By  on August 27, 2007

Call it survival of the smartest.

Looking to 2008, many women's sportswear lines are counting on innovation to carry them through or grow their customer base. That innovation ranges from offering buyers the opportunity to shop for wholesale goods online to presenting eco-friendly fabrics and providing constant freshness by unveiling new looks each month.

To boost business, Tianello, for example, introduced a new wholesale Web site, tianello.biz, allowing buyers to do their shopping 24 hours a day.

The move counters a decline in trade show attendance, said Tianello's chief executive officer Steven Barraza. "It's expensive to go to shows," he said, noting that rising gas prices and escalating hotel costs in New York and other destinations have cut into buyers' budgets. "Going to a show has become a luxury."

Buyers and retailers have trimmed the number of shows they attend, registering for only the biggest events, like WWDMAGIC, he said. In turn, the company does a strong business at WWDMAGIC, but has seen sales level off at regional markets. Regional sales reps are also less likely to take to the road, he said.

"Buyers are changing the way they purchase goods," Barraza said, noting that more specialty stores want clothing for immediate delivery.

"We can do that because we're domestic," he said, adding that the company keeps undyed garments on hand so that they can quickly respond to orders.

Barraza, meanwhile, reported a "phenomenal response" to Tianello's wholesale Web site. The company initially produced the site to make it easier for current customers, but found representatives from old accounts asking for a site password.

"We're hearing from people we haven't done business with in five years," he said.

In turn, the Los Angeles-based company, which specializes in garments made with Tencel, said it is adding more fashion photos to the site in addition to line sheets.

"We're romancing it," Barraza said of the Web site. "We're going more for people who don't know who we are."

Now retailers can shop at their leisure, representing a perk Barraza believes is critical to compete in today's climate.

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