By and  on February 24, 2010

LAS VEGAS — Post-recession reality took firm root at WWDMAGIC and its companion trade shows.

Retailers cited the continuation of trends, including military looks, leggings, exposed zippers and other embellishments on tops and bottoms, leather jackets, rock ’n’ roll looks, draped cotton tops and bohemian dresses. Apparel with retail prices less than $150 proved a sweet spot and accessories remained strong.

Despite buying budgets that were a bit healthier and improved holiday sales, retailers and manufacturers said purchasing and production schedules have undergone a fundamental shift. Stores are buying closer to season and remain dedicated to keeping inventory tight. Vendors are turning out less volume overall.

Amid a more positive mood, the message was clear: Proceed with caution.

“We buy by the skin of our teeth because we’re following the trends,” said Ann Russick, a buyer for New Jersey-based Spencer’s Gifts, which has about 600 stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. “Our budget has loosened this year, but by about an inch.”

An aversion to minimum orders was also evident among retailers eager to clear inventory.

“Nobody can afford…leftover inventory,” said Andrea Hernandez, a buyer for South El Monte, Calif.-based, an online retailer of handbags and related accessories.

Retailers switched to buying a little bit of everything, rather than major quantities in a few styles.

“They don’t want to be stuck with one thing,” said Shanon Martin, sales manager for LA Made in Los Angeles. “People are buying much smarter.”

Vendors said they were adapting their selling practices to accommodate the changes. Exhibitors at WWDMAGIC in the Las Vegas Convention Center said buyers were more willing to spend, although value remained of paramount importance.

“People are spending more, but are definitely committed to value,” said Elizabeth Bishop, vice president of wholesaling for Clothing for Modern Times, whose brands include Urban Behavior, Costa Blanca, Delicious and Naked Blue. “We started to place production units between seasons. We spent millions doing it, so our retailers can buy in-between. With delivery time, our wholesale accounts still have to commit in advance.”

The altered ordering practices weren’t the only changes this year.

For the first time, men’s and women’s shows at MAGIC were separated over the four days of expos that started Feb. 15. The men’s exhibitors moved to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, alongside the Project show. To reach the retailers scattered among five locations — WWDMAGIC, Pool and FN Platform at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Project and Workroom at Mandalay Bay, ENK Vegas at the Bellagio hotel, WomensWear in Nevada at the Rio Hotel, and Capsule, AccessoriesTheShow and Moda at The Venetian hotel — several brands chose to exhibit at two different expos. For example, BB Dakota showed in the young contemporary sector at WWDMAGIC as well as ENK Vegas.

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