CHICAGO — Retailers attending the recent spring market at the Apparel Center here said although traffic appeared slower, those in attendance endorsed the trends, especially the strong use of color.

“I thought the mood was positive,” said Helen Chase, owner of Trillium Fine Clothing for Women in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. “Attendance seemed down to me, but the fellow buyers whom I spoke with felt favorable about business.”

“What I saw I liked,” she added. “Color is continuing.”

“The market was pretty quiet,” echoed Judy Walby, owner of the Peppertree in Rochester, Mich., “but we like spring a lot. The color was inviting. It was happy, it felt good.”

Fran Ano, buyer for Four Squires in Antioch, Ill., and Chuck Hines in Barrington, agreed: “It wasn’t busy, but I liked the merchandise.”

In particular, Ano liked the movement from capris to more full-length pants and skirts. “She’s been in capris for four years,” Ano said of her customer who she believes is ready for a change.

Ano ordered Telluride casual sportswear in mango, fuchsia, lime and blue, as well as shirts, jackets and T-shirts with dragonfly cutouts from Michael Simon and soft floral sundresses from Capricorn. She also opted for dressy separates from Sigrid Olsen in aqua, fresca and pale lime, including sequined croqueted tanks.

In terms of trends, Ano noticed several manufacturers selling built-in bra tanks and tops with interesting sleeve treatment, ties, pleating and lots of hoods, as well as novelty skirts.

“A lot of business is going into skirts with embroidery, appliqué and cutout designs,” she said.

In turn, Ano believes customers will be buying dressier separates rather than dresses. Karen Kane helped meet that need, she said, with blouses, short jackets and skirts embellished with embroidery and burnout patterns in mango and basil, as did Meritage with beaded blouses and skirts for evening in black and gold, black and white, and black and pink combinations.

Ano also picked up some terry-cloth activewear by Wild Palms and novelty T-shirts featuring Chicago landmark buildings such as Wrigley Field by Glima.“I believe those will sell well,” she said. “That category [novelty T-shirts] is selling well now, and I expect it will continue. Anything novelty is better than anything boring. What’s not happening is very basic merchandise.”

Particularly impressive was the price of some clothing at the market, Ano noted. Michael Simon, for example, was “very well priced for what it was,” she said. Ano thought some dragonfly cutout separates should retail for around $150, and they were coming in for under $100.

“Some manufactures have really tried to be conscious of the consumer’s pocketbook,” she said.

Chase, meanwhile, was enticed by color. “I saw a lot of corals, pinks, oranges, peaches, limes and blues,” she said. Some seasons, it’s all neutrals and earth tones, she added.

Chase continued to buy from her core resources: Eileen Fisher, Sigrid Olsen, David Brooks and Windridge.

“They looked good for spring, and I was pleased,” Chase said. “They sell very well for me. The fit, color and style appeal to my customer base, and they’re all exactly right for my store.”

Chase ordered silk georgette separates from Eileen Fisher, a Sigrid Olsen navy group for cruisewear, and sage, yellow and denim coordinating separates from Olsen. From David Brooks, Chase liked red and white coordinating separates and plans to order novelty fashion sweaters from Pink Poodle.

“My buying was comparable to last year, not up or down,” she said. “I was using this market to work my regular resources.”

Walby also was drawn to the colors exhibited at the market, ordering cotton sweaters by Willow in green, coral, pink and black, and sundresses and capris from Susan Bristol in limes and yellows.

She also plans to introduce a pink story for resort, including a pink raincoat from Supply & Demand. “We went with pink, pink and more pink,” she said, adding, “We’re looking for cool pink jewelry to make it pop.”

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