By  on August 27, 2007

Following the rebound of retail sales in the second quarter and subsequent small gains in the third, the economy continues to grow at a moderate pace, according to the National Retail Federation, which projects a 4.8 percent increase for the year. Luxury goods and apparel are among the strongest performers, and although an overall soft market is beginning to stir, manufacturers and retailers aren't taking many chances.

Contemporary and young contemporary buyers are exercising caution this season, still relying heavily on reorders and item-driven pieces. Meanwhile, a demand for better young contemporary is being addressed — further distinguishing the category from junior — and contemporary companies are redefining the young contemporary customer and capitalizing on crossover buyers.

The ambiguity between young contemporary and contemporary is also being faced by WWDMAGIC, as the two markets will be merchandised as one for the first time this week.

"The lines have become blurred between the contemporary and young contemporary markets," said Christopher McCabe, vice president and general manager of MAGIC International. "The exhibitors share many of the same buyers, and with young contemporary designers continuing to create younger, less expensive interpretations of contemporary looks, this gives buyers easier access to more options."

Industry analysts agree the line is being blurred between contemporary and young contemporary.

"Buyers are seeing a void in the market for better young contemporary," said Abbey Samet, contemporary market analyst for industry tracking firm The Doneger Group. "It's for a consumer that doesn't want to pay the contemporary price point but doesn't want disposable clothing. It's more about a price point to better compete with fast-fashion retail chains like H&M and Forever 21."

Historically known as a customer who has graduated from the junior market, but is unable or unwilling to pay contemporary prices, young contemporary shoppers now have better options. Contemporary manufacturers are working to recruit customers earlier, luring them in at the young contemporary level and banking that brand loyalty will translate eventually to pricier divisions.

Similarly, existing young contemporary lines like To the Max and Kensiegirl attract contemporary buyers because of the option to merchandise these with BCBG Max Azria and Kensie, respectively. The younger lines offer lower-priced fashion-forward styles based on their contemporary counterparts to help the customer transition from junior to contemporary.

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