LAS VEGAS — Play it safe, but not too safe. That’s the strategy of retailers at MAGIC here as they navigate the recession.
Although some stores reported a slight thaw in consumer spending — even selling some early spring merchandise at full price — they’re watching their inventories and expenses.
For men’s and women’s, the quest for value was driving retail orders.
“We’re seeing traction at the lower end, where we’re offering value, and the higher end, where we have newness,” said Steve Lawrence, general merchandise manager of men’s wear for J.C. Penney Co. Inc. Merchandise that is selling offers “salable newness, nothing tricky.”
Lawrence was shopping MAGIC for items that fit that bill, including argyle sweaters that were “understandable, but not what everybody already has.”
Overall, Lawrence said he was “optimistic” about fall, not because he expects a surge in business, but because retailers are “better prepared” than they were last year.
Kevin Morrissey, gmm of men’s for Macy’s East,searched for hot items and new classifications. “Customers respond to new ideas,” he said. “We’re looking to add some twists to our core items.” He expects fashion outerwear, woven shirts and fleece to connect with customers for fall.
Scott Collins, gmm of Downtown Locker Room, said sales rose almost 4 percent in January and are up more than 40 percent in February. Although shoes continue to drive sales, apparel is up 13 percent. He attributed the rise to a focus on proprietary lines from vendors such as Coogi.
He sought outerwear in “layering weights,” vests and bottoms that are “a little more tricked up,” such as those with extreme washes or distressed details. The young men’s and juniors chain is not cutting back on orders and is willing to take risks. “If we’re wrong, we’re going to be wrong with conviction,” he said.
Scott Norris, gmm of The Men’s Wearhouse Inc., reported that the company’s suit business was robust, albeit driven by a buy-one-get-one-free promotion.He also said there were no plans to cut back on purchasing. “We have large buying power and we’re looking to take advantage of that with quantity.”
For fall, Norris anticipates suit sales will be strong, along with dress shirts and pants. On the sportswear end, he revealed that Men’s Wearhouse is converting its MW Tux stores (formerly After Hours) to Men’s Wearhouse & Tux and will add denim, T-shirts and a little tailored clothing to appeal to the younger customer who shops in these stores for his rental tuxedo needs.
Retailers shopping the condensed show at the Las Vegas Convention Center looked for updated classics that will offer customers “the right mix of newness and familiarity,” said David Wolfe, creative director of The Doneger Group. “This is the time for tried and true trends. The trick is to refresh and tweak them.”
For men, that includes hybrid sport coats, muted plaids, argyle sweaters, vests, military-inspired outerwear, bright colors, cardigans and subtle details. For young men, extreme washes, Eighties and Nineties prints, transitional jackets, rugged country influences, plaid hoodies, V-necks or Y-necks and exploded graphics are expected to be strong for fall.
International buyers were walking the convention center.
“We are looking for fitted T-shirts, smaller sizes because the bigger styles don’t fit many people in Japan,” said Manabu Shirakana, a buyer for Nano Universe in Tokyo. “We’re especially looking for casual, L.A. styles.”
Dresses, particularly in colorful prints and dyed batik, were still a big category, especially long maxidresses.
Most buyers were reluctant to place early orders, but many said they would buy small quantities before the end of the show. They were looking for retail price points well under $100, with $60 or less being the most desirable.
“At $50 or less, people just pick up what they like and buy it. At more than $50, they’ll think twice about it,” said Wendy Litowitz Frederick, whose store in Charleston, S.C., caters to tourists.
Taking the final spot on the mens’ portion of New York Fashion Week calendar next month will be none other than @tomford. Though he’s shown his men’s wear in New York in the past, this will mark the first time the designer has shown his men’s collection alone during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. His runway show will debut on February 6 at the Park Avenue Armory. #wwdfashion
London-based couture house @ralphandrusso has certainly been in the spotlight, having its dresses worn by @beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Meghan Markle in her engagement photos and more. For couture, Tamara Ralph focused on ornamentation — think: feathers with chain mail, jet embroidery and clusters of pearls and crystals. See the rest of the collection on WWD.com #wwdfashion #couture (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
Minnie Mouse celebrated her 90th birthday by getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her celebratory luncheon, @coach’s creative director @stuartvevers dressed her in a custom made prairie dress, complete with Vever’s take on the polka dot – black sequined versions – under a cropped motorcycle jacket. The designer also put his own mark on Minnie’s classic red shoes, infusing the color with sparkles and adding some Coach crystals. “We chose colors that were very Minnie and also represented quintessential Coach elements,” said Vevers. #wwdfashion #nationalpolkadotday (📷: George Chinsee)
@nickjonas is unveiling his first-ever apparel collection through a partnership with John Varvatos. The limited-edition capsule, which makes its debut in spring, also marks the first time the designer has collaborated with anyone on a line. “The process in working with Nick is amazing. It’s inspiring to be around someone who is not only connected with the trade that they do, but also with what’s happening in the environment around him, and how that connects to what we do with style,” said Varvatos. (RG: @johnvarvatos) #wwdfashion
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)