By  on December 19, 1994

NEW YORK -- Retailers will be on the prowl for spring inventory at the 74th International Fashion Boutique Show, with favorites expected to be short skirts, rayon dresses, tiny T-shirts and slim pants. The four-day event opens Jan. 7 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Having taken a wait-and-see approach for spring, some buyers said they are counting on the January show to preview key looks. Other retailers say they will be filling in around earlier purchases and eying early summer merchandise. Budgets among buyers interviewed ran even to somewhat ahead of last year.

Price remains a key issue, stores also noted, and along with specific looks, retailers will have an eye out for sharply priced items.

Soft denim sportswear could be important for spring, according to Carol Weart, who owns five specialty stores in Westchester County in New York.

Weart, whose show budget is even with last year's, said she plans to order cotton and rayon dresses, washed linen pants, linen and rayon jackets and other separates from Urban Outfitters, Kiko, Flax and Michael Stars, with iced pastels a key color range.

Weart said she will be looking for trendy, fashionable and comfortable clothes. She said this is the first time she has not placed spring orders by this time. "It's scary. Many of us are waiting too late to buy," she said. "I usually have very strong feelings about the trends, but I don't know what will be key for spring."

Weart said she relies on the Boutique Show for the latest trends.

Having recently relocated to a 10,000-square-foot space in Atlanta, Pam Majors, owner of Junkman's Daughter, said she expects to spend 50 percent more than last year at the show.

She said she is also anxious to see what the key looks will be for spring. Majors said she generally orders 80 percent of her spring merchandise at the January show.

Lip Service, Trip, Serious and XOXO are important resources at Junkman's Daughter, as well as in Majors's brother's 15,000-square-foot store in Athens, which is appropriately called Junkman's Daughter's Brother.

Majors said she'll be looking for short rayon dresses, tiny T-shirts, jumpers and short skirts. Eyelet and other baby-doll looks should be important for spring, she said.A-line skirts, short-sleeve minidresses, zip-front shirts and baggy cotton overalls should be key spring items, said Louis Ceruzzi, owner of Wish, a 3,000-square-foot Atlanta store.

Mondo Roma's short synthetic skirts, Tag Rag's cotton plaid skirts, New Breed's cotton baggy pants and Ton's retro skirts are key looks that have sold well and could be reordered.

"Street-inspired clothes are driving the business," Ceruzzi said.

Items that retail for less than $50 sell very well since the store caters to junior customers, he added.

Debra Posner, said she will be looking for romantic, contemporary clothing for her Beautiful People shop in Nantucket, Mass. She said day-into-evening rayon dresses, short skirts, cigarette pants and short jackets in cotton or linen are on her checklist.

Rona, Kush, Chava and Metropolitan are important sportswear resources and Eileen West, Jessica Everett and Zoe are key dress labels, she said. Posner said she'll shop for dresses wholesaling for $25 to $100, since most customers balk at prices higher than that.

Price is a concern for both retailers and consumers, said Jackie Chalkley, owner of three specialty stores in Washington, D.C. that bear her name.

"Everyone is very price-conscious. It's as much about styles as it is about price," she said. "People are looking for value for their money."

Better-priced dresses by Donna Jessica and Eileen Fisher are important items in the store, but Chalkley said she is always looking for good dresses that retail for less than $100.

With a budget at least 5 percent higher than last January's show, Chalkley said short skirts, slim pants, jumpers, trapeze dresses and T-shirts are on her checklist. Swept Away, PA Company and Worlds Apart are leading sportswear resources, she said.

"I'll be looking for color -- more brights than pastels," Chalkley said. "Our customers have overdosed on oatmeal."

Jonathan Larkin, vice president of the show organizer Larkin Group, asserts that 20,000 retailers have pre-registered for the show. Pre-registration is 10 percent ahead of last year, he added.

The show will feature 1,800 exhibitors -- half of which are apparel firms, and the other half accessories, Larkin said."Based on the positive sales we're seeing at retail for holiday, the January show should be strong," he said.

Retailers and manufacturers from at least 50 countries will attend the show, Larkin said.

For the first time, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council is sending 13 manufacturers to exhibit at the event. Of the $20.8 billion worth of apparel and accessories produced in Hong Kong last year, more than 33 percent was shipped to the U.S. market, according to Robert Chang, the council's manager of market development.

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