By  on March 17, 2010

Inclement weather in the Northeast, the U.S.’ nearly double-digit percentage unemployment rate and job security are still deterring some shoppers from buying new clothes, but retailers and vendors at last week’s Nouveau Collective are more stalwart about a turnaround.

Diane Resnick, president of Fashion Express Buying, a New York-based buying office for 62 better and bridge specialty stores, said, “Our stores are holdingtheir own or are even a little above last year because they are very much on top of their businesses. They are buying more items — tops, jackets and sweaters — and they are offering a lot of good service. They are being proactive with customers.”

Many boutiques are now offering more “value-based products” and are buying from a wider assortment of vendors, which is boosting sales for some labels, she said. “They’re not buying too much of any one thing,” Resnick said. “This business is all about what’s left at the end of the season.”

She and her buyer Cathy Demakakos ordered novelty sweaters, jackets, T-shirts, printed leggings and dresses from resources such as Lindi/Aria, Margaret Winter and BKG.

Rather than try to reinvent what her customers are looking for, Barbara Schreiber, owner of Rhinebeck Department Store, said she has stayed focused and true to what has built her store’s reputation. That does not mean sacrificing newness, she said. At the show, she was meeting with a few vendors to pick up in-store signs to spruce up the interior and draw attention to certain merchandise.

Having already ordered 50 to 60 percent of fall apparel, Schreiber planned to line up more merchandise from Color Me Cotton and Flax to mix in with some of the other lines carried in her boutique, such as Pendleton, Woolrich and Columbia Sportswear.

Sharon Davis, sales rep for Marty Davis, which offers Ming Wang and Impulse, among others, said more buyers are shopping with specific customers in mind. In fact, that is how she buys for her own specialty store, Sharon’s Clothes Shop in Monroe, N.J. Multiple-use items are essential, she said, noting most stores sell six tops for every pair of pants they sell. “Most people are looking for something they can wear with a pair of black pants they already own,” she said.

Roxane Monge, national sales rep for Magdalena, a show resource, trumpeted the fact the collection consists entirely of California-made products. In this economic climate, that means something to retailers, she said. Buyers were also looking for versatile and casual items, as opposed to dressier ones. “Stores are being very picky about what they’re buying. They’re not spending all their fall dollars at once,” Monge said.

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