By  on January 12, 2005

NEW YORK — Vendors had a positive outlook on business conditions at a trio of trade shows here this week, although some retailers were exercising restraint in their ordering.

Despite fall and holiday seasons that were complicated by a host of factors, including the ongoing turmoil in Iraq and the presidential election, many were confident enough in the economy and their creativity to launch brands targeted at specialty stores.

“Business has been awesome, customers are returning,” said Debbie Weiss, a sales representative for Stoosh, a wovens line with an emphasis on pants that began shipping in August.

The Los Angeles-based line, which wholesales for $35 to $57 and also has an assortment of skirts and blazers, was showing at the Fashion Avenue Market Expo here.

The show, produced by Business Journals Inc., ran from Sunday through Tuesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and featured 390 exhibitors. This is the first time FAME had a January edition. The show attracted more than 6,500 buyers.

Not everyone at the show was as exuberant as Weiss.

Shanon Hokaj, owner of Earthshine, a store in Edinboro, Pa., said her business was down 40 percent from 2001 and wasn’t necessarily getting better, especially since a Wal-Mart recently moved into town.

“I’m just riding it out,” said Hokaj, who was primarily at the show looking for cash-and-carry accessories.

Hokaj is placing some bets on bright camisole tops with a lingerie feel. “It looks like you’re wearing your underwear, but that’s what’s supposed to be in right now,” she said.

That soft look with feminine detailing such as lace was also a draw for buyers at Moda Manhattan. Moda, which is paired with AccessoriesTheShow, ran concurrently with FAME at the convention center and also is run by Business Journals. Moda had 120 booths and attendance that exceeded 10,000.

“We’re still selling peasant looks and ruffles and anything romantic,” said Robert Graves, national sales manager of Berkeley, Calif.-based Two Star Dog.

The casual sportswear line features a lot of linen and wholesales for $39 to $69. “Any midcalf skirt length seems to be selling well,” Graves added, noting that retailers were choosing where to spend their dollars carefully. “They’re really editing the collections down.”

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