Byline: Amanda Meadus

NEW YORK--Healthy expectations for fourth-quarter retail business fueled much of the buying activity at the Accessorie Circuit trade show here last week.
Strong demand for holiday merchandise combined with steady traffic to help lift orders in various classifications, and a number of exhibitors noted brisk fall reorder business.
Many vendors reported that prices were not an issue for the stores they worked with at the show. Fresh looks, they said, seemed to be the priority for fourth-quarter buying.
"The show has been excellent for us, mainly because the attitude of the stores we've dealt with has been great," said George Stuart, chief executive officer of Lynn Stuart USA, a handbag firm here. "Buyers have really been locking in on new looks. It's all they're interested in. There's been no sliding into more classic looks at all."
According to Stuart, orders were up in the double digits over those of last year's show, driven by such holiday-oriented items as a baby backpack made of ivory satin and a miniature evening bag in black maribou. The latter, said Stuart, was the top-booking piece. In leather bags, backpacks continued strong, he noted, particularly those embellished with unusual hardware.
Fresh styles provided the impetus for orders at Rafael Sanchez Designs Ltd., a handbag and belt firm here. Owner and designer Rafael Sanchez said his business was up 50 percent, primarily because retailers were going for unusual pieces and not worrying much about price points.
"What I've been trying to do recently is to show stores that they can sell $300 or $400 handbags, even if that's higher than the prices they usually carry. As long as the pieces are one-of-a-kind, they're going to sell," Sanchez said. "And at this show, the stores that took my advice have been coming in and telling me that they've sold every one of the pieces and want to book more."
Among Sanchez's strongest sellers were a group of black evening bags in textured fabrics, as well as a similar collection in browns.
Even classifications such as jewelry and belts, both of which have been struggling at retail over the last year, appeared to be trending back up for the third and fourth quarters, according to exhibitors who were showing them.
"We've had better business here than we ever would have expected," said jewelry designer Gerard Yosca. "People are definitely here to buy, rather than browse."
According to Yosca, many buyers were interested primarily in bracelets.
"Based on what we've been selling, I'd say the look for holiday will emphasize bracelets and slightly larger earrings than what we've been seeing in the market recently," he said. "Necklaces, however, will not be much of a factor."
For holiday, silver-toned metals combined with crystals were the best looks for Yosca. He also showed a small resort group, featuring enameled cuffs in sherbet colors such as orange and pink.
Belt designer Pat Areias, whose company is based in Carmel, Calif., said her volume was even with last year's but showed signs of springing ahead, particularly on the East Coast.
"Traffic and orders have been mostly steady for us here, and the feeling about belts appears to be improving for the end of the year," Areias said. "The soft silhouettes in ready-to-wear have definitely hurt everyone in the belt business, but I have noticed since being in the city and just walking around that a more defined waist is starting to show up again in this part of the country. In California, however, the more relaxed, soft looks, such as the baby-doll dress, are still prevalent."
Among retailers, Verna-Maria Merkel, owner of VMM of Locust Valley, a boutique in Locust Valley, N.Y., said she was looking for immediate and holiday merchandise in novelty styles, and was particularly interested in lines by new designers.
Among the trends she was focusing on, Merkel said, were rhinestones and glittery looks for holiday. Her open-to-buy was about the same as last year's, she said, but she expects holiday business to bring improvements.
"Over the last year, I've had to drop a number of lines and focus in on more of a specific customer," she said. "Now that I've learned how to do it, I expect things to start picking up."
David Wolf, a buyer for Rania, a bridal store in the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, N.J., said that in terms of accessories sales, "Summer was so-so for us, but I think holiday will pick up."
Wolf, who was shopping the show for the first time, was seeking evening-oriented jewelry with an emphasis on metals rather than rhinestones, as well as beaded evening bags. He said he liked what he saw at the show, but was also planning to hit manufacturers' showrooms.

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