Independent specialty stores are trying to fight back. Faced with daunting recession-era challenges such as frugal consumers, department store discounting and the luxury backlash, the merchants are moderating price points, tightening inventories, negotiating harder with vendors and working to cultivate relationships with their customers. For some, the hard work is paying off. Several have managed to post higher sales and profits this summer as the game plan kicked into gear. But no one is minimizing the struggle. Specialty store retailers are arriving this week to attend the biannual New York market. They will hit The Collective, Blue, Project, MRket and the Designer Forum, as well as showrooms in search of new vendors and merchandise pieces to lure customers to their stores. “The luxury business as we know it, well, you can throw that out the window,” said Wally Naymon, owner of Kilgore Trout in Cleveland. “The model that we used for many years is gone and it’s a new day.” Although the rules have changed, Naymon believes there are opportunities. “We’re promoting ‘buy local’ and stay out of the big chains,” he said. “We’re working to be as fluid as we can be. And we’re working closely with our vendors because we’ve got to make money.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"