By  on June 23, 2010

DALLAS — Buyers were generally more confident about business at FashionCenterDallas during the show that ended its four-day run on June 6.

But retailers in southern Louisiana worried about the economic impact of the devastating spill from the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. Fishing and oil drilling have been suspended as containment efforts continue.

“Our economy is based on seafood, oil and sugar cane farms,” said Ricki O’Brien, owner of Ricki’s in New Iberia, La. “The freeze on oil drilling will hurt us. We’ve gotten cautious with the oil spill, and I’ll cut back 20 percent for fall.”

The June show is traditionally among the slowest on the calendar. Some showrooms said they worked with about 80 retailers; others saw far fewer.

Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the Dallas Market Center Co., which operates the show, said more buyers attended from across the country, compared with the previous June, but didn’t provide numbers. She said the DMC anticipates “strong attendance for the remainder of the year.”

Gary Hill, a sales representative who shows such labels as Luii in the Taylor Hill showroom, said, “The mood is better. Everyone here was here to buy, not look. Their business is trending better and they left orders.”

The market spanned three seasons as buyers reordered summer goods and placed fall and holiday orders. Popular styles included novelty jackets and tops, dolman-sleeve and draped-knit tops, and tailored dresses. Embellishments including sequins, bugle beads, jewels and pintucking remained popular. Knitted fur jackets and vests made a comeback.

“They’re buying what they’ve sold,” said Rosanne Saginaw, who represents accessories lines, including Lodis and Big Buddha. “It’s a lot harder to get somebody to try something new and higher price points are tougher.”

David Rhea, owner of Indigo Agency, said, “It’s all about moderate price points and what brands you have. The jeans business is soft. Every time the jeans business goes dark and skinny, it goes soft. How many pairs of that do you need?”

Denim with heavy pocket stitching and embroidery by Rock Revival did well, he noted.

Nan Napier, owner of Tres Mariposas in El Paso, reported signs of consumer life.

“They seem to be coming out of the closet and have an appetite,” she said. “The higher-end customer is tired of trading down, especially the designer customer. I’m spending a bit more.”

Buyer Bobbie Baldridge and Napier increased their budget for casual sportswear, picking up an oversize cowl-neck tunic by Planet, among other items. They also invested in suede jackets and feminine sportswear by Teri Jon and Helios & Luna, a new collection.

“White blouses are back, both voluminous and shaped, and with neat sleeve treatments,” Baldridge said.

Mary Stone, owner of Joni’s Boutique in Plano, Tex., said business was “OK,” adding that some shoppers had resumed dropping $1,000 in an afternoon compared with half that six months ago.

“I feel like for fall I’ll be back to where I was in ’08,” she said.

Stone planned to stock her store with printed cotton shirts by Finley and other novelty styles.

Some buyers lamented that Bentley A.’s corporate showroom was closed and the company apparently out of business. The 25-year-old Dallas maker of updated better sportswear has a prominent venue on the 14th floor atrium of the World Trade Center.

Danny Studdard, a former sales rep for Bentley A., said the firm has been looking for financing since its credit was cut by CIT Group this year.

“Our business in the Southwest and Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi was very good, but other parts of the country were not as good,” he said. “They decided not to go forward.”

Bentley A.’s management could not be reached for comment.

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