By  on February 19, 2010

DALLAS — After a year of reduced spending, retailers at the Men’s Show Dallas Collective were forecasting increases of 5 to 15 percent in their budgets.

Priorities included clean premium denim in medium and dark washes, five-pocket dress-casual pants, sweaters, plaid and striped sport shirts, item sport jackets and outerwear. Tailored clothing remained slow, but custom suits retailing from $800 to $2,000 were on the upswing, retailers and sales reps said.

The show was held Feb. 6 to 8 at the Dallas Market Center.

“Clothing is the toughest sale in the market, but custom [suiting] is good because the high-end customers don’t want it off the rack,” said Michael Kern, who represents Samuelsohn and Ike Behar. “My Samuelsohn custom business was up 13 percent for fall, while the rack was down 20 percent.”

Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the Dallas Market Center, said: “The men’s show has expanded its resources over the past decade, and for 2010 we are working to diversify categories and broaden resources even further.”

“Everyone is low on merchandise and interested to see new things,” said Mike Tell, who shows Remy Leather and others. “I have 73 appointments in six days.”

Price remained an issue. The magic number for premium denim was less than $200 retail, and many stores wanted sport shirts ticketed at less than $100.

“Business has been all right,” said Edward ‘Brother’ Abdalla, owner of Brother’s on the Boulevard in Lafayette, La. “What’s helped us is the Saints in the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day.”

He planned to spend at least 10 percent more for fall, putting the increase into sweaters, knits, outerwear and woven shirts — all of which ran low last season. Among his picks were Cutter & Buck’s emblem polo shirts, Thomas Dean’s sport jackets, Copley’s custom suits and A.G. jeans.

Robert Loeb, owner of Loeb’s in Meridian, Miss., said he recorded double-digit increases during the fourth quarter, but 2010 has started soft, especially in suits.

“We are doing more lifestyle dressing — more sport shirts, knits, casual pants and jeans,” he said. “I’m probably buying 12 to 15 percent more.”

He planned to pick up Jack Victor’s microfiber sport jacket that resembles distressed leather, Peter Millar’s sport shirts and chukka boots and jeans by Joe’s Jeans and Big Star.

Brent Barnes, a partner in J. Duke & Co. in Little Rock, Ark., said, “Business has been pretty OK — up slightly for ’09. We’re being real conservative and cautious in spring and summer and building up our buys in the fall a little more.”

Two Dallas companies introduced shirt lines. Design Block Zero offered sand-washed silk sport shirts and organic cotton Ts with typographical art wholesaling from $60 to $75.

“I’m trying to target a slightly older demographic that thinks young, but doesn’t want to wear skulls and angels,” said Bob Shema, a graphic designer who started the company to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Shemara Jeyarajah, who sews custom gowns, launched men’s silk shantung shirts with brocade collars and cuffs and ornate metal buttons wholesaling from $98.

“I think there’s a market for men to go out to a nice restaurant, but not have to wear a suit,” she said.

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