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Retailers Cautious but Upbeat at Dallas Shows

November 2017
Retailers Cautious but Upbeat at Dallas Shows

While pleased with fall business, retailers played it safe and bought narrowly to fill in later. Most said they were holding spending at the same level as last fall.

 
By Holly Haber on November 6, 2017    

DALLAS — Pinks, cobalt, orange and other saturated hues appealed to buyers at the spring shows at the Dallas Market Center, Fashion Industry Gallery and Brand Assembly.

“Our customers have been asking for color, so we were happy to see a lot of fun brights,” said Carrie Schwartzenburg, owner of Raspberry Rose in Houston.

Buyers prioritized contemporary tops, jeans with tulip and novelty hemlines, dresses and jackets for spring and off-price goods for immediate delivery. Other strong categories included pull-on pants, activewear, sparkling holiday jewelry and novelty woven shirts.

Though some were pleased with fall business, independent retailers have found it safer to buy narrowly and fill in later. Most said they were holding spending at the same level as last fall.

The contemporary business is sizzling at Gus Mayer in Birmingham, Ala., reported buyer Cami Krablin.“It’s feminine tops and tomboy bottoms,” said Krablin, who also buys for Gus Mayer in Nashville, Tenn. Krablin invested in Frame, DL 1961 and Principle jeans plus sportswear in bright colors by Lisa Todd, Eileen Fisher, Donna Degnan, Pure Amici, Mila, 525 and Inner Shine.

Nanette Kadair Culotta has two NK Boutiques in Baton Rouge, La., and plans to reopen a third in February just outside the city at Highland Park Marketplace. “Business has been good,” Culotta said, noting last year was difficult because of flooding. She bought deeper into accessories, shoes and handbags, including a scratch-resistant leather convertible backpack by Sarah White.

“Ready-to-wear shelf life is shortening by the minute,” Culotta pointed out. Nonetheless, she selected Milly’s hot pink and orange dress tied with a bow and a multicolor printed pleated asymmetric tent dress. Monochromatic silk tops with matching bottoms were also high on her list because they can be mixed with other pieces.

“Social media has changed ready-to-wear — they don’t want to be seen wearing the same thing,” Culotta observed.

Raspberry Rose, which closed for seven weeks due to Hurricane Harvey, achieved a record October in only 15 days, Schwartzenburg said. “Our customer has been asking for a little bit more form-fitting items — fun, flirty and sexy and not a sack —  so we tried to find a lot of that,” she said.

Lisa Miller, buyer for Polly Adams in Laredo, Tex., stuck to proven lines such as Elliott Lauren and hunted for jackets. “People want to dress up a little bit more,” she observed.

Eveningwear is slow, she said, theorizing that Millennials are buying fast fashion or renting designer gowns. “The younger generation is all about getting it for less,” Miller said.

Alysa Cascio focused on spring jewelry, dresses, tops, jeans and shoes for Alysa Rene Boutique in Leawood, Kan. She anticipated spending about the same or a bit more than last year for her store, which expanded to 1,700 square feet in January. “Kimonos are even bigger than last year,” Cascio observed. “I’m getting over ruffles and cold shoulders.”

Among her finds were washed leather motorcycle jackets by Jakett, coin and pave diamond jewelry by Tat2 Designs, quasi Western sportswear by Double D Ranch, fashion tops by Fifteen Twenty and knit tops by Project Social T and Good Yhouman, which both integrate philanthropy into their businesses.

Karen Marquis, owner of Kokopelli in Oklahoma City, bought into all the divisions of Johnny Was, including “gorgeous floral silk prints” and embroidered camouflage items with feminine details. She also reviewed Bella Dahl and Rails contemporary sportswear, Southcott T-shirts and Lola & Sophie separates, which, she noted, “fits women, not girls.” Marquis also sought alternatives to jeans.

“I need another pant trend,” she said. “The wide leg is great, but a lot of people won’t wear them. Sleeve detail is good because it gives people a reason to buy.”

In business 27 years, Marquis said sales have been up and down so she cut her budget about 10 percent. “I’m being very careful and keeping dollars open,” she said.

Some sales representatives said the show was strong, while others lamented that it was slow.

Susanne Collier, who represents Lola & Sophie and other labels at S. Collier at FIG, said it was her best market in at least two years.

Susanne Taylor said business was “amazing” at her namesake showroom, which represents high-end activewear including Alo at the Dallas Market Center. “I noticed that some of the specialty stores who were ‘never’ going to carry active were coming in asking for it,” she said.

“Our final market of the year attracted loyal buyers from throughout the U.S. and more retailers from key regions including a sharp increase from the West and the Northeast,” said DMC president and chief executive officer Cindy Morris. Fashion retailers have broadened their inventories, shopping for gifts and home decor as well as clothing and accessories, she added.