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.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion