By and and  on February 25, 2010

LAS VEGAS — The mood was definitely lighter among men’s wear retailers shopping the trade shows here.

An uptick in holiday and early spring sales and offerings of truly salable men’s wear at more reasonable prices boosted optimism among buyers at MAGIC, Project, MRket, Capsule and ENK Vegas. Vintage Americana and rugged outdoor-inspired sportswear, nondenim bottoms, chunky sweaters and hybrid outerwear were among the top trends at the shows.

Although retailers were still keeping a close eye on inventories, they opened their wallets a bit to make sure their stores will be stocked for the marginal improvement in business they’re expecting as the year progresses.

“I noticed the tone was much better this time,” said Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans, a men’s specialty store based in New York. “It’s the Darwinian effect of the thinning of the herd. The people who were in trouble weren’t at the shows, and those who survived are in better shape and tired of being down. I know I went there in a much better mood.”

Giddon said he found several interesting items at the shows that he was planning to add to his store for fall. “Our job is to find good product,” he said. “These days, you can get any product at any price, anywhere from Gilt Groupe and Rue La La to Macy’s to the outlets, so great service and differentiated merchandise are what will save the specialty store.”

Jonathan Greller, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Lord & Taylor, found some patterned sport shirts with “a more modern sensibility” at Project and MAGIC, and was also shopping for T-shirts, which have been strong for the store. “We’re always looking for trends,” he said.

Scott Baskin of Mark Shale in Chicago said he sees “a light at the end of the tunnel.” Shopping Robert Graham shirts at Project, Baskin said the overall men’s market “looks good. There’s lots of fresh-looking, salable product and the prices are pretty good.” He primarily focused on sportswear and denim at the Vegas shows since the tailored clothing business has been more of a struggle for his store.

Retailers seeking to shop the MAGIC Marketplace in its entirety had to split their time between MAGIC Man, which continued its makeover this season with a move to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center alongside sister event Project, and the WWDMAGIC women’s show, Pool and the newly launched FN Platform footwear shows, which were housed at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC International, called the dual campus approach a success. Although he acknowledged that it may “take a little getting used to,” the consensus after speaking to hundreds of retailers and exhibitors is that the men’s community was happy to have MAGIC and Project in the same place, he said. The shuttle system of buses and limousines that transported buyers between the two locations was effective, he said, and generally took less than 25 minutes.

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