By  on August 12, 2008

NEW YORK — Retailers and vendors were focused on strategies for coping with the economic slump at the three-day Nouveau Collective trade show. And again, value and newness dominated the conversations at the event that wrapped up Aug. 5 at the New Yorker hotel. Neko Mitsunaka, who has owned the Sakura boutique at 3 East 44th Street in Manhattan for 32 years, said, “People are definitely concerned about the economy. We have to have the best prices.” She has noticed that business travelers are not making multiple purchases and shoppers are spending an average of $300, compared with $400 two years ago. With prices for European goods up about 20 percent because of the weakness of the dollar, Mitsunaka said she was looking for more affordable domestic ready-to-wear resources. “If I find something new, I will buy a bunch; if not, I won’t,” she said. Amy Short, owner of Christian’s Boutique in New Port Richey, Fla., acknowledged that business is off. “People are not throwing away their money like they used to. Even my really good customers who normally spend tons of money are not spending as much. I’m sure it will turn around. The summer is always slow. Now we’re talking summer on top of the economy.” In response, Short reduced her purchases 50 percent but placed orders at UBU Clothing and Suzanne/Stillman Studio. To try to appeal to a wide audience, she offers items in the $29 to $429 price range. She is in search of “really awesome clothes” like tops, jackets and jeans, she said. “We’re only buying what we really love.” Dee Gratz-Jones, sales director of StyleMax, a show in Chicago this week, said consumers are being a lot more selective. Many stores are banking on better accessories to help carry the business, she said. Gratz-Jones said more vendors are offering immediate deliveries to try to accommodate stores that are shopping closer to need. She expects retailers to attend more regional trade shows to reduce travel expenses. Jenny Narvaez, an image consultant who also sells clothes in her home in Puerto Rico, said her customers are mostly working women with little time to shop. Many use both of her services, and the “person-to-person” aspect “really is the difference,” she said. “When I buy for a client, they know it is exactly what they want.” Checking out Raiment Fashions’ tops and skirts, she said, “The prices are good and I know what I want.” Roxana Monge, sales rep for Magdalena, a five-year-old sportswear resource that wholesales between $17 and $54, picked up a handful of new accounts at the show. “We’re still growing because our prices are really low,” she said. Taffeta knit separates, which wholesale between $34 and $55, were key items at the show. The fact that the entire Magdalena collection is made in the U.S. could be helpful should there be a backlash to foreign-made goods because of increasing import fees and shipping costs. “People don’t want to spend those high prices,” Monge said. “We are hopeful that they will come back to us in the U.S.”

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