By  on January 27, 2005

CHICAGO — Midwest urbanwear retailers, some complaining of sagging sales, looked to colorful polo shirts and new styles of denim to liven up their racks during a trip to Pulse, Chicago’s apparel market specializing in street and board-sport fashions. The show ran Jan. 11-13 at the Merchandise Mart.

“People still have inventory,” said Lynn Cruz-Young, women’s buyer for Mr. Alan’s Shoes and Sportswear. “We’ll bring in polos and solid colored T-shirts to look new.”

Cruz-Young reported that women’s wear, which accounts for about 10 percent of business, experienced a tough summer and business has yet to emphatically rebound.

“I think a lot of people are out of money,” she said. “Our holiday business didn’t kick in until the 11th hour.”

Gloria Rov, who runs a Canton, Ohio, specialty shop called Hot Spot, cited a similar predicament. “For women’s, it’s slow,” she said. “It’s not just me, it’s everybody.”

Examining some of the new tops by Baby Phat, she said, “I have to be selective about what I order, but I need something new to freshen up the rack.”

Rov opted for skirts, jeans and capris from lines such as Baby Phat and Rocawear. Beyond considering the item’s style, Rov said she checks the fabric’s flexibility. “I really have to look for a lot of stretch,” she said.

Cruz-Young said, “There’s not a lot of change from last summer except for the addition of the polo shirt and polo dress.”

She ordered branded and nonbranded polo shirts in colors and stripes, in fitted and looser styles.

In addition to buying polos, Cruz placed orders with two of her strongest-selling lines, Dickies Girl and Apple Bottoms.

A recent mention on the “Oprah’’ television show added buzz for the Apple Bottoms line, said Rada Trbovic, who handles Midwest sales for Apple Bottoms.

After Oprah Winfrey listed Apple Bottoms Jeans by Nelly as one of her favorite things, “the phones were ringing off the hook,” she said.At Pulse, all styles of jeans and tops sold, including denim with apple-shaped pockets defined with rhinestones, and distressed jeans and jackets with frayed hems and frayed seams, as well as black-and-white stretch woven sleeveless shirts bearing the company’s name, said Trbovic, noting that more than 50 stores placed orders.

Overall, business at Pulse, which is mostly men’s wear and accessories and about 20 percent women’s wear, was brisk, said Susan McCullough, vice president of apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties.

Pulse took place on the Mart’s recently renovated eighth floor, which features new carpeting, a new sound system and new lighting.

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