Inviting Retailers to the Parties


There are sales to be made at festivals, and organizers of special events are expanding their operations, providing more outlets to retailers and makers of consumer products.

Consider the Los Angeles African Marketplace & Cultural Faire, which concluded its 13th year of weekend programs earlier this month. The marketplace is a showcase for the makers of consumer products as well as for artists and musicians.

The vendors at the annual event may soon have an opportunity to set up "booths" at a virtual African Marketplace. The organizers expect to create an Internet catalog site next month.

An electronic catalog would be the second permanent merchandising venue for the festival's organizers. A store called the African Marketplace Boutique opened at the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza mall in 1996 and sells items for more than 100 vendors. Clothing, art and jewelry are among the goods sold.

"The boutique gave our vendors a permanent local presence, and the [electronic] catalog can give them a global presence," said James Burks, a member of the fair's board of directors.

The members of Comite Colbert are already global, but they understand the value of a local festival. The group--a coalition of 75 French luxury-goods firms--recently sponsored the Colbert Festival in Beverly Hills, setting up demonstration booths. For example, a jeweler mounted gems into ring bands for Van Cleef & Arpels; Chanel showed videos on fragrance production; and Daum France had a demonstration on crystal craft.

"The event allows us to show consumers the crafts and value of our products," Colbert President Alain Teitelbaum said.

The Beverly Hills festival is an annual event; the group expanded its reach this year by mounting its first demonstration celebration at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Festival organizer Howard Mauskopf, president of the Los Angeles-based Best Festivals Inc., is also expanding. Mauskopf has organized the annual Los Angeles Garlic Festival and the summer's Best of L.A. festival, which featured food prepared by Pavilions supermarket and leading local restaurants. Now he's hoping to attract restaurants and retailers to Vet Fest, a medical research fund-raiser and a celebration of military service scheduled for Nov. 6-8 on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in West Los Angeles.

An Emerging Showcase for Fashion: Since its inception in 1980, Passport--the annual multimedia fashion show that raises millions for AIDS research and care--has been a highly visible stage for corporate philanthropy. With the leadership of chief sponsors Macy's and American Express and event co-chairs Elizabeth Taylor and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Passport has made it fashionable for firms to join the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Last year, for example, manufacturers such as Levi Strauss and retailers such as Virgin Megastore and Coach helped Passport raise more than $2 million by donating cash, products or services. Organizers hope to raise even more at Passport '98, a two-city show that began last weekend in San Francisco and ends Saturday in Santa Monica.

The proceeds have helped more than 100 local and national organizations fight and treat acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and the event has raised the community service profile of companies that rely on public patronage. But how do the fashion designers, who also donate time and money, benefit? "It's become a great showcase for designers," said Shelli Segal, head designer of Laundry, a Los Angeles-based apparel firm. "The event gets lots of attention. It's great exposure."

Segal's designs will be featured in this year's show, and she will take runway bows, as will designers associated with Hugo Boss, Makins Hats and Tahari Ltd. "Who ever said business and compassion don't mix?" said Michael Steinberg, chairman of Macy's West, the division that operates the chain's western stores.

The Art of Retailing: Sales have been rising at museum stores, and more art institutions are renovating and expanding their shops to capitalize on the interest, said Beverly Barsook, director of the Denver-based Museum Store Assn., a national trade group.

The store at the Getty Museum--like the institution itself--has drawn large crowds, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is renovating its shop. Meanwhile, LACMA is already generating big bucks at its Picasso Store, a shop for its recently opened Picasso exhibit. The store has been one of LACMA's most successful exhibit shops partly because there is a large array of merchandise, store manager Cim Castellon said. There are 48 books and 30 posters, plus videos, stationery, pillows and tote bags.

George White can be reached by e-mail at

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