From Red Carpet Roll-up To Economic Anxieties, Industry Braces for War

As the nation rolled toward war, retail and fashion executives waited to see what the impact might be of a conflict everyone hopes is a short one.

Holding its breath. As the nation rolled toward war in Iraq, fashion and retail executives were waiting on Wednesday to see the impact of a conflict everyone hopes will be a short one.

The situation already has shaken one of the fashion industry’s biggest events: the Oscars. As reported, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has canceled the traditional red-carpet parade of stars — which some consider the world’s most-watched fashion show — in favor of a low-key event focused on the awards rather than the dresses and diamonds. Party organizers, including Vanity Fair, also have revealed plans to tone down their celebrations on Sunday.

Elsewhere, companies were rearranging travel plans, reviewing advertising budgets and examining sourcing arrangements to cope with the conflict. The growing reluctance to travel is already wreaking havoc in untold ways, with designers like Hedi Slimane postponing his fall campaign shoot for Dior Homme by several weeks.

Longer term, executives wondered what impact the conflict might have on the still-struggling luxury goods market and on relations between America and the rest of the world. There continue to be rumblings of boycotts of French products in the U.S. and of American products by European and Middle Eastern consumers.

"I really believe that for business, uncertainty is the worst," said Gucci Group chief Domenico De Sole. "Any resolution would be preferable to the uncertainty."

No matter how long a war lasts, though, the effects on spending for the first few days could be brutal.

"You’ll see retail come to a standstill — at least for the first three or four days," projected C. Britt Beemer, chairman at America’s Research Group, a consumer marketing consultant based in Charleston, S.C. "More Americans will be staying home watching it on TV than during the Gulf War, because they believe more is at stake this time."

Indeed, 26.2 percent of adults polled by America’s Research Group last week said that, during a war with Iraq, they’d most likely stop shopping, or shop less; primarily stay at home, and focus on commodities when they do go shopping. By comparison, that posture was taken by 12 percent of Americans during the Gulf War.
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