LAS VEGAS — Vendors at the Off-Price Specialist Show, held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, found themselves catering to a full-priced lineup, with such giants as Wal-Mart, Ross and Kmart paying a visit.

Held concurrently with WWDMAGIC, which is in the upper level of the Sands, it’s become a habit for buyers like Alvin Pratt, owner and buyer for Jams Apparel in Saginaw, Mich., to wander down and discover velour sweat sets, denim, peasant tops and other trends at generally lower wholesale prices.

"The economy is real soft," he said. "There’s not a lot of money out there and you have to maintain deals in the store."

Buyers claim the deals aren’t just to shore up their own profits. Even if the image of the store dictates marking items up 200 percent, as Rafi Yedid, owner and buyer of Planet Earth, observed he could with his seven stores in the Bronx, N.Y., he still passes savings back to the consumer. "There’s so much room in the price," he said.

Still, show president Tom Metsa would have liked more serious buyers. Traffic was up 9 percent over February and flat compared with last August. "[Buyers] are much more selective and [vendors’] inventory is so high," he said. "They can knock these guys’ socks off when they start negotiating."

Full-price buyers are also requesting full-price service. "Some are asking exhibitors to ship inventory next year," said Metsa. "That’s normal upstairs, but here they can ship tomorrow."

Zahava Czara, a sales rep at Los Angeles jobber U.S. Outlet Inc., said vendors are also producing goods specifically for the show. Czara’s best-selling brands were Max Studio and Bisou Jeans. "We have merchandise not only from last season, but from the season forward," she said.

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