By and  on January 28, 2002

NEW YORK -- Accessories fared better than many other categories this past holiday season, but overall, business was challenging and caution is in the air heading into spring.

Buyers came to January market week with flat open-to-buys and more carefully planned purchasing strategies. That said, many were looking for early spring deliveries, reflecting the extra-lean inventory planning, tighter even after Sept. 11, and the need for new product.

"Everyone was desperate for merchandise," said Karen Ericksen, co-owner of Showroom Seven. "Retailers got too lean, and now they realize they need product in their stores."

Showrooms and trade shows saw different traffic patterns from the usual, due in part to scheduling. Traditionally, the week's two major trade shows -- Accessorie Circuit and AccessoriesTheShow -- are held on the first weekend of market week. This year, however AccessoriesTheShow was held Jan. 6-8, prior to market, while Accessorie Circuit began Jan. 12 and ended Jan. 14.

Some vendors expressed frustration that a number of buyers chose to attend one show or the other. However, most believed the dual-show format didn't affect business too adversely.

The next round of shows will be organized differently, with Accessorie Circuit scheduled for May 5-7 and AccessoriesTheShow planned for May 9-11.

As for trends, color continues to dominate spring across categories and price segments. While no one look appears to be dominant, many companies continued to show popular styles from recent seasons with new twists, such as belts that have been updated with fringes and tassels. Turquoise and coral stones, often strung on leather cords, saw a resurgence in jewelry, and some adorned handbags, with many vendors dabbling in the hippie era. Safari trends also continue to be strong.

At Accessories Circuit, held at Pier 94 and 92 in Manhattan, bohemian items, straw bags and beaded jewelry booked well, vendors said.

"I feel that buyers are definitely buying safer," said Veronica Pesantes, owner and designer for the two-year-old Vero Santes line. "Many people are really merchandising better and are editing their assortments more carefully."

Hair accessories and jewelry designer Gerard Yosca, meanwhile, said the buying mood was "definitely more cautious. My customer is not buying anything that is tricky or trendy."

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