By  on October 14, 2010

ATLANTA — Retailers shopping The Cobb Show are sticking to tried-and-true performers as they seek to navigate their way through the sluggish economy.

Nevertheless, the show, held Oct. 10 to 11 at the Cobb Galleria here, boasted 32 new lines among its 540 booths, including Kentucky Jeans; Carapace; Panache; Frank’s Chop Shop; Famous Stars & Straps; Zak, a fashion-forward Los Angeles-based contemporary brand by designer Zachary Alexander Kaufman; Grindstone Universal, an urban contemporary line; Envy Evolution; Indigo Syndikat by designer Fotios; Local Hero, and Roger Status.

Sam Asey, owner of GQ Menswear, based in North Charleston, S.C., said he is staying with his long-standing urban brands, which include Coogi, Crown Holder, Parrish, Akademiks, LRG, 8732 and Rocawear.

Cesar Perez, buyer for Fits R Us, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., is doing the same. “We’re doing less experimenting, and we’re cutting back on the brands we buy by almost 40 percent,” he said, adding he can always go back and reorder.

Sean Mann, co-owner of Dr. Denim, which has 15 stores in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Atlanta, is taking a different tactic and shopping for contemporary. Mann, who was buying holiday and some spring, said, “Urban is losing its power. There’s more fashion on the contemporary side.” He was looking for different trends and picking and choosing what he liked because he hasn’t found much fashion direction in the market. “Nothing is dominating,” he said. Indigo Syndikat and LRG were among the brands he booked.

Business is slow, Mann said, but it’s not because of merchandising. “The customers don’t have any money to spend. It’s definitely the economy,” he said. Nevertheless, he’s upbeat about holiday. “People do shop for Christmas. It’s the everyday business that we’re lacking. Holiday is keeping us alive.”

Michael Summers, southeast sales representative for Miskeen Originals, said urban celebrities and rappers have become more sophisticated and aren’t wearing baggy, logo-driven apparel anymore. Miskeen, for example, has added minimalized logos and more fashion to its merchandise mix.

“Now, it’s fashion that’s in style again,” he said. “The only part of the country that’s wearing baggy now is the southeast. Retailers need to address the change in the marketplace and [check out] the A [retail] doors who are experimenting and have tried some premium merchandise in their stores.”

Fits R Us’ Perez was buying holiday and some spring, and said he would book 75 percent of his holiday merchandise at the show. Sales remain weak. “We went through four brutal months [June through September], and October isn’t looking good,” he said. “Hopefully, business will pick up in November and we’ll do well through March.” Perez was ordering Coogi, 8732, Rocawear, Kavi and Famous Stars & Straps, and focusing on washed-down, destroyed premium denim; cardigans; Henley shirts, and New Era caps.

GQ Menswear’s Asey said he has nearly finished buying holiday, but he planned to book 60 to 70 percent of early spring at the show. He was focusing on jeans, tops, jackets, hoodies and sweaters. Because business is still down, Asey has cut back spring orders by 30 percent and is offering more discounts than in the past. It helps, he added, that a lot of the brands have lowered their prices.

Anthony Phillips, co-owner of Anthony Phillips Apparel of Riviera Beach, Fla., has added urban apparel to his mix and was booking LRG and Coogi, as well as tailored suit brands Vinci, Actex and Longstry Trading Corp. Phillips, who was shopping for holiday, said, “I’m looking for things that are different and new, but not too highly priced.” He was not cutting back. “If I see something exciting, I want to buy it,” he said.

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