By  on February 8, 2017

ATLANTA — Specialty store retailers shopping the Atlanta Apparel Market last week projected a robust 2017 after ending 2016 with increased sales.The show, held at the Atlanta Apparel Mart for four days ended Sunday, "started out with a bang and finished strong,” said Mary Sullivan, senior vice president, leasing, AmericasMart. “There’s a lot of positive energy going into 2017.”Permanent showrooms reported a record number of appointments and buyers with strong open-to-buys, she added.Charlie Brown, president of Karlie, said, “Buyers are buying deeper into their better selling lines, and they’re testing new lines.” He added that the show was steady and strong.Caron Stover, vice president of apparel trade show sales at AmericasMart, said the temporary showroom area was up 17 percent over the show a year ago and that 26 percent of the increase came from new companies. The Mart expanded temporary exhibitors, mostly young contemporary, onto the fifth floor, adding 7,000 square feet of space. The Mart opened three new showrooms and had three showroom expansions.Buyers focused on summer, but a few also bought fall.“There are a lot of the same trends from last year,” said Morgan Ramage, fashion manager at AmericasMart. Key trends, she said, include stripes and florals, gingham and denim, mini handbags, the color green, oversize earrings, pendant necklaces, romantic and sheer blouses, off-the-shoulder and open shoulders, platform shoes, mules and slides. Others, said buyers, are loose, comfortable fabrics; bright, pastel and neutral colors; dresses, asymmetric and cutaway tops, and fun sunglasses.The Mart again featured its emerging-designer section, which included Moonlight Makers apparel, Jenny Threads eco-friendly apparel and accessories, Purseption see-through handbags and The BodyBlouse.Penny Vaigneur, owner of Copper Penny in Charleston, S.C., which has six units, focused on fall and transition to fall. Summer is all about tops, she said, as well as cold and off-shoulders and bell sleeves in tops and dresses, and she sees that going into fall. Other trends include fringed-bottom denim in dresses and tops, and chokers and layered necklaces.Copper Penny finished 2016 with a sales increase, despite being closed for a week because of Hurricane Matthew. “We’re very optimistic about 2017 because we had an excellent start,” Vaigneur said.LeeAnne Swor, owner of L. Boutique in Sarasota, Fla., reported increased sales in 2016 and has increased her open-to-buy around 12 percent for 2017.“People were a little nervous about the election, but we did well,” she said.Swor bought summer, focusing on embroidery and lace, and distressed looks, including cashmere and jeans.Robert Trapp, president of Trapp and Co. in Kansas City, Mo., bought sleeveless dresses for spring and summer, flared long tops, and a lot of color from hot pink to dove gray and various shades of green. He also started buying fall, especially sweaters.“The offerings are very good,” he said, noting cowl-necks, lacing on sleeves and leather patches.He also booked feminine looks, jackets and cashmere.“We’re coming off a good 2016, and the momentum should keep going,” he said.Maryalice Keller, owner of Scout & Molly's Boutique in Sarasota, opened her store in March and said sales are up to expectations.“I find that customers are a little more budget conscious since the first of the year, but I’m still optimistic,” she said.Keller said her customers are conscious about vegan and eco-friendly fabrics and apparel made in the U.S. In addition to other trends, she looked for purses that can charge a cell phone.

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