PARIS — Buyers attending the Premiere Classe and Bijorhca accessories trade shows here predicted that the category will remain the bright spot amid a potential recession.Bold colors emerged as a key trend at the shows that ended their four-day runs Jan. 27."It's rather a contrast to the dismal headlines of falling stock markets and crashing economies," said Bella Huddart, accessories buyer for Australian store Georgettis. "It gives us hope."Though some small chains and boutiques had trimmed budgets 20 percent, most retailers were in a positive mood, some spending 30 percent more than last year. Scarves were driving orders."Everyone is asking for them," said Bonnie Fasano, head of product development for Berry, a New York-based wholesaler to stores such as Express and Anthropologie. "In Europe, people don't just wear them outside, but like a necklace."Graphic and retro patterns were key directions in scarves, said Sacha Skott Andersen, accessories buyer for Danish department store Illum.With Illum's accessories sales up some 33 percent for the year, Andersen's spending was higher. She snapped up Franco Ferrari's Bloom Garden bright printed collection, which proved a hit at the show."The kind of customer we deal with suffers a bit less than the lower end," said Matteo Uliassi at Franco Ferrari.There was a general move to trade up. Sally Oliver, fashion accessories buyer for Morleys in the U.K., said the five-door department store chain is raising its accessories price points and branding."If you're in the middle market, you can't compete now," Oliver said. "You need to go one way or the other."Oliver named Danish brands, including Kudibal scarves, among standout collections.Patent leather was a direction in bags, as seen at Stéphane Verdino, while jewelry trends included plastics, lots of filigree plus oversize balls in necklaces."It's really Marni-like," said Berry's Fasano.Although some exhibitors bemoaned a slow fair, business was brisk at Jessica Kagan Cushman. New accounts for the funky plastic bracelet firm included Italy's Coin department store.At Erickson Beamon, colorful, chunky necklaces featuring feathers and semiprecious stones were selling well."I think [the recession] might miss our customer altogether," said Erika Ballen, the brand's sales product coordinator.Buyers for It Girls, a boutique in Bournemouth, U.K., said the store would spend 30 to 40 percent more than last year.Lisa Shortbridge of accessories store La Rue Marche in Hudson, Wis., said, "Even with the weak dollar, we're still doing wonderfully. We haven't figured out where the doom and gloom is coming from."Others were feeling the economic chill, though. At eight-door chain The Jewellery Stop in the U.K., business has slowed considerably. "We had a good Christmas, but January is diabolical," said the director, Victoria McGowan-Smyth."There's a climate of unease and restraint," said Paula Reeves, chairman and chief executive officer of Black, an online accessories retailer based in the U.K. "It makes it more important to find that something unusual, and good quality."Retailers are changing direction more quickly, Fasano said."They switch from one month to the next," Fasano said. "They're quicker to pull something if it's not working straight away."Some brands had cut their minimums, suggesting fear of a slowdown."Stands will take any order," said Margaret Halley, whose budget for Sorbet, a 1,000-square-foot boutique in Tipperary, Ireland, was down 20 percent. "Before, they wanted a big order, money-wise. There was one belts stand. We weren't even going to ask, but they took the order."
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