Surtex Goes Back to the Beach

Retro-Inspired Looks Also Dominate New York Licensing Show

New York — Beach scenes, along with '50s and '60s retro Americana, were prevalent themes at last week's Surtex design licensing show, held in New York's Jacob Javits Center.

The retro look is in, according to Randy Eggenberger, president of Lake City, Minn.-based Wild Wings, because baby boomers now have the money to surround themselves with comfortable images of the past.

“Life has become so complicated that they want home to be their comfort zone and to be surrounded with things that remind of them of the outdoors and a simpler time,” he said.

Wild Wings, which has been exhibiting at Surtex for 10 years, represents 50 artists with over 6,000 images. The company strictly licenses out the works, never selling images outright, and focuses on lodge and outdoor looks. Eggenberger said Wild Wings images have been applied to sofas, pillows, bedding, window treatments and apparel.

Floor traffic has been solid at Surtex this year, considering changes that are taking place on the retail side of the industry, he said.

Show organizer George Little Management anticipated 350 companies would be exhibiting over 37,000 net square feet of show space with 6,000 in attendance.

Said Eggenberger: “There has been a fundamental change where concentration among the national brands and the big box retailers means they are having stronger and stronger presence. There are fewer independent dealers than there used to be so that has flattened out traffic overall.”

Responding to that trend, he said, Wild Wings is “being more aggressive” toward winning business at the larger chains. It is doing so by, not only trying to sell an image to retailers, but actually conceptualizing and translating to the buyer both packaging and presentation of the final product as it would appear in the store, he said.

“We would even work past the initial sale and help the retailer tend to those displays,” Eggenberger said.

While most buyers on the floor at Surtex were manufacturers, a few exhibitors suggested Target had been spotted looking for the latest and greatest designs. Barbara Barnett of Princeton, N.J.-based Barbara B Barnett Design said only the largest retailers are inclined to develop their own product.

Barnett — who has been involved in Surtex for 18 years, two short of its total run — reps 10 artists and sees the show as a good time to have them interact with potential buyers. She said each artist was presenting between six and 12 new collections offering a “strong presentation.”

In addition to retro stories and sea themes, Barnett said female and girlfriend stories pervaded art around the show. Also, she noted, many wine themes were seen, spurred by the popularity of the recent film, “Sideways.”

Artist Joyce Cleveland had taken out her own booth for the past 13 years but, following her move to the Adirondacks, recently singed with Barnett. Cleveland described the floor traffic at Surtex as “pretty good,” while Barnett said floor flow was 75 percent of last year's volume.

“It's a good show, it attracts high-quality people who are decision makers,” she said.

Exhibiting without an agent was artist Kate Honarvar, taking part in Surtex for her second year. Unlike Barnett, Honarvar said traffic was fantastic, adding that comparing 2004 to 2005 was like comparing “night and day.”

“I am totally excited,” she said. “It has been one person after another coming up to my booth, and I am really happy.”

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