LAS VEGAS — Retailers and vendors were vocally optimistic despite the few new trends at WWDMAGIC, which began its four-day run here at the Sands Expo & Convention Center Monday.

Spring styles ran from miniskirts to screen-printed T-shirts and layered tops in neon pinks and greens.

“Overall, we are starting to see improvement [in the sector]. But a lack of newness may put a damper on this,” observed Gabrielle Kivitz, an analyst with First Albany, who tracks the youth business.

Yet, there was markedly less denim than past shows, though many buyers, like Mike Lewis, divisional vice president of Kmart, still had bottoms in mind. That’s been a strong category across the board for the Troy, Mich.-based retailer, driven by fashion denim, cargoes and athletic styles.

“It’s been very good,” Lewis said, “so we’re looking to what will keep sales there.” Low-rise and pleated minis “have been off the charts” for back-to-school and are expected to sell through next spring. Long skirts with cargo details —buckles, toggles and straps — are also strong.

“We’re pretty optimistic for fall,” he said, stopping short of sales expectations. “Bottoms is a big volume category, you can believe sales will be good.”

Bottoms are strong at Canada’s Hudson Bay Co., too. Capris were “huge” this year, said Brian Burgess, women’s general merchandise manager, but “we want to be right there with the next big thing.”

Athletic bottoms à la Juicy Couture and miniskirts in larger sizes topped Burgess’ list. He characterized business as flat over the last year but noted the retailer has been “way more profitable.”

Optimism at the show also manifested in new vendors and company launches.

Hungry for high-end department store business, year-old contemporary line Vicars & Tarts, with 60 boutique clients, took its first booth in an effort to increase visibility. The New York line showcased its seersucker miniskirts, cinched shorts and fitted blazers. Like many vendors, it is keeping prices accessible, at $20 to $90 wholesale.

The Forties and Fifties is a key inspiration. For spring, first-time attendee Ruby June, a New York resource, is selling layered, Peter Pan-collar shirts in sheer cotton voile, pin-tucked shirts with contrast ribbon trim, and high-waist, embroidered dresses. Owner Liséa Lyons calls the line an antidote to denim.The search for denim alternatives is, in fact, a key theme among vendors. Los Angeles’ True Meaning, designed by the team at Bisou Bisou, according to ceo Marc Bohbot, revamped its line two months ago to transition from jeans to a more forward wardrobe. The 20 pieces include silk, frayed-edge jackets and minis with bow pockets for the Chanel fan on a budget.

“Women are more sophisticated now and nothing is forever, including jeans,” said Bohbot, who expects the line, under parent company Brand Development, to pull in first-year sales of $8 million.

The tank top was the canvas where most vendors applied their artistry, with grosgrain ribbons, ruched sides and one-shoulder bows.

Denim still has a home in the juniors market, though, where novelty, hardware and belts were driving sales and interest at the Mudd booth, according to owner Dick Gilbert.

“Denim is still a must for buyers,” said Gilbert. His line and Dollhouse — which arrived with three new licenses for handbags, hats and intimate apparel.

The show convinced new vendors,like the Chicago contemporary line Mad Sugar and the Portland bag line Mixx, to launch here. Mixx president Juliette Fassett brought the brand’s reversible nylon and cotton totes. “We’re very high on the show so far.”

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