By  on February 7, 2007

DALLAS — The mood at FashionCenterDallas got a lift from strong January retail sales, inspiring buyers to pick up extra spring merchandise as others invested in fall.

"The attitude is very positive in the specialty store sector, which is our lifeblood," Bill Winsor, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Market Center Co., parent of FashionCenterDallas, said at the four-day market that ended Jan. 31. "January markets tend to tell you how the year is going to be, and I'm very hopeful it will be a good year in retail across both hard and soft goods."

It was the first show at FCD with the new Sunday to Wednesday schedule. Sales representatives were pleased with traffic, especially on Sunday, but buyers' opinions on the new calendar varied. Some said they wished more showrooms were open on Saturday, and several reps, including Michael Singer of Brad Hughes & Associates, said they planned to make Saturday a big day during the next market in March.

"We've seen just as many stores and also lots of new stores that opened recently, so it's nice to see the business growing," said Melanie Jennings, who manages the Johnny Was corporate showroom. "We're ahead of last January."

Denise Berman, a partner in Berman & Associates, which shows bridge collections such as Dominique de Sentino, said, "It's been fabulous, one of the best January markets ever. They're buying spring, transition and also into fall, which is very encouraging."

Dresses, tunics, novelty tops and matte jersey items remained popular, while tartans, knits with a twist and textured fabrics emerged as fall trends.

"Our dress business is huge and just keeps getting better," said John Maguire, dress buyer for Tootsies, a Houston three-unit retailer. "Five or 10 years ago, dresses were only for girly-girls, for weddings or lunch. Now they're hip. There's this Studio 54/Twiggy cute little beaded shift coming back and they're going to be huge. I loved that."

Among his favorite finds were Mandalay's silver beaded fish-scale plunge-neck cocktail dress, Nicole Miller's silver sequined shift with a jeweled neck and Marc Bouwer's beaded shift.

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