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Fashion's Night Out on Hiatus in U.S.

Rather than a big event on one night in September, retailers and designers can now focus on projects that are more in line with their specific objectives.

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NEW YORK — Say goodbye to free cocktails, designer and celebrity sightings — and late-night shopping — this September, at least in the U.S.

After four years, Fashion’s Night Out will go on a hiatus in the U.S. in 2013. The event will still be staged in select international cities.

Launched at the height of the 2009 recession in New York, FNO was a celebration of shopping at a time when it was desperately needed to jump-start the city’s economy. After a positive consumer response, the event was held again in 2010, 2011 and 2012. By its fourth year, FNO had expanded to stores in over 500 cities nationwide and 30 cities around the globe.

While it was debatable whether FNO actually brought in additional sales for participating retailers, it was viewed more as a “big party” or “street festival,” and a chance to get people into stores and expose them to the latest fall fashions. Celebrities from Victoria Beckham to the Blue Man Group visited stores, stirring up crowds and excitement. Executives queried after FNO said they had hoped customers would avail themselves of the party favors and celebrity sightings and then come back at another time to buy items that caught their eye.

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Over the past four years, designers and retailers found that they have had to invest more and more of their resources to maintain a high level of quality, and there unquestionably was some backlash, especially from designers who were staging fashion shows at the same time. The sponsors of the event — Vogue, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and NYC & Co. — made the joint decision to go on hiatus so retailers and designers can focus their budgets on projects that are more in line with their specific objectives, rather than a big event on one night in September.

“Fashion’s Night Out brought great energy, optimism and enthusiasm to the city’s retailers, who make up a thriving part of our economy. We can always count on fashion industry leaders to use their creativity and savvy to benefit New York City — whether they are helping us recover from a national recession, a natural disaster or whatever the next challenge may be,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the CFDA, on behalf of the initiative, said, “We are immensely proud of the program and are grateful to all of our partners in fashion and retail. In addition to giving retailers a positive boost, Fashion’s Night Out also served to highlight the incredible economic impact and the millions of jobs that the fashion industry supports.”

Kolb explained that after every FNO, they always paused and reflected on the past year, and made a collective decision whether to continue. “You look at the event from many different angles, and we would always return to what was our original mission and purpose and that was to reinvigorate the shopping experience and the consumers’ engagement in stores. After this last one, we felt we had really created this renewed presence at retail that really brought added value and a fun experience back to shopping,” said Kolb.

He said FNO started at a point when the economy was down, and it has since improved. He said the event grew way beyond what the organizers thought it would be, both in the U.S. and internationally.

“It’s a big event. It has a lot of tentacles,” explained Kolb. What both the sponsors and retailers have learned is that it doesn’t have to take place one night a year, and instead, can be designer appearances and promotional events held throughout the year.

Asked if FNO was a big money maker, Kolb replied: “I don’t think the success of it was measured only by numbers or money, but was really about engagement.…Everyone feels we had a great four years. It brought a lot of attention to retail, to fashion’s important place in retail. Everyone feels really proud of what we accomplished, and excited to take those lessons and continuing them throughout the year.”

Over the past four years, FNO raised more than $1 million for NYC AIDS Fund. “This is something we’ll continue to support in other ways,” said Kolb.

Nicky Eaton, a spokeswoman for Condé Nast International, confirmed FNO will continue internationally. Vogue editions published by Condé Nast International have been hosting FNO for four years, and this will be its fifth year. She said that 19 countries will be participating in 2013. Thailand and Ukraine will be hosting FNO for the first time.