CHICAGO — Seeking to counter a sliding economy, retailers attending the Chicago Apparel Market this month were reexamining their business strategies — fine-tuning their buys, paying more attention to customers' choices and even downsizing.
Linda Mallers, owner of RaceLogix, an outdoor and activewear store in Evanston, Ill., said she plans to shrink.
"I probably wouldn't be in business without my Web site," said Mallers, who will close her 2,000-square-foot store and open a unit roughly half the size in nearby Winnetka.
Mallers said having a broader reach on the Internet proved invaluable, especially because of the region's long winter and colder-than-normal spring.
"No matter what the weather is here, it's sunny somewhere else," said Mallers, who estimated 80 percent of her sales are online.
She was among a small number of retailers at the three-day market that ended June 8 who reported retooling their businesses.
Mallers, who sells lines such as Lucky Brand, Prana, Horny Toad and XCVI, said she shopped the market for stretch T-shirts from Last Tango, chunky wool and cashmere sweaters from Shae Sweaters and herringbone jackets and boiled-wool capes from Luii.
"The environment is really tough," said Mallers, who is spreading out her deliveries and is buying closer to season.
Darla Stites, owner of What to Wear, with locations in Traverse City and Elk Rapids, Mich., also ordered immediate and fall pieces, including soft knit print dresses from Uncle Frank, embroidered jackets and T-shirts from Johnny Was and sweaters from Willow.
Stites said the economy has forced her to become more selective. Although she carries some more expensive lines, Stites has scaled back in that area.
"You just can't do the higher price point as much," she said. "I go with lines I feel safe with."
Stites said seeking out distinctive pieces becomes even more important.
"In these times, you have to find things that are unique," she said. "That's what keeps people coming back."
Dresses topped the order of Kandie Erickson, buyer for La-de-da, a 5,000-square-foot home decor, clothing and accessories store in Kansas City, Mo.In particular, she liked silk chiffon dresses in soft pastels and nudes from For Love & Liberty and feminine flowing baby-doll and colorful print dresses from Alberto Makali.
"They give you a little breathing room," she said of the forgiving Makali dresses. "We don't have to be as conscious about size."
Erickson also ordered cotton and silk blend, and cotton and cashmere blend sweaters from One Girl Who that came in lime green, burnt orange, black, gray, chocolate brown and other shades. Leatherock also produced belts with semiprecious stones that impressed Erickson.
She said she has seen some belt tightening among customers, some of whom prefer to buy investment pieces with lasting power versus of-the-moment trendy items.
"I see more people thinking about what they're buying," she said.
In general, Erickson said retailers at the market reported holding their own.
Sales representative Jeffrey Segal said buyers snapped up print tops from Alberto Makali and packable nonwrinkle plush and quilted nylon coats wholesaling for $110 to $225 from Micra Pac.
Sales rep Denny Burlin said basic jeans and brushed twill pants from Not Your Daughter's Jeans and novelty jackets including a black-and-white plaid rayon style from Insight proved strong sellers at the market.
"I feel business is better than anticipated," he said.
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)