Retailers weigh in on their top picks for spring and holiday.

WWD surveyed a handful of retailers on what’s topping their buying lists. The general consensus for spring: brights, tropical prints and the category that just won’t quit, specialty denim. For holiday, watch for velvet, that perennial favorite, used in wide-legged pants and slinky tops, novelty and, this year, less than the usual glitz.

When Harold Mandel, owner of Chicago’s Flashy Trash boutique, is on the hunt for spring and holiday fashions, he favors low price points, color and specialty denim.

"Price point has a lot to do with things now," said Mandel, whose men’s and women’s specialty shop generally features items between $15 and $85. "People are very price conscious."

For holiday and spring, color is important. "A big trend is red for both women and men," he said. "People are asking for red, red, red."

Like many retailers, Mandel avoids basics for the holidays.

"We like things that are not extravagant, but not plain," he said. "Something simple with some pizzazz."

However, the traditional black dress retains its appeal.

"A wise person would say you can never have enough black dresses, and that’s true," added Mandel, whose 24-year-old business has evolved from a vintage clothing store to one featuring 70 percent contemporary sportswear with some vintage couture.

For spring, Mandel, whose top-selling women’s lines include Portrait, as well as novelty T-shirt makers Johnny Rock, Fine and Hello Kitty, plans to buy some Hawaiian or tropical shirts, skirts and dresses.

"They’re cheery and happy, and that’s been our theme for this year," he said.

Mandel, who admits he made fewer appointments at WWDMAGIC this year, wants to spend more time perusing.

"I want to be surprised and find something to be passionate about," he said.

In particular, Mandel plans to scout out specialty denim lines. Doll House and Buffalo sell well at Flashy Trash but Mandel’s looking to replace the Diesel line because of decreased sales.Overall, business for Mandel is up about 12 percent this year over last year, and he hopes his spring sales will at least remain stable.

"I’d be happy if they were the same," he said of holiday and spring sales. "With 9/11 coming up again, I’m concerned."

Lisa Spain, who owns two Cotton Club women’s and children’s specialty stores in Houston, plans to check out WWDMAGIC for the first time.

Her priority is to look for immediate deliveries for fall and holiday selling.

"I’m going because I’m looking for items that I haven’t seen in New York or Dallas or L.A.,"’ she explained.

"I think there may be some different things that I can bring into the stores: T-shirts, gifts —stuff that I can get a good markup on. I hear that it has gotten so much bigger, so I’m going to give it a shot. It’s a way to get out of town in August and to find something that nobody else will have."

Wendy Red, fashion director for the 19-store chain Up Against the Wall, is primed for the next new top for spring.

"Tops are hot," said Red of the Washington, D.C.-based men’s and women’s retailer. "Any novelty in tops is what’s driving the business."

Red said bestsellers include sheer print tunics and others with detailing such as asymmetrical necklines and bell, slit or handkerchief sleeves.

"I’m always looking for what’s new," Red said. "I like to go and get the feel of the show. I kind of go with the flow."

She tends to look for fun, club-appropriate dresses and may order some velvet tops and velvet wide-leg low-rise pants in addition to lightweight shearling novelty coats.

"I’ve seen tie-dyed shearlings and leopard fur inside with brown shearling outside. I like that. I think it spices up the floor for holiday," said Red.

She estimated business for Up Against the Wall, which carries Jordache, Hot Kiss, Diesel, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana and Seven, is up 11 percent from last year. "I’m planning up and being really positive," she said.To keep business rolling and maintain the interest of their mostly 18-to-30-year-old customer, Red likes to receive new merchandise and change displays two to three times per week. "We keep our floor really fresh," she said, "and if it’s not selling, we get rid of it and put it on sale."

Barry Siegel, buyer for Key West, Fla.’s, Fast Buck Freddie’s, knows what he doesn’t want: anything boring, bland or basic.

"What I’m really looking for are unique kinds of pieces," said Siegel, who knows his customer is often more flamboyant.

"While black-and-white has its place, color, pattern and texture are very important to us," he said. "This is a very visual community. We stay away from heavy, dark-colored fabrics. Silks and linens are always extraordinary sellers for us."

With Key West’s tropical temperatures, it’s no wonder Siegel will search for separates with a lifespan beyond the holidays.

"I don’t think [holiday] is going to be overly glitzy, just a little glitzy," he said. "People here are not overly dressy."

Siegel also plans to scout out new lines.

"I’m open to see what’s there with new vendors," he said. "I’m looking to see new, exciting little fill-in items, ones that will mix in with what we already have."

The 26-year-old men’s and women’s specialty store, which experienced a 6 to 8 percent increase in sales this year thanks to a wide audience ages 15 to 85, performs well with such lines as Tommy Bahama, XOXO and Jam’s World.

Going into spring, Siegel is excited. "We always are optimistic," he said. "We don’t plan on cutting any orders."

However, he longs for the next evolution of turquoise jewelry and peasant tops.

"It’s time to move away from it," he said of turquoise, noting that warmer stones of orange and red may be more popular accents.

And while Siegel predicts the bohemian look will filter into misses’ lines, he wants to see what’s around the corner for spring."It will be pushing forward into something new," he said.

Thomas George, owner of E Street Denim in Highland Park, Ill., will be scouring the booths for something he’s been longing for: true innovation in denim.

"I’m hoping not to see the same thing I’ve been seeing," he said. "I’m looking for some designers to design something for a change. It’s been a very, very copycat situation. I don’t think there is a lot of creativity in the marketplace right now."

"Everyone’s knocking each other off," he said, adding that’s especially apparent in denim, which accounts for more than 50 percent of E Street’s business.

"I’m looking for someone to make a statement. We’re going to be looking for something new and fresh, and it’s hard to ascertain what that is."

Thomas, whose men’s and women’s specialty store carries about 70 brands, including Seven, Lucky, Diesel, Adriano Goldschmied and Juicy Couture, said he’s also eager to pick up tops that are a natural match for denim.

"Where’s the next cardigan?" he asked. "It’s a natural layering piece. I haven’t seen a fresh approach to the cardigan in years."

George, who did not wish to disclose recent sales specifics of the 12-year-old store, said, "My business is OK, but it’s very hard work right now."

Before Sept. 11, "people were in a spending frenzy," George said. Today, it’s difficult for him to predict future sales figures.

"We’re definitely watching what we do, but I wouldn’t say we’re conservative; we’re still aggressive. We’re just working hard. I’m working seven days a week. We’re working hard to find what’s new. If everyone’s in one marketplace, we need to be someplace else."

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