COLORS DAZZLE RETAILERS AT MARKET

Byline: Amanda Meadus and Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK--Bright color, glitter and shine were the trends many retailers were pegging as key fourth-quarter looks at last week's accessories market here.
Buoyed by promising early fall readings, merchants were actively placing orders on holiday and resort merchandise and beginning to feel better about classifications such as jewelry, which has been a soft area for some over the past year. For others, categories such as scarves, casual bags, backpacks and cold-weather accessories looked to be winners for the fourth quarter.
Gail Brail, accessories buyer for Jacobson's Stores Inc., Winter Park, Fla., said color was her main focus for holiday and resort.
"Scarves have been enjoyable to look at for me because I've seen so much color for both seasons," Brail said. "In jewelry, I'm going with enamel pieces in bright colors, and also colored beads."
She added that she thought jewelry, which has been sluggish for her, might be boosted by more color and mixed metal items, which she was ordering aggressively. Although her open-to-buy was even with a year ago, Brail said, she had fairly high expectations heading into the end of the year.
"Our [accessories] business was up 32 percent last month, which for July is really amazing," she said.
Dave Penrod, divisional vice president of fashion accessories at Kmart, said he was "very optimistic" about the fourth quarter, largely due to the successes the company has had recently with its expanded backpack and tote business.
"We've gone into some slightly higher, less-promotional price points that have performed well," Penrod said, adding that the business is now year-round rather than seasonal.
Also boding well, he said, are strong sell-throughs in the last few weeks of back-to-school merchandise that is placed in "seasonal impact areas." Accessories is allotted three to four aisles.
Kal Ruttenstein, fashion director at Bloomingdale's, said glamour will be key for his stores. For holiday, he noted, it will show up in sparkling chokers and necklaces. Patent leather will be important in pastels, brights and metallics that will be seen from holiday and resort through to spring, he added.
"Silver is not a flash in the pan this time around," said Ruttenstein. "It looks good in both shiny and matte leathers."
He also sees gold reemerging, but in a new shade of yellow gold, "similar to what we saw recently at Christian Lacroix."
Ruttenstein said it was "hard to tell about prospects for the fourth quarter yet," but did note that the store has kept funds on reserve to quickly jump on hot items that emerge as key trends.
Sheila Aimette, fashion director for accessories at Macy's East, pointed to jewelry as a key category for holiday, followed closely by cold-weather accessories.
"Women haven't worn a lot of jewelry in the past few seasons, but now with its reemergence on runways and in the magazines, they may feel more comfortable with it," she noted.
Aimette said fine jewelry looks have surpassed more costume-looking styles, with crystal and cubic zirconia motifs being the strongest.
She added that winter knits in cotton, cashmere-like acrylic and wool in hats, gloves and scarves will account for a large portion of Macy's business and that a key item in the belt market will be thin silhouettes with interesting buckle treatments.
For many vendors, the market produced satisfying results.
At Fragments, a jewelry manufacturers' representative showroom here, orders were up 25 percent and stores seemed more receptive than they've been in a while, said Jimmy Moore, a principal.
"Most people who have come in here have been enthused," Moore said. "Many of them had soft spring sales in jewelry, but things seem to have started turning around for them in the last three weeks."
Among his best-selling lines, Moore said, were those by designers Marie Ferra, Roberta Chiarella, Bettina Duncan, Wendy Brigode and Ron Rizzo. Leading trends were glamour, in diamonds and cubic zirconia, and mixed metals in 14-karat gold and sterling silver.
Craig Chorney, designer at Le Jon Belts here, said he felt buyers were more confident about belts with the presence of more constructed clothing. He has already received reorders on fall merchandise, including crocodile-stamped leather looks and navy leather styles and thin suspenders with clips and belt bags.
While some stores were interested in holiday merchandise, many were booking resort, and newness was key, he added.
"Skinny belts represent an important item that women haven't owned for quite some time, and the same is true of colored patent," said Chorney.
Elaine Gold, chairman of scarf company Collection XIIX here, said she posted 35 increases as a result of retailers' strong interest in scarves, citing good reaction to a new licensed Anne Klein scarf line.
"Everyone's coming off an excellent spring in scarves, and they're looking for more," said Gold. "What's the most in demand are items that have value for the money, not necessarily just low prices."
Orders at Holiday Fair, a handbag firm here, were up about 20 percent, according to Steven Hedaya, president and chief executive officer.
"Many stores came in off a successful spring and summer fabric bag season, and they were really interested in looking at new straws, linens, nylons and lots of color," Hedaya said. "Our buyers know that with fabric bags they have to make decisions fairly early in order to get in on the latest trends."
"We expect our overall fourth-quarter business to show substantial double-digit increases compared with last year, based on spring and summer's strong sell-throughs, and the reception of new products, which will hit the stores starting in September," said Jerry Dikowitz, vice president of marketing at Sutton Time. Sutton's Anne Klein and Anne Klein II fashion watch lines introduced sterling silver and bracelet models, respectively, at last May's market, with final space commitments and additional styles being solidified last week.
Dikowitz said stores have allotted anywhere from full-depth showcases--multiple shelves--to full outposts to accommodate the new products.

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