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Only 'Mini' to Some

New York — In recent years, the significance of the winter Mini-Market has been debated by retailers and suppliers alike. Many suppliers don't feel the event draws enough retailers, and in response they staff showrooms more thinly than they would for the larger spring and fall markets.

And for the most part, these suppliers are right. Several retailers opt to skip the Mini-Market.

But for the many retailers that are attending this year's event, which started Feb. 6 and lasts through Wednesday, Mini-Market represents a worthwhile chance to meet potential new vendors, visit with key suppliers, catch up on trends, preview future product introductions and, as is the case for Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl's, “just get work done,” said Gary Nickolie, floor coverings buyer.

“Mini-Market is a good working market to get things done as opposed to just go and look around to get ideas,” he said. “It's a very quiet market, that's true. But even though the seasonal business is not really big for us, it is substantial, and at Mini-Market we able to get into details, pick patterns and get the category all wrapped up.”

Nickolie said he will be shopping for less traditional holiday-themed product that is still seasonal in nature. “I'm going with an open mind,” he said.

Kohl's is also expected to have other buyers attending, including in bedding.

Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Anna's Linens is sending its bath and bedding buyers to meet with key vendors. Peggie Galvin, bath buyer, said the main purpose of her trip is to “speak with the principals (of each company) and get all the business out of the way so that I can concentrate on product in April. (At Mini-Market) we can review the past year's sales as well as the business plans for the upcoming year.”

She said she will also preview some fashion bath coordinates.

Looking for prospective new vendors, among other plans, is Birmingham, Ala.-based Saks Department Store Group's Bruce Morel, vice president of product development, textiles and housewares. “We're seeing all product categories, and we're seeing people we don't even do business with, like Croscill,” he said. “We're looking for newness.”

Morel added that the company is also going to “fine-tune some last-minute” fall '05 products not yet finalized, as well as begin product development for its spring '06 textiles.

Fresno, Calif.-based Gottschalks' Donald Engelman, vice president and general merchandise manager of the Home Store Division, is attending the market with three others from his team to meet with key vendors and shop for “cold weather, fourth quarter product,” he said.

Tuesday Morning, based in Dallas, is also attending, but it is shopping strictly for close-out goods, the company said.

In their usual fashion, Fred Meyer, Sears and Sear Canada are not attending Mini-Market.

Fred Meyer, based in Portland, Ore., prefers to concentrate its textiles category shopping on the major markets here in the spring and fall, said Jayme Janin, trend and product coordinator for the home division. And Toronto-based Sears Canada has several reasons for skipping Mini-Market this year as it has in the past, mainly because the company is moving toward direct importing “more and more,” said Sandra Salter, national merchandise manager, and is almost finished preparing its holiday '05 presentation.

“We are in the last stages now, just tweaking it,” Salter said. “We went to Asia in October and saw some wonderful new products and trends that we're going with.”

The other reason, she noted: saving on unnecessary travel expenses.

“We need to make every travel dollar work, and the payback for the Mini-Market is not there,” she said.

Nor is Hayward, Calif.-based Mervyn's making it to market, which it used to attend to shop for seasonal table linens. Mervyn's has recently begun designing its own collections for the category, explained Steve Sunyog, trend manager and product design and developer for Home.

Mini-Market is “nothing to sneeze at,” and a chance to “drum up business,” said Shay Zamir, vice president of merchandising at New York-based Divatex.

“I think this is more of an important show than the unofficial August Mini-Market, he said. “We find Mini-Market useful for adding business and preparing for market.”

Dale Talbert, vice president of Panorama City, Calif.-based Veratex, sees Mini-Market as an opportunity to spend more time with customers, “and not be rushing through the lines like we are at regular market. You can get an awful lot accomplished.”

Steven Lewis, president of New York-based Aussino USA, said that he has “a handful of important appointments during the week, but not a steady flow of traffic. The retailer visits start after Heimtextil and go from there through the end of February.”

Craig Benepe, executive vice president of sourcing for Atlanta-based Home Source International, said most customers coming to see him “are really coming in to see what we will be showing at the spring market.”

Not loved by all, Mini-Market is viewed as an unnecessary event by Bob Altbaier, senior vice president of Down Lite International, based in Mason, Ohio. All the same, the company will be showing new product at the Marriott Marquis.

“Retailers come to Mini-Market because they are putting the final touches on their fall assortments,” Altbaier said. “It's one too many markets, if you ask me, even though I think the timing is better than April. Three markets are too many for our industry.”

New York-based Revman International has, “for all intents and purposes, combined the mini and regular markets,” said Rich Roman, president and CEO, “and will have most of our products finalized at this point. All our brands will be shown at Mini-Market.”

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Hollander, too, admits Mini-Market isn't huge, but the company plans to keep showing up.

“It's a very small market, and we keep trying to get out of it each year,” joked David Sides, president of the basic bedding division, who said he has made appointments to see about 11 customers. “But as long as it's around, we'll participate. It's an accommodation for our customers who want to come in and go over concepts and product for the spring market.”

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