By  on February 10, 2009

DALLAS — After a difficult fourth quarter, buyers cut budgets, scrutinized prices and concentrated on their most dependable resources to minimize risk during the four-day market at FashionCenterDallas.

Bright prints and trendy tops and dresses highlighted the show that ended Jan. 25, as a majority of buyers sought April and May deliveries of summer items. Leading silhouettes included one-shoulder and strapless styles, halters, tunics, patio dresses and short shorts. Ethnic motifs also sparked interest, including Navajo beading, Indonesian prints and tribal embroidery.

Reacting to the downturn, many manufacturers lowered prices 15 to 25 percent and offered incentives, such as discounts on orders placed during the market, free shipping and longer dating on invoices.

“Flat is the new up,” said contemporary sales representative Krista Ward, who was surprised that orders at her Moxie showroom tallied a bit higher than last January’s market. “Price was the theme of market. They’re all looking for margin builders and entry-level prices because that’s what they think their customers want.”

Heather McNeill, co-owner of Dallas-based Finley shirts and dresses, said, “We lowered our entry-level price to $69 from $79 and that helps because $140 retail is a lot better than $160.”

Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the Dallas Market Center, which operates the wholesale complex, said, “The recent apparel and accessories market met our expectations. Overall attendance was slightly down, however we were pleased to see increases from the Northeast and Western U.S.”

The market had some overlap with the Atlanta market that ran Jan. 22-25, but that didn’t seem to have much impact.

“We work together with other markets to meet the scheduling needs of manufacturers and retailers,” Morris said. “Recently both Dallas and Atlanta published dates through 2012” without any calendar conflicts.

Debbie Kellum, owner of Ashlins Ltd. in Grapevine, Tex., said, “My shop is high end, but I’m really trying to keep my price points down. I’m also trying to pop color with a top rather than a whole outfit. Komarov has unique skirts that you can wear with a T-shirt, but it still gives you the quality and style.”

Kellum, who whittled down her budget down 10 percent to 15 percent, planned to order a fitted shirt with rose embroidery and sequin detail by Beauty Mark by Byron Lars, an ivory and silver metallic bias-cut seamed skirt by Komarov, and an apple green cable-knit zip vest by Linea Blu.

Jenifer Lyons, owner of Dolce Vita in Fort Worth, said she had waited to place her entire spring order this month and was emphasizing prints, dresses and retail prices less than $100.

“I liked dresses and tunics from Notice and Curtsy, and Yoana Baraschi had great dresses and tunics with ivory embroidery,” she said. “It’s not inexpensive, but her stuff is so different that people pay for it.”

Buyers Meg Williams and Michelle Ronzio were reviewing junior styles for Splash, a surf-inspired contemporary chain with three stores in St. Louis.

“We’re cutting back,” Williams said. “We’re being more conscious of [asking] do we need that and is it going to sell?”

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