At the Off-Price Specialist Show, held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, Aug. 22-26, bargain hunters led attendance up 10 percent from February’s edition, according to Bill Jage, chief executive of show producer Off-Price Specialist Center.

“Everyone waits to shop on sale and even small specialty stores know promotions stimulate sales,” said Jage.

Retailers were optimistic about economic futures, but still bartered hard for velour hoodies and bottoms, embellished denim, cargoes, sweaters and novelty tops.

Ralph Maya, owner of Maya & Sons, a veteran Los Angeles jobber, said he often heard from retailers: “‘This is what we’re going to pay and if you won’t help us, the guy down the block will.’ People are still very price driven.” Nothing in his booth was over $15.

On the other hand, Michael Laimo of Mercury Beach Maid in New York, had an advantage due to its sizeable selection of swimwear. Buyers vied for tankinis and plus-size cover-ups and separates. “For a change, we’re in the driver’s seat,” he said. “We can command the price we want.” Pieces sold between $10 and $20.

Misty Brammer and Doug Asermely, owners and buyers of Sick Boy Motorcycles in Cumberland, R.I., searched for lace-up jeans and anything with studs bound directly for the sale rack. “Everybody shops off the sale rack,” said Asermely, noting it helps the store’s profit margin. “If it’s cheap, they’ll buy anything.”

Thomas Panek, owner of Yellowstone Mercantile Co. in Sidney, Mont., one of the state’s oldest retailers and and one of the few small-town department stores left in the U.S., said he has no choice but to buy off-price to compete with the likes of Wal-Mart.

“One of the ways we’ve survived is by coming to shows like this and to explore nontraditional retailing,” he said, noting the store is currently evenly split between regular-priced merchandise, off-price goods and closeouts. “It’s working, especially in a soft economy,” he said, “because there are too many goods chasing too few people.”

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