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Investors Seek Out Chinese, Consumer IPOs

Vera Bradley and Bravo Brio are impressive because they have grown while unemployment remains high, said Francis Gaskins of research firm IPOdesktop. Neither are discounters: Vera Bradley's signature quilted handbag costs $52, while the average check per person at Bravo's two chains are $19.28 and $25.14, respectively.

"We've been able to grow in difficult times," said Vera Bradley CEO Michael Ray on Thursday. Now he's noticing new costumers are picking up the company's quilted bags, he said. "Signs are encouraging that the consumer is coming back."

A few other U.S. apparel retailers have gone public recently â¿¿ Express Inc. in June, Body Central Corp. earlier this month. A U.S. restaurant chain hasn't gone public since Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. in June 2007, according to IPO research firm Renaissance Capital.

The success of Vera Bradley and Bravo Brio may prompt other consumer companies to go public, but there's nothing coming up in the next couple weeks. Toys 'R Us filed plans for an IPO in late May, but hasn't made a move yet, Gaskins said.

The wave of China offerings, however, continues into next week. Of the six companies on tap to go public, Chinese Internet retailer Mecox Lane Ltd. is getting a lot of attention from investors, said IPO Boutique's Scott Sweet, who tracks and rates initial public offerings. Another Chinese company, vegetable producer Le Gaga Holdings Ltd., is also expected.

Still, not every China deal has been a success. Chinese pharmaceutical company ShangPharma Corp. fell 15 percent in its first day of trading Tuesday and remained below its offering price at the end of the week. That's indicative of a discerning IPO buyer who doesn't regard any broader sector or region of the world as a sure bet, especially after the market booms and crashes of the past five years.

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