”

Buyers were still looking for unique and key items that would lure men from the front window and into the store. That’s what John Faul of the Red Zone Agency in Newport Beach, Calif., specializes in. This year, he has taken on a new line that uses pieces of old boat sails and incorporates them into boardshorts. The line, called Seabags Men’s Swim, is manufactured in Newport Beach, but its parent company is in Portland, Maine. “People had a good holiday, so they are optimistic but still cautious,” Faul said. “So they want something unique. We are trying to bring different things to stores they don’t have.”

With that in mind, Faul also represents Red Jacket, a line of retro baseball T-shirts, fleece jackets and caps that have a vintage feel and are splashed with old logos from U.S. baseball teams. Many of the buyers at the show were so intrigued by the line that it sparked animated conversations about old baseball greats, world records and sports lore.


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