Susan Lee, owner of a namesake women's better-to-bridge specialty store in Atlanta's wealthy Buckhead section, will shop the Fashion Coterie for early deliveries of resort collections. She targets clients who start planning their cruise travel wardrobes before Thanksgiving.
"Our customers travel frequently, and they shop early, rather than waiting for a special occasion to buy," Lee said. "We want to be the first store with new merchandise, so it's important that manufacturers at Coterie have complete collections and can offer early deliveries."
Color and fabric are the most important elements for cruise, said Lee, who shops with her daughter and partner, Melody Klingman.
"We don't want beige, black and gray for cruise-resort season, because that's what's on the sale racks from fall-winter," she said. "We need clear, true colors to make the clothes pop on the racks."
Manufacturers also sometimes make the mistake of offering fabrics that are too heavy for Sunbelt climates, where winter transitions to summer with very little cool spring weather in between, Lee said.
"We look for cotton and featherweight man-made crinkle and pleated fabrics," she explained. "But we pass on anything scratchy that doesn't feel good on the skin. Last year's metallics were pretty, but often uncomfortable."
Rather than looking for specific vendors or trends, Lee scours the Coterie aisles for classic, tailored looks with a modern twist. She will search for jackets — a best-selling category — in new fabric and color combinations, and some novelty looks.
"Novelty can be just a beautiful button or detail, not something way out, like a big sunflower appliqué," she said.
Lee said she would like to see more bridge and designer lines at Coterie, as well as more segmentation between categories, to make shopping easier.
"They ought to separate the jeans and T-shirts from the more sophisticated clothes, rather than just lumping it all together," she said.
Lee said her primary concern is that lines be complete and ready for on-time delivery, and that exhibitors stay open for business in the booths until the last hour of the show.
Lee also noted that while she has been turned off by pushy sales reps, who "[chase] buyers down the aisles," she valued knowledgeable sales help in booths.
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